Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Day They Came


The villagers were enjoying the last coolness of the night before the sun rose. A gentle breeze rolled off of the ocean from their semi-permanent shelters. A few women were already beginning to grind nuts and millet to make the morning meal.  The men were stirring, ready to hunt wild pigs and speer fish to supplement the fruits and grain.

As the sun rose the first hint of danger was the barking and squawking of small animals in the village. On top of the hill, the birds suddenly flew from the tree tops and thick brush. The rustling of fleeing animals from the underbrush got louder. Once the sun has crested the hill it outlined the approaching soldiers. Their head gear added to the length of their shadows, and the sun glistened off of their new heavier armor made of glass, bone, and pieces of metal. Their swords were already in hand, and they had started to pick up the pace in their balanced ranks.

The cry went up from one of the women and the village became a scene of commotion. The women screamed for their children, or just screamed in terror. The old men stirred more slowly, sad at what they knew was coming to their village. They had warned the younger elders of the perfidy of their neighbors, just as their grandfathers had warned them.  They even received warnings from fleeing political leaders. He told disturbing tales of armies that were led by a young, angry, firebrand who it was said, often discussed his desire to seize more land and used the army to intimidate disagreeing opponents. It was said he spent small fortunes on arming them with new and heavier armor, he desired the extermination of everybody who opposed him, and he sent that army to pull down and level his opponents and seize their wealth.  And the intimidating soldiers, with heavier armor stood right in rank and file as evidence in front of the terrified villagers.

The young men in the village were moving the fastest. The soldiers marched forward with a steady crunch, swhoosh, chrunch, swhoosh and by the time the soldiers had marched to the bottom of the hill they faced a small line of young men and experienced warriors armed with swords, curved swords, and slings made out of bone, jade, obsidian. The fleet and elite warriors of the village managed to put on hide armor and thick, padded cloth armor.

The captains yelled to maintain ranks, and the chief captain yelled the order to attack, and the soldiers rushed forward with a unifying cry! The skirmish was over quickly, as the heavier and ornate armor of the army deflected the blows of the warriors. Only one of them every now and again was even wounded, while the lightly armored and surprised warriors were quickly killed and overwhelmed. The few armed with slings managed to wound a few soldiers, mainly in the legs, but it was a one- sided conflict. The defeated villagers grabbed whatever they could and rush into out the other side of the village. They fled in small groups with bits of necklace, pottery, food, and clothing.

Each family in the village had at least one small boat for fishing in the sea, and it proved useful in crossing the nearby river. The softly rushing water flowing through reeds, and the croak of frogs contrasted with the smell of smoke, screams of the wounded and dying, the mourning for the fallen and the crackling fire that soldiers had started. Those who fought the fear and the heart break to look behind them saw the rising smoke. They would never come back to what they considered their home. They faced an uncertain future among loosely related political and ethnic groups around the capital and its environs, the surviving men resolved to get revenge for their eviction and looked forward to telling their stories of woe to whoever would hear it. Maybe they would be allowed to speak from the towers…

*****
English colonists attacking the Pequot in 1636. I know this brings up imperialism and other sensitive matters, but that was not an exclusive Western, white, and modern sin. I think an argument can be made that the Nephites were imperialists as well. 



In the village the captains started organizing the consolidation. They focused their ire on a large wooden tower. It was recently built in the center of the village and the army didn’t need to guess what lies it had testified to. They just barely missed capturing that traitor and he had found a friendly audience among this group. They torched the tower immediately.  The semi-permanent structures were torn apart by soldiers. The new space would be the location of a governor’s headquarters, the first homes for new settlers, and store houses for the expected farming and hunting.  Most importantly, they would have space for a barracks. The wood could be used for new palisades on top of the planned berms around the city. The remaining individuals not quick or healthy enough to flee were held captive. The soldiers were under strict orders not to rape them, but some of them certainly leered enough to make the women and girls uncomfortable. Their last king had outlawed slavery years earlier, but the soldiers had plenty of work to do before the coming settlers, they wanted some reward and could use the cheap labor provided by the captured individuals. The captured would work in the houses and fields of the new elites and be grateful for the steady employment and lifestyle far above their current savage condition.

The chief captain sheathed his sword and took a deep breath. He examined the bustling activity and felt a surge of pride. He had sworn and oath to protect his people and continue to do so. The berm and palisade along the river would prove a solid defense against the depredations of these savages. They’ve wasted this land, and laid waste to his land for far too long. They’ve been even more restless since that traitor escaped, and he instinctively took another satisfying breath of the burning wood from the tower.  He point north and south along the river and directed the new patrols to hunt down and capture stragglers. He asked his assistant to bring his writing equipment and erect a small table. He needed to report to the Chief Governor, and make sure the new settlers arrived in orderly fashion. The security of the realm depended making this region productive…
***** 

This is a dramatic recreation of the events in Alma chapter 50 and includes elements from the war chapters in general. That chapter describes Moroni’s actions to fortify the land and expel Lamanite settlers in rather laudatory terms. Verses 18-21 actually described a Nephite golden age that happened right after these actions. As Grant Hardy described, in literary accounts the text often tries to distract a person. I thought it was interesting that the account moved away from Moroni’s actions to instead discuss how happy the Nephite’s were. But I thought a more critical look at his actions suggest this might have had negative consequences, such as a flow of angry refugees, and a confirmation of the insidious stories that Amalickiah was telling. I doubt the process of securing the wilderness areas was pleasant. They didn’t get an eviction notice with 30 days to prepare; it was likely an unpleasant and violent experience for those that experienced it. I also added some reasonable embellishments based on my knowledge of military history, the history and geography of the region, and human nature. I hope you enjoy it, I might add this to the introduction of my next book, and if I was really ambitious perhaps I would write a Game of Thrones style epic fantasy based on the war chapters. What details did you notice from the scriptures? What details do you think I should have added? Thanks for reading! 

[I work as a free lance writer. If you found value in this work please consider making a donation using one of the pay pal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pictures from Decisive Battles in Chinese History

My book, Decisive Battles in Chinese History from Westholme Press is scheduled to come out in October. I've been going through edits and checking the maps for the book.  Here are a few of the pictures I hope to use. My guiding principle was to take pictures associated with the text that are evocative on their own, but also show something that you don't expect from Chinese history.  I do have one picture of a Terra Cotta Warrior (that restored the original color), but I generally tried to stay away from stereotypical Chinese images.

Song Heavy Cavalry (960-1279). Because heavy cavalry is focused on the plains of Northern China, I estimate this is sometimes between 960 and 1126. 

Japanese soldiers in Shanghai fighting under the Coke billboard. 1937.

The Human Bridge, 20th century painter Gu Fuan. 

Artist representation of a tower ship opposing a much smaller ship from the Ming Dynasty, Battle of Lake Poyang 1363. 

View of an American Marine facing south on the lower Yangtze. (If you look very closely you can see the American flag on the mast on the front of the boat.) American soldiers protected US civilians and trade in the region throughout much of the first half of the 20th century. 

12th century ink drawing of the 3rd century Battle of Red Cliffs. 

Peach Blossom Study water color painting by a 15th century Ming painter. My book includes an amazing story about the Peace Blossoms in Spring. 

What picture do you like the most, and what pictures would you like to see in a book on Chinese military history?

Thanks for reading and I'll get you a link and information about a launch party as they become available.

[I work as a freelance author. If you found value in this work please consider donating using one of the paypal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The 21st Century Book of Mormon

[This is a rough draft of a book proposal I have in mind. There is a 21st century series edited by one of my friends, I've also seen a think tank that a has a similar series. I thought the Book of Mormon could use the same treatment. What do you think? Is the idea unique enough to warrant its own book? What topics unique to the 21st century would you like to see discussed? What do you think overall of the proposal?]

The Book of Mormon is listed as the 4th most influential book in American history. It is revered by millions as a book of sacred scripture, and was a guiding book for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, as well as numerous Senators and public officials. Yet despite its contribution to shaping American history and the worldview of America’s leaders, an academic study of the book still remains in its infancy.

Over one third of the book is devoted to warfare, yet there are only a handful of texts are exclusively devoted to a study of warfare.  Sadly, just a few of those books maintain high academic standards. Warfare in the Book of Mormon, is a collection of essays from a conference held almost 30 years ago.  War and Peace in our Times: Mormon Perspectives, includes a good deal of research, but also branches out to other disciplines and approaches that move away from the Book of Mormon. Some aspects of study, such as placing the historical practice of warfare within a specific time and place, wait further research what are considered likely Book of Mormon locations in Mesoamerica.  And any research is hampered by the intense disputes about the book’s historicity. 

The Book of Mormon is a complex text that deserves to be taken seriously by policy makers and generals. This book proposes a series of essays that uses the Book of Mormon to discuss and analyze key issues such as preemptive war, peace strategies, ethno religious insurgency, partisan strife, grand strategy, refugee policy, income inequality, and social justice. The end result should make vast strides in understanding the text and making judicious application during a turbulent period. 

Preliminary Table of Contents:

 Preemptive war- Morgan Deane (M.A. military history, study at Kings College London, author Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon
Peace strategies- Joshua Madsen (author Non Violent Reading of the BoM) / Patrick Mason
Ethno Religious Insurgency- David Spencer (PhD., National Security Specialist on Latin American Insurgency, author of Moroni’s Command: Dynamics of Warfare in the Book of Mormon.)
 Income Inequality- Michael Austin (author, Rereading Job)

Social Justice- Grant Hardy (PhD, author of Understanding the Book of Mormon.

[Thanks for reading. I work as a freelance writer, if you found value in this work please consider making a donation using one of the pay pal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Monday, June 12, 2017

LDS Stance on War

[I had the pleasure of appearing on the Interpreter Radio Broadcast several weeks ago. I was on 1340 AM in the Salt Lake Area discussing the LDS stance on War.  I will try to provide the link so you can listen to it.  Meanwhile, these are my prepared notes for the broadcast. As you can tell, they don't have perfect format, but I think you'll find this fairly comprehensive.] 

Early church history was a combination of spiritual rhetoric and practical application.  Section 32 prophesied the American Civil War which would start a series of wars culminating in the Second Coming. Section 98 calls for Latter Day Saints to renounce war and proclaim peace. 

They practical aspects include Zion’s camp and the Mormon War in 1837, both of which featured use of the militia. Nauvoo Legion was rather prominent, Joseph Smith a Lt. General.  Though in that age being part of a militia was part of being a respectable leading citizen and wasn’t necessarily a sign of militarism.  The relations with Native Americans in Utah territory shifted from religious to practical and often violent. (Zion as a Refuge, Mark McGee, Mormon Perspectives on War).  They were called selectively pacifistic by historians like Micheal Quinn, geographic position combined with theology allowed them to remain somewhat aloof from secular military conflicts.

Civil War seen as a judgement of God upon the US, especially the action in Missouri which was particularly brutal. They raised a cavalry regiment to help protect the mail (and gain the lucrative contract associated with it.)

Key turning point was the Spanish American War in 1898.  Brigham Young Jr. said there are other ways to show patriotism than throwing away sons for foreign wars. Church leaders such as George Q. Cannon and Wilford Woodruff emphasized the need to avoid a fracture with the US. They were the baby (newest) state and had a long fight with the federal government. Long term, this showed the integration of the church into good patriotic citizens. They raised several more units than the government asked.  Bloggers like Gina Colvin don’t like this but the church often matched positions with American foreign policy.

In 1941 Clark wrote a rejected draft of a first presidency letter that rejected war, it was not the "Masters Way but the jungle laws of the beast.” (Quinn, Pacifist Prophet, in Mormon Perspectives on War.) In 1942 the first president issued a statement regarding war. Latter Day Saints should have peace in their hearts, they are subject to their countries and should serve patriotically. If they kill in the course of war it would not make them murderers.  The church, probably under the urging of the “pacifist apostle” J Reuben Clark later clarified that conscientious objectors were allowed to defer. 

Since that time the church has generally held the position that they should renounce war and proclaim peace, they should love their enemies and pray for peace, but under scriptures such as those describing Captain Moroni they are allowed to fight for liberty and family. President Hinckley exemplified this approach during the Iraq War using the same examples. Follow the Prince of Peace, but identify with Moroni’s Title of Liberty and other just items as validation for war.

There are significant minority voices in the church though. J Reuben Clark fought for the protection of conscientious objectors, strongly denounced war, and even called America’s firebombing of Dresden and use of atomic weapons as the “crowning savagery of war.” Ironically, in all 82 boxes of his personal records there is not one condemnation of Nazi war crimes except his criticism of the Nuremburg Trials. Many Latter Day Saints of the time were appalled at his conduct. They called his words the most seditious they had ever heard, and called him The Butchers’ Apostle.  His opinions were largely subsumed by official First President statements above and he is largely a cause celeb among anti war members but has not affected doctrine to any significant degree. Russell Nelson also sounded clear anti war messages.  He made news during the height of the build up to the Iraq War for his statements that seemed to condemn it. The church quickly contextualized his statements in the context of the renouncing war but supporting Just Causes displayed by Hinckley and the 1942 statement. 

[Thanks for reading. I work as a freelance author, if you found value in this work please consider donating using one of the paypal buttons below.] 

Friday, May 26, 2017

A special post about Memorial Day and Freedom

[I write about three articles a week for Opslens magazine. I wrote this one for the upcoming holiday and re-post it there in full because I think its worth reading.] 

The three day weekend seems to be the new American tradition and I and my daughter have very special plans. Unfortunately, the tradition seems to be accompanied by a new one that calls for lots of social media shaming. In various encounters I’ve seen individuals attacked for wishing a “happy” holiday, which doesn’t properly honor or comfort the fallen. (Its never affects me directly, as a Marine veteran from a double gold star family I’ve got enough street cred to avoid that crap.) While the desire to remember veterans on Memorial Day is good, public shaming on social media is a very shallow way to do it and misses a very important point about freedom.

As I’ve discussed, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the continued efforts in the War on Terror increasingly fall on small number of people and families. Unlike the immediate aftermath of the mass draft in World War II and Vietnam, according to sources less than one percent of Americans currently serve in the military.  This relatively heavy burden on a relatively small population means that many Americans want to honor service men and women, but don’t know how. This disconnect often forces people beyond praise into un critical hero worship. Combined with a culture that often involves hi tech lynchings, venting rants, and skewed realities based on social media, this sometimes lead to people policing and shaming others for their apparent disrespect for the military. 

A true respect and value for the military would mean a person researches and works hard to ensure service men and women are properly trained, equipped, and deployed across the world. This true respect requires a good deal of reading, research and thought, but very little social media use.  Facebook posts shaming others for barbecuing on Memorial Day is a shallow and frankly pathetic attempt to honor the troops. It’s like trying to fight terrorism by putting a French flag filter on your Instagram profile, or trying to save kidnapped women by tweeting a hast tag. More important than how somebody honors the troops, is having an appreciation of the fundamental freedom for which the military fights.  America is so amazing that it even grants the freedom to its citizens to burn its flag. That freedom also includes not honoring veterans on Memorial Day Weekend.  That is not particularly grateful behavior, but true freedom doesn’t force people into honoring it or the soldiers that sacrificed for it.    


With the holiday weekend arriving, I would remind those tempted to shame others on social media for not showing sufficient respect, that barbecuing and enjoying the holiday with family is a perfectly acceptable way to use the freedom that so many fought for.  So feel free to celebrate the holiday weekend however you would like. Personally, I enjoy the free hot dogs and soda at the local furniture store.  I hope your celebration includes remembering the fallen servicemen and women, but I hope even more that you take the time to appreciate the freedom they fought for by spending time with your family in peace.  

[Thanks for reading. If you found value in this work please consider making a small donation using one of the paypal buttons at the bottom of the page.]

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

3 Posts and a Cover

Greetings! This is a quick post showing some of the recent success I've had. I write full time for Opslens magazine, but I often have articles that are picked up by the Washington Examiner, and sometimes by Fox News.  I was always a bit worried about writing articles that are overtly political. I don't like to be a partisan hack. But I think you'll notice that I focus more on explaining concepts clearly and applying more reason and thought to the articles. In fact, one of my articles explicitly attacks the reliance upon emotion and the need for more thought, so even though these posts are political, I think they are more thoughtful and less shrill than much of the material out there.

Could China Sink a US Carrier? : A fun post that summarizes much of the research I've done into missile defense. In fact, my very first article for Strategy and Tactics Magazine discussed the so called "carrier killing missile,"so I have a ample experience and a good foundation and tool box of knowledge for discussing this topic.

Fighting Obama Care doesn't mean you wish death upon those in need:  This was an article inspired by Debbi Wassermen Schultz's defense of Obama Care by citing her cancer stricken mother. (It was for the now defunct Arsenal of Venice, when I tried to launch my own free lance website.) Of course this was from several years ago, but Jimmy Kimmel ended up doing the same thing when he talked about his son's emergency medical treatment. All of the points I made still applied, so I simply changed a few sentences specific to Schultz.

Revisiting the Axis of Evil 15 Years Later: I remember Bush being mocked for this phrase 15 years ago, but here we facing problems and near war with the two thirds of that axis 15 years later. The benefits of being a historian means that you have additional context with which to judge. Unfortunately, most people get bogged down in the debates of the day and don't pause to consider how the past might apply to the present. (Even more egregiously, the shallow perception of the past is often manipulated to support the present. But that is a historian's lecture I'll save for another day.)

Those are three published articles with the Washington Examinter in a single week, so I think my stock is rising at Opslens haha.  On top of that, I received the preliminary cover for my book:

I really enjoy the cover, the publisher had difficulty getting the rights to the other image and a high quality version of it.  This was a pretty good week for my writing and I'm happy to share it with you. Ironically enough, on facebook last year I wrote a pretty frustrated post about nobody giving me time of day and ignoring my work.  But here I am a year later with a regular freelance writing gig, another book coming out, and regularly being picked up by the Washington Examiner. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the articles and buy my book when it comes out! 

[I work as a freelance writer. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal buttons at the bottom of the page. Thank you.] 

Monday, May 1, 2017

From Hudson Bay to Montenegro: Research Round Up

Greetings everybody. I wanted to give you some updates on my research. The major blog By Common Consent started a new press. This is very exciting news as the Mormon publishing world is very small. I've been waiting to hear back from the major publishers, but another one sounds like a great place to publish my second text on warfare in the Book of Mormon. You can read more about it here. (Though I've added an extra chapter since then based on this material.)  I understand BCC is not the most academic venue, but I'm not trying to get tenure or please those in the Ivory Tower. I want to publish something that I think is of great worth to readers and I'm having a devil of a time finding a Mormon publishing outlet.

In fact, if BCC doesn't want to publish with me I will make a pitch to Westholme Press. I signed a contract with them last November and my book, Decisive Battles in Chinese History, should be coming out in the fall. I've come up with a few potential cover pictures and a book blurb:
The study of Chinese battles faces many hurdles that include hard to pronounce names, different spelling systems, and a haze of impenetrable names, places, and ideas. Indigenous Chinese histories written by Confucians with an anti-military bias used rather laconic phrases to describe the battles that were then transmitted to Jesuit missionaries that shared the Confucian disdain for martial matters. The modern discipline of history developed in the West during a time of particular Chinese weakness and political division that lasted through many of the tumultuous events in the 20th century. This book overcomes those hurdles by covering the wide span of Chinese history from their semi mythical beginnings to the 21st century Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. Using the best of modern scholarship, with a keen eye for military history and strategy, the text penetrates the fog of Chinese history using an accessible writing style. Each chapter highlights an engaging battle that selectively focusing on unique Chinese characteristics including their major belief systems, ruling ideology, connection between technology and warfare, Chinese military theory, major political events and key rulers, their foreign policy with their neighbors, cultural developments, and their interaction with the West. The text pushes back on a variety of ideas and stereotypes ranging from the Chinese use of gunpowder, their supposedly weak reaction to the West, the viability of the Dynastic Cycle in studying history, the context of their military theory, the exclusivity of martial and cultural spheres,  and the uniqueness of Western imperialism.  It offers a groundbreaking reassessment of Mao Zedong’s leadership and his impact on the development of guerrilla warfare. In world filled with disturbing reports of conflict and potential warfare, Decisive Battles in Chinese History offers a unique addition to students, historians, and anybody wishing to better understand Chinese history. 
Nationalist propaganda 1937
I continue to publish with Opslens. My articles there have been picked up by Fox News  and Washington Examiner . Combined with writing for Strategy and Tactics Magazine as well as Strategy Bridge, I'm excited for my writing future.

On that note, I want to briefly introduce my next book. In a future post I might provide a book blurb or preview of a sample chapter.  I am writing a book that discusses a World History of Battle at 400AD. The genesis of the project came from something I noticed.  378AD  witnessed Tikal being overrun by Teotihuacan. In Book of Mormon chronology 378 covered the final Nephite battles for survival.  In 378 the Romans lost at the Battle of Adrianople, which inaugurated the final chapter of their history.  I started to look further and I thought the Battle of Badon Hill in the late 5th century was close enough to be considered, especially when it gives me the chance to examine what many think is the historical King Arthur. (If you read my first book you know that I used the words of British historian Gildas in discussing the behavior of Gadianton Robbers. So I'm already familiar with the sources of this age.) Speaking of being familiar, I have a whole book on Chinese battles, so its not difficult to re-purpose the chapter that covered the Battle of Fei River (383AD).  I've been working on a sample Japanese chapter, and their history is rather sparse before the mid 6th century or so, except you can line up general trends with the Gwanggaeto Stele, which just happens to detail a war right at 400 AD!  As you can see, this book provides a good chance to cover a variety of cultures and regions that aren't normally examined at all, let alone together in a volume. I'm particularly proud of my inclusion of Cree warfare, which I had to reconstruct from various sources. Each chapters looks at a particular battle and then considers the role of geography, technology, and culture in how they created armies and fought.

Thanks for reading and I hope you get a chance to read my research!!

[I work as a free lance writer. If you enjoyed this post and found it useful please consider making a donation using the pay pal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Having a Form of Scholarship But Denying the Power Thereof

Rock Waterman: Deane spends more time engaging in ad hominem attacks and comparing his own academic credentials to Anderson's than he does informing the reader as to what is actually contained in Anderson's book, as though the honors of men are pertinent in any discussion of the Lord's rules of engagement.

Irvin Hill: Mr. Deane is a highly credentialed–as far as the state is concerned–teacher at BYU-I, and former Marine.

In my FAIR conference presentation I talked about having a form of scholarship but denying the power thereof. Those attending chuckled at the joke, which I intended. But I had a specific set of people in mind when I made that comment. Since that time my interactions have only reinforced that idea, so I thought I would explain the concept in more detail. The explanation is not as complicated as the form of godliness upon with the scripture is based (2 Timothy 3:5).  Some people like to use footnotes, talk about thesis statements, and all the forms of scholarship, but when challenged by actual scholars they claim that God does not approve of their interlocutor’s arguments,  and they often don’t use the methods that makes scholarship so powerful.

The Form of Scholarship

Kendal Anderson’s horrible book is a good example of this phenomenon. He has footnotes where he cites his supposed research. But he explicitly wrote about rejecting formal schooling because of its establishment “pap”(pg. 8), and that he only spent a “few months” studying the text(pg.9). His explicit rejection of formal training is obvious. More egregious than his many factual errors and use of clich├ęs was his discussion of the American Civil War. He expressed many arguments, but because didn’t know what the Lost Cause was, he ended up aping that school of thought unaware that it is thoroughly discredited.  In contrast, I studied this school of thought extensively during my academic training and had to write essays on it. This is a good example of how somebody can attack scholarship and academic training as useless and elitist, but then in the very same breath they make rather bush league mistakes that some basic academic training would have prevented. 

It’s possible to make really good arguments without formal training. But that training is much like a driver’s license. With a license the driver at least has a basic standard of knowledge and they are likely to know how to obey the rules of the road and perform complicated maneuvers like parallel parking.  It is possible to be a good driver without a license, and a person can make sound scholarly arguments without degrees. But without that license, or academic training, that individual is often just as conspicuous as that beat up truck going 35 on the highway who can’t stay in their lane. It’s not elitist to suggest that perhaps they should learn how to drive if they want to be on the road. Rock Waterman, Kendall Anderson and so many more punks and posers like to use words like thesis statements, but they misidentify  thesis statements, are unaware of the location and availability of sources, commit basic logical fallacies, don’t support their assertions with broad research, and generally fail to follow academic standards despite having that appearance.   

The Power of Scholarship

“Scholarship” for most people consists of reading some books or websites, perhaps combined with a google search to form what they think is an argument.  To use the apocalypse as an example, that is like scavenging for bullets. These dilettantes don’t know the chemical formula for gunpowder, or have the skill to make it.  But there are bullets of information out there, and they might even have good aim and know nice spot with which to ambush their opponents.  But being a scholar means that, like Captain Kirk , a person know so much about the topic they can make their own rounds.

I’ve seen too many people who think they know a great deal.  Their ignorance is only matched by the arrogance and pugnaciousness with which they state their opinion.  What many don’t know about history is that it is not a recording of what happened. It’s the record of what people say happened. That is an important distinction as it means it’s the historians role to help interpret and reinterpret history so that new understanding is produced.  History is sometimes compared to Swiss cheese, and there are numerous holes and gaps that historians then try to fill with judicious assessment based on their research.  The most important way to do this is through primary research.  Many people have mistaken assumptions about Mao’s theories and leadership and I’m one of the few scholars in the world that is studying the early insurgency of Mao Zedong to help adjust that understanding. If I were arguing with people who had a form of scholarship but denied the power thereof, they would be really good at quoting Mao’s writings. They might even have read a few biographies of him, and they can drop quotes pretty well on discussion boards, in between their insults and bullying of course. Somebody who knows the power of scholarship is familiar with the secondary literature, Mao’s words, but also studied the archived resources about his leadership, local newspapers, the journals of his associates, an extensive background in military thought and theory- particularly insurgencies, and so much more to produce a nuanced and fine understanding of the subject.  In short, when I make an argument, I know that I have entire cases of ammunition that I’ve made, while my opponents likely have a six shooter they scavenged.

The Result


The result is that people who try to use the language of scholarship without being scholars are left with few options. They can try to insult the person. In conversations with radical libertarian trolls and the subset of people who oppose war they frequently use war monger, Gadianton, anti-Christ, liar, disingenuous, sophistic, and so much more on a regular basis.  Most of those are just in that one thread to which I linked above!! The historian in me wants to footnote more, but I think you’ve got the point with the other links thus far.  They also try to claim some sort of moral superiority. They testify as though they are just honest interpreters of the Lords will, and my arguments are just credentials from the state and hiding behind the honors of men. Its true that we are often discussing the Lord's word concerning warfare, but the strength of argument is what matters. Their interpretation is no more favored than mine. The strongest arguments are based on solid research into primary sources, judicious analysis, and the cogent arguments they provide. 

They often try to sound really knowledgeable. But without that scholarship they are just loading their gun with somebody else’s bullets.  They have a form of scholarship but deny the power thereof. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Of Punks and Posers


I’ve never really enjoyed the long back and forth of political or religious arguments.  The very small enjoyment factor of sharing ideas quickly dissipates in the face of angry rhetoric, insults, and juvenile games.  Over the years I’ve started to notice the same behaviors from these insincere people. The most amazing part is that these behaviors are the same despite widely varying topics ranging from sports, to politics, to religions, and I’ve even been harassed by Alien Covenant fanboys.  Because I choose to focus on serious and substantive discussions of topics instead of insincere flame wars that at best feel good in the short term but don't lead to substantive discussion, I have written down a list of behaviors that these people exhibit and which act as a deal breaker for me:

Fallacy cop:
This is an individual that always manages to find a fallacy.  While nobody is immune from occasionally using fallacious reasoning, these posers often invent fallacies and then use the manufactured mistakes to ignore the substance of the argument. For example, one individual cited a book that I happened to review. That review was negative, but I made sure to describe the shallow arguments. I deliberately refrained from commenting on the author’s character, even though I had been the subject of his personal attacks. But instead of reading the review and commenting on its substance the individual simply hid behind the supposed fallacies I committed.

The fallacy cop trick is further enhanced, well diminished actually, when the individual actually commits the same fallacy in their response to me. It tends to be one of the most used and abused fallacies out there, so instead of playing fallacy cop I tend to mock how silly those terms are by simply using them.

Related to the fallacy cop is the pettifogging grammarian.  That's just a fancy way of describing somebody who will obsess over a typo or two, which are common in extemporaneous writing on social media, instead of engaging the argument.  I encountered this annoying behavior so much I actually looked up a word for it. Pettifogging is excessive or undue emphasis on petty and unimportant details.  As you'll begin to notice, its a perfect word for describing the nonsense in many of the online debates you'll encounter so you should keep it handy. 

Burden of Proof:
At some point in a discussion somebody will demand evidence. This is insincere because instead of discussing the merits of the argument being debated, it places an unfair burden on one side or the other.  Social media isn’t really conducive to citing evidence to begin with since there aren’t ways to place substantive footnotes in them. You can only cite one link at a time, and inline citations are time consuming. But the people requesting these items don’t really care to read or look up the footnotes on their own. It is usually just a smarmy way to appear interested in the conversation without offering real counter evidence or cogent rebuttal. It’s a way to manipulate the situation to make it look like an opponent is an insincere blowhard, when it’s usually those that request proof that are insincere.

Pet Nicknames:
This is less mature than a 7th grader but still frequently used. Mitt Romney was called Mittens, Trump is Cheeto Jesus, and so on.  This is pretty self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised how many otherwise educated people do this. These are terms of derision that do nothing to enhance the discussion.

Editorializing:
This one is harder to notice but much more pervasive. There is such a thing as describing events which is different than offering an analysis of events. An example might be the time I had to delete and moderate the insults of radical libertarians on my blog.  I clearly explained in the comments why I did so. They had called me every name in the book on multiple occasions and they had no right to do so on my blog. They unfairly interpreted the event and said that I had “thrown a tantrum.” Well no, that’s editorializing to make me sound like a child, it’s not accurate, and its actually just a more subtle insult. I had deleted their comments because there are only so many times I can be called a sophistic, terroristic, warmongering liar and anti-Christ. (Those insults are both real and common in discussing with the Geoff Biddulph Connor Boyack strain of radical libertarianism.) 

Those are the major discussion deal breakers that transcend boundaries, here are some uniquely Mormon deal breakers:

Gratuitous Comment about Underwear

Unfavorable Comparison to Lord of the Rings

Questioning of intelligence and mental health (a subtle but real form of ad hominem)

Calls for Peer Review

Conclusion:
The last part of the equation is knowing when to walk away. The biggest factor for me was realizing that most of my arguments online were a way to show how much I knew. Ironically enough, it was a product of my insecurity that forced me to prove how much I knew.  They weren’t designed to win friends or convince opponents, except to convince them of my superiority. Most of my opponents were the same way, or they simply wanted to cast insults, vent their anger, or use shallow debating tricks without actually having a conversation.   But nobody ever ends the conversation saying something like, “You have utterly defeated me with your superior intellect.” Online conversations will go on as long as you invest in them but quickly die when you don’t.  The handful of opponents fanatically devoted to the argument will think you’re an idiot no matter how many or few times you respond to their (often) insincere requests. All things being equal then, it makes sense to spend less time than more on a fruitless debate.


So in short, the best way to win online arguments is simply to walk away. At the very least, I’m sure you have better things to do with your time, and don’t need to fluff your ego with online fights.  I’m secure enough in myself, my education, my well thought out positions, and my career as a writer that I don’t need to prove it to every punk and poser on the internet.  This might open me up to charges of being arrogant, or “hiding” behind my degrees. But ironically enough, those arguments are just more editorializing and personal attacks that won’t goad me into an argument. They do just the opposite in fact as I know who I am, what I’m capable of doing, the better ways I could use my time, and I have a clear list of deal breakers that my potential online opponents too readily provide. Thanks for reading and make sure to check out one of my recent journal articles. I’m off to work on my next book! 

[I work as a freelance writer. If you found value in this piece please consider donating using one of the paypal buttons below. Thank you!] 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Putting the Lance in Lancelot



Hey everybody. The title of this post comes from a rather silly joke from an episode of Legends of Tomorrow. The time traveler Sarah Lance visited the court of King Arthur and was thanked...alot. Since I free lance...alot, I thought it was worthy of my sense of humor. Here's a rundown of my recent publications:


Politicians misuse of the word invest to sell bad programs to the public: Disinvest from Politicians


A discussion of Chinese history and geography, with possible application for tensions in the South China Sea: The Imperative of Chinese History and Geography


A discussion that rebutted a common theme that over rates Chinese carrier killing missiles. In particular I discuss the carrier's anti missile capabilities and value as logistical platforms: The Continuing Importance of the Carrier  (This one is technically just a facebook post. As you can see in this post, my ideas are worth reading and being published. I just cut out the middle man for this one.)


Too much of politics involves petty debates of the day. I take a step back and suggest a way to save millions of people instead of arguing about a few thousand Syrian refugees: The Wrong Argument and Right Answer


I have several more pieces that are ready to go but haven't found a home yet. I have one that uses nuclear theory to describe why the fear and loathing of Trump might be a useful thing.(Update: It looks like Charles Krauthammer beat me to publication with a similar idea.)  I have another that discusses Chinese strategic culture and the potential for the next Pearl Harbor.  I'll let you know when I publish those.


I use the same analysis presented above in analyzing events in the Book of Mormon. If you haven't a had a chance yet make sure to buy my book (using the link to your left) as it contains the same substantive analysis within it! Its very rewarding to work as a freelance writer, but it doesn't always translate into literal paychecks. If you found value in this work please consider donating using one of the pay pal buttons below.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Experiencing Battle in the Book of Mormon


I'm proud to announce my article, "Experiencing Battle in the Book of Mormon" has just been published by the Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.  The abstract reads: Historical chronicles of military conflict normally focus on the decisions and perspectives of leaders. But new methodologies, pioneered by John Keegan’s Face of Battle, have focused attention on the battle experience of the common soldier. Applying this methodology to a careful reading of details within the Book of Mormon shows an experience in battle that is just as horrific as it is authentic.

The process took a little longer than I had anticipated. I actually thought this might come out last summer in time for the gospel doctrine lessons on the war chapters.  But it is here and ready for your reading enjoyment.

[I'm a free lance writer. If you found value in this work please consider making a small donation using one of the pay pal buttons at the bottom of the page. Thank you.] 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Thomas Sowell Agrees With Me


A short time ago I posted a link to my article about the misuse of words. This has obvious application in my research on the use of the word robber to delegitimize the Gadiantion Robbers. Thomas Sowell is an intellectual that has been highly influential for decades. I first discovered his writings in 2007, when I read the book Black Rednecks and White Liberals. He explained how the supposedly authentic black culture seen in so many inner cities was actually inspired by the lower class white culture of the south. He has an excellent ability to explain powerful concepts in clear and concise language. I employ his discussion of the Hawley Smoot tariff to teach my students about the Great Depression. I especially enjoy his books on economics where he discusses why price controls lower quality and affordable laws make things unaffordable. He recently retired and the National Review has been republishing many of his weekly columns.

In a recent column discussing the language around taxes he said this about the misuse of words:

"It is one of the many signs of the mindlessness of our times that all sorts of people declare that “the rich” are not paying their “fair share” in taxes, without telling us concretely what they mean by either “the rich” or “fair share.” Whether in politics or in the media, words are increasingly used, not to convey facts or even allegations of facts, but simply to arouse emotions. Undefined words are a big handicap in logic, but they are a big plus in politics, where the goal is not clarity but victory — and the votes of gullible people count just as much as the votes of people who have common sense."

Several weeks ago I wrote this about the misuse of worse as well. I was perhaps a bit nicer than I should have been in denying any malice behind the practice, (maybe I just need the cynicism that comes with years of responding to these clowns), but I also identified the misuse of words to arouse emotions:

"In the battle of competing ideas, sometimes words can be the first casualty. The abuse of the word “establishment” was so rampant during the election that I joked I should have started a restaurant with that name so I could get free advertising. All joking aside, misapplying words can muddle the debate, obscure real threats, or become a tool of hysteria.

Many of these words aren’t necessarily used with ill intent but rather as a way to illicit an emotional response and compensate for poor arguments. For example, anti-war advocates like to use the word “warmonger” to insult people or positions they don’t like without having to engage the relative merits of the proposed action."

It is very gratifying to see the same ideas that I have in the writings of others, especially such luminaries as Thomas Sowell. It helps to ease the frustration I feel when my great ideas and articles have a difficult time finding an outlet, or being noticed above the click bait trash and fake news. If you like my ideas, make sure to link to this page or check out my current writing gig at Opslens magazine. Thanks for reading!

[I work as a free lance writer. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the pay pal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 Mormon Theology Seminar

[This is a copy of my application to the 2017 Mormon Theology Seminar. This is always a good chance to explore different ideas.  I never did come up with a good title so I hope you don't mind jumping right in.] 

The powerful speech of Abinadi explained pivotal Messianic concepts and elucidated the God head in ways that recalled some of the early Christian ecumenical councils. The largest theme is the duality of Heaven and Earth represented in Mosiah 15:4: And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. The study of Abinadi’s words justifiably focuses on his amazing testimony of Christ and his bold stand for truth. But preaching doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  His talk about the nature of God and His judgements reveal repeating and important scenes in the Book of Mormon regarding the nature of prophets, and their possible conflict with both political power and the institutional church.

The king and prophet are respective representations of Heaven and Earth.  The prophets are key explainers of spiritual text which govern the kings, and kings are the divine conduit that governs temporal affairs. The prophet Micaiah in 1st Kings 22 does a good job of illustrating the possible scene and interplay between king and prophet represented in Abinadi’s preaching. In the story the kings of Israel and Judah sat on their thrones and consulted 400 priests regarding future military action. The 400 priests give their approval for the joint attack. Yet one of the kings wasn’t satisfied with the answer.   He was reluctant to consult the prophet Micaiah because he always prophesied evil concerning the king but did so anyway. When pressed Micaiah gave them grim news concerning the judgements of God and used Christ like language when he compared their defeat to being a flock without a shepherd. 

Micaiah then testified of a vision that truly revealed the dual nature of the episode. As Cristiano Grottanelli explains the text, “On earth we see the thrones of the kings with the ranks of prophets and with the recalcitrant truth telling prophet. In heaven we see the throne of Yahweh with the ranks of spirits, and the lying spirit volunteer.”[1]The encounter ended when Micaiah is then slapped by one of the priest and cast into prison.  The story of Micaiah and Abinadi are fascinating accounts of a prophet being forced to oppose the king, testify of destruction, contradict the priests in the court, and then have a theophonic experience that mirrors the earthly scene. Abinadi is brought before a king, contradicts the priests, teaches of the duality between Heaven and Earth, testifies of Christ being born, His being brought before a king and killed, and then Abinadi’s experience ends with his death.  

The treatment of Abinadi is not only a possible type scene with the Bible and representation of duality; it also illustrates key themes in the Book of Mormon. Abinadi being brought before an angry king for his preaching recalls prophets such Alma in the city of Ammonihah (Alma 14:2), and Nephi upon his tower (Helaman 8:5-6) who faced the people’s wrath over the enunciation of political consequences of spiritual condemnation.  The other theme, also represented in the Bible, is the conflict between the priests who are part of the institutional church and the court of the King, and the prophets who are often charismatic and outside of the organized church.  This is most clearly seen in Samuel the Lamanite, who preached on the walls, was never heard again, and the people whom he converted had to seek out Nephi, the institutional leader of the church for baptism (Helaman 16:3-4). The prophet Micaiah also contradicted the larger number of priests who were special guests and interpreters for the King.  Abinadi explicitly threatened both the kings (secular) life and safety of kingdom while also undermining the position and prophecies of the priests. Much like the people in Jeremiah’s day, the priests opposing Abinadi contended that their kingdom is strong (12:14-15).

The spiritual teachings of Abinadi receive a good deal of attention. But his words about God being the Father of Heaven and Earth suggest a connection between the political history of the Nephites and the spiritual preaching of the prophets that is understudied.  Abinadi represents a possible type scene comparable to Micaiah’s experience in 1 Kings 22, and it also highlights the experience of many Nephite prophets in having their spiritual messages ruffle temporal feathers, and suggests a difference between free-lance prophets and institutional priests. 



[1] Cristiano Grottanelli, Kings and Prophets: Monarchic Power, Inspired Leadership & Sacred Tect in Biblical Narrative (New York, Oxford University Press, 1999), 175. 

Statement of Interest:

I’m particularly attracted to the seminar’s intense reading and focus on new lines of inquiry into the text and believe I could add a great deal to the seminar.  I have extensive academic experience with over a dozen academic publications and presentations. My most recent work includes a research grant that allowed me to study the early insurgency of Mao Zedong, and a contract with Westholme Press to produce a book on decisive battles in Chinese history.

Regarding the Book of Mormon, my methodological focus has reexamined assumptions about the narrative in the text. This has produced a manuscript length volume which discusses a revisionist history within the Book of Mormon currently under review for publication. Some of that research was previewed in a well-received presentation at the 2016 FAIR conference which examined the social and political factors that might have fueled the Gadianton insurgency.   Another focus has been to examine the relevance of the text in formulating foreign policy. Some of this research has been published in past monographs and contributions to collected volumes and conferences. My most recent piece represents ground breaking research into previously neglected verses that discuss preemptive war.  I look forward to bringing these skills to the 2017 seminar. Thank you.

[Thanks for reading! I work as a free lance writer so if you found value in this work please consider making a donation using the pay pal buttons below.]