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March 5, 2006

If the President Does It It Isn’t Illegal
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:37 PM * 118 comments

Latest step in the hit parade as Bush and his cronies move to destroy our military is the use of uniformed troops at partisan political events.

Bob “I didn’t say ‘Valerie Plame,’ I said ‘Ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife’ and that could have been anyone” Novak told us it was coming:

… the Bush administration is going directly to the public with its war message. Raul Damas, associate director of political affairs at the White House, has been on the phone directly to Republican county chairmen to arrange local speeches by active duty military personnel to talk about their experiences in Iraq. To some Republican members, this unusual venture connotes a desire to go directly to the people to sell the president’s position without having to deal with members of Congress.

This wasn’t just blue-skying: they’ve gone and done it:

The clank of silverware echoed above the polite dinner conversation about topics such as fiscal discipline, permanent tax cuts and the war in Iraq when more than 250 Republicans gathered in Fort Collins on Friday night for the Larimer County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner.

U.S. Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, the keynote speaker, provided the audience with a message of hope that the party will keep its promises to bring democracy to Iraq, end big government, reduce spending and return to Republican core values.

Check the photos to see Marine Sergeant Brandon Forsyth, in uniform, being introduced by Representative Marilyn Musgrave.

Was that a partisan political event? You betcha:

“If there was not cause for hope, you would not be here today,” Pence said. “Each of you has chosen to stay and fight for this country’s future. You have chosen to stand against the defeatists who say government will always be bigger and budgets will always be imbalanced.”

In an earlier interview with the Coloradoan, Pence said he had the highest regard for Colorado politicians, who filled the room and celebrated the party’s accomplishments with constituents.

“I’ve felt very drawn to members of the Colorado delegation over the years and seen them as men and women of principle and conviction,” Pence said. “Indiana and Colorado are very similar in the sense that they are very competitive states from the partisan point of view.”

So, what’s the problem? I invite your attention to Department of Defense Directive 1344.10.

Who does DOD 1344.10 apply to?

This Directive applies to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Military Departments, the Coast Guard when it is not operating as a Military Service in the Department of the Navy by agreement with the Department of Homeland Security, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Combatant Commands, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, the Defense Agencies, the DoD Field Activities, and all other organizational entities in the Department of Defense (hereafter referred to collectively as the “DoD Components”).

That is to say, everyone on active military duty plus a bunch of others.

What does DOD 1344.10 forbid? A pile of things, including but not limited to:

4.1.2. A member on active duty shall not: Use his or her official authority or influence for interfering with an election; affecting the course or outcome of an election; soliciting votes for a particular candidate or issue; or requiring or soliciting political contributions from others. Be a candidate for, hold, or exercise the functions of civil office except as authorized in paragraphs 4.2. and 4.3., below. Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions (unless attending a convention as a spectator when not in uniform). Make campaign contributions to another member of the Armed Forces or an employee of the Federal Government.

Enclosure 3 to DOD 1344.10 provides examples of prohibited activities, including:


In accordance with the statutory restrictions in 10 U.S.C. 973(b) (reference (b)) and references (g) and (h), and the policies established in section 4., above, of this Directive, a member on active duty shall not:

E3.3.8. Speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.

E3.3.9. Participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against of a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.

The secretaries of each military department are instructed to issue appropriate implementing documents for their respective Departments. For example, Air Force Instruction 51-902, which bears this notice at its top, in all caps: “COMPLIANCE WITH THIS PUBLICATION IS MANDATORY.”

That brings us to RECRUITER, “The Magazine of the Air Force Recruiting Professional,” March 2004 issue, specfically to pages 9 and 10. There you’ll find an article by Capt. Christa D’Andrea, Air Force Recruiting Service: “Don’t set yourself up to be Politically Incorrect. Participation in some partisan events may be illegal.”

Capt. D’Andrea helpfully informs the eager recruiters who might be tempted to show up at partisan events in uniform, even if they’re there as mere spectators, that they will become subject to punishment under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ): Failure to Obey Order or Regulation.

Article 92—Failure to obey order or regulation

Any person subject to this chapter who—

(1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;

(2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by a member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or

(3) is derelict in the performance of his duties; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Got it, everyone? In order to give themselves a political boost, the Repubicans are getting members of the US military to commit courts-martial offenses.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has been following this. Today he writes:

Let me mention another point about this issue of uniformed military appearing at and/or speaking at partisan political events.

I’ve gotten a few emails on this point so I want to clarify lest there be any confusion: violation of the ban on uniformed military participating in partisan political events isn’t some technical violation like not filling out a form or not following some obscure protocol. And pointing it out isn’t just some blog gotcha.

The existence of this ban and the enforcement of it are hugely important both to good order and discipline within the military and to preserving our democratic republic. The military can’t be made into an arm of one or the other political party. Nor can the executive be allowed to enlist members of the armed forces, either individually or en masse, willingly or not, as soldiers in his domestic political battles.

This is about preserving a professional military and preserving our system of government. It’s a big deal. We need to find out a few more specifics about what happened at the Musgrave event. Perhaps the newspaper account is deeply misleading about what actually happened. But if this thing that looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, is a duck, then it needs to be nipped in the bud.

One of the strengths of the United States is that the military is non-political. Intent as they are on throwing away America’s strengths, the Republicans have hit on a beaut. They don’t like the laws that made America strong; they prefer the laws that make banana republics and military dictatorships strong.

You know the drill by now: letters to the editor of your local newspaper, letters to your congressional representatives, and, if you’re a military member, recall that it is your duty to refuse to carry out illegal orders.

Comments on If the President Does It It Isn't Illegal:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2006, 08:28 PM:

Yet another of the thousand cuts into the Republic.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2006, 08:30 PM:

Do the uniformed military at these events read the regs, or do they just take the organizers' word for it that it's okay (not that I would at this point, but I'm not military)?

#3 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2006, 08:36 PM:

U.S. Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, the keynote speaker, provided the audience with a message of hope that the party will keep its promises to

bring democracy to Iraq,

I give all out civil war a 50-50 chance.
If that happens, I give 50% odds that the country will fracture into at least two pieces, and the other 50% odds are that an Iraq version of the Ayatollah Khomeni will take over.

end big government,

Spying on our own civilians without warrants isn't big government, is it? Holding combatants outside the geneva convention isn't empirial, is it? Outsourcing torture isn't the sort of thing that Orwell wrote about in 1984, was it? (I think they kept those jobs in-country)

reduce spending

Well, we'll stop spending, just as soon as we can dig ourselves out of Iraq, Katrina, etc.

and return to Republican core values.

Ah, yes, holding true to the freedoms that make this country so great: putting the 10 commandments in every courthouse, a bible in every living room, a prayer to our Christian God every morning in school, teaching Creationism in science class, teaching abstinence in sex education, and making sure abortions don't happen anywhere but in some back alley warehouse.


Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside...

#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2006, 08:42 PM:

Who is arranging this?

It is one thing for, say, a G.O.P. flak to give a call to soldiers whose names appear in "Welcome Back" articles in the local paper.

If their names are provided by the Defense Department, and they are asked to appear . . . that is waaaaaay bad.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2006, 08:43 PM:

Bruce Page once wrote 'Trust your poets and be wary of your politicians.' With that in mind, I submit:

The Fall of Rome

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

-- W.H. Auden

#6 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2006, 09:40 PM:

The phrase "armed wing of the Republican party" is the one you want.

#7 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2006, 09:52 PM:

P J Evans writes: Do the uniformed military at these events read the regs, or do they just take the organizers' word for it that it's okay (not that I would at this point, but I'm not military)?

A possibility worth considering: a) yes, they read the regs, and b) yes, they take the organizer's word for it that it'll be fixed, implying c) they're getting quite used to disregarding the regs when there are more "important" concerns at hand.

#8 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2006, 10:54 PM:

Democracy requires a widespread belief that losing one's political battles is preferable to destroying the rule of law or any of the other institutions of democracy. (An independent judiciary, say.)

Once that willingness to lose, if the sovereign people do not agree with one's cause in sufficient numbers for fervor, is itself lost, so is the democracy.

Getting it back can be more work than having it in the first place.

#9 ::: Mike Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 12:27 AM:

Here's the kicker: apparently it's only verboten in the DoD regs to do the appearance. There's nothing there about arranging the appearance. Which makes it very convenient, since if the higher-ups are doing the arranging, the people making the appearances don't have to worry about being court-martialed.

Unless, of course, a public outcry raises the need for a few (more) bad apples to make an example of. Either way, the people doing the real damage are at a safe remove from any consequences.

#10 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 12:47 AM:

It's one of those things which don't get talked about so much. There are things people get told to not do, attend rallies, marches, demonstrations, give speeches at public events; of a nature which is clearly meant to persuade people to a cause.

But to attend an event in uniform, which isn't really open to the public that's not covered so much.

I know that if one of my troops did it, I'd counsel them. I might have the First Sergeant counsel them. Depending on what they said, I might refer them to the CO, and he can counsel, or Art. 15 them (kind of like a traffic ticket, in that it's not a crime, but you pay a price. There was a time, in the not so recent past, when having a 15 was a career stopper, nowadays we have a war on so they aren't so potent, viz the death of Dilawar).

I would then have some NCODP (ongoing, in house, professional training) about that reg, what it means, and what it prohibits; at which point all my troops would be on notice that doing such things will mean a trip to the Commander, and the probable loss of pay, if not rank.

We serve the Constitution, not a party.

#11 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 01:30 AM:

The GOP will find a lot of volunteers willing to overlook the UCMJ because, over the years, And the Democrats still play into their hands. After nearly forty years, senior officers and enlisted are still passing along the stories about how much the liberals hate the military, about how they spit on soldiers coming back from Vietnam, about how a liberal Hollywood almost always portrays American soldiers as murderers and drug addicts. They tell about how a Democratic Congress would deny badly needed pay raises and funds for fixing up the barracks and on-base housing, so that soldiers and their families continued to live in drafty, leaky firetraps. (I am not saying that is true, but that is the perception.) Then they tell about the increases in pay and benefits they got under Reagan and his GOP successors, and how the GOP is the only party which cares for the military, and you'll see where it comes from. Until the Democrats purge the anti-military wing of their party (and they are there; I see vocal adherents of that view in SFWA every day), then they will continue to have problems.

Perception is the key, and right now most of the professional military takes the view that the only party who gives a damn about the US military is the GOP.

#12 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 02:00 AM:

Terry, I'm not military, but I just had a thought. Why not include it in your next training session anyway, as a 'refresher' on the regs? If you cycle through the regs as a topic on a fairly regular basis, could it just be added on?

#13 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 06:06 AM:

Those regs are taught during each branch's basic training. They are taught typically annually, and again from E-4 through E-6 during leadership continuum courses. We're not talking about some 'boot' E-1 who should of known better, we're talking about a Marine Corps Sergeant who probably has anywhere from 4 to 12 years of service under his belt --- and he's probably taught Rights and Responsibility courses to junior Marines.
That Marine Sergeant didn't receive a phone call directly from the senator with a personal invite... his CO or his Command Master Sergeant (or even the base CO) did most likely. He's not to blame. He's following orders.
While on recruiting duty I watched several violations of these and similar directives: all because they increased public awareness of the military and helped to generate leads (blah blah blah market i.d. and penetration blah). I'm not shocked. In fact, I'm more surprised someone hasn't noticed this before.
Now had this Marine Sergeant shown up in uniform to an ACLU event supporting equality for gays and lesbians --- he'd be an E-3 right now, docked half month's pay for two months, and serving 90 days restriction before his administrative separation with a Bad Conduct Discharge and an RE-4 code on his DD-214.
(Happy to have served my time. Happier to be out.)

#14 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 09:16 AM:

What about all the photo-ops with military backgrounds - Bush declaring victory on that carrier, and so on, surrounded by carefully-selected uniformed faces?

#15 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 10:51 AM:

JKR--you've highlighted something important: there must be a political faction within the serving military which supports the GOP; I can only hope it is a small, unpopular one.

Robert--the GOP is the one screwing the military now, cutting pensions and medical care, failing to provide armor.

#16 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 11:28 AM:

You forgot the most important restriction—Article 88, UCMJ.
"Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."
In my time on active duty, I had to remind a couple of flag officers, a handful of colonels, a passel of majors and lieutenant colonels, and more junior officers than I could count about Article 88. (Of course, back then it didn't include the Secretary of Homeland Security.)

On the other hand, it looks like it's OK to be contemptuous of the CIA, the FBI, the Attorney General, individual members of Congress, or any judge. Yet another example of bad writing. It would have been much better to say:
"Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against any elected Federal officer, any civilian federal official who has been duly appointed and confirmed by the Senate (or whose office is subject to such confirmation), or the Governor, legislature, or judiciary of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

#17 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 12:31 PM:

Sisuile: If I was going to be at drill any sooner than May, might. If I thought it was a potential probelem in my unit, I might anyway.

I'm in the Guard, I have little enough time to set up training for things I know are problems to go to the effort of setting aside a block for something which doesn't seem to be.

Yes, I may be whistling in the dark, it's possible that some of my fellows (though I think I can speak to my specific troops) are running around, presenting themselves as members of the military, and implying the Guard/Army believes one party is annointed, but I don't think so.

Which means I am going to stick to things like good interrogation theory.

#18 ::: Patience Wieland ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 12:43 PM:

During the election, I can confirm that spouses in our region, as well as regular personnel, were reminded very strongly about these regulations. In fact, the reminder did not discern between certain rights military personnel *do* have (such as writing a letter to the editor, as long as they are not participating in an organized campaign), and those that go against the directive. Often people summarize the rules a little too broadly. Military personnel do have rights to political opinions (see URL - Enclosure 3 of that DODD) but they must tread lightly in when and how they express them.

Also, Wolfowitz amended the directive (1344.10) after the Democratic Convention, and before the Republican Convention,
which is why so many uniformed people were at the RNC, supposedly as delegates.

I remember vividly calling a voter about (Gen.) Wesley Clark's campaign, and this very sweet lady asking me, "Why won't they let him wear his uniform? He looks so much nicer than when he wears those sweaters!"

#19 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 03:47 PM:

Terry Karney writes: We serve the Constitution, not a party.

So you say. Apparently, unless words really do speak louder than actions in these matters, some of you serve the Party first and pay secondary lip service to the Constitution, the people and the law. As a matter of official policy. (I find JKRichard's remarks above more than plausible, and I'll climb down off this ledge when I see reports that these marines have been disciplined and that the GOP is no longer able to use uniformed, active duty military for stage props at their partisan rallies.)

The armed forces are not improving their recruiting efforts by pulling idiotic stunts like this. They are sending the message that the military is nothing more than the wing of the Republican Party that has access to crew-serviced weapon systems.

This is supposed to make me feel patriotic and enthusiastic about joining up? I'm sorry, if I'm going to pick up a gun and fight for a political party, it ain't gonna be for these jackholes.

#20 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 04:59 PM:

According to Josh Marshall, that picture has already been scrubbed from Musgrave's web site.

#21 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Correction: the Larimer County GOP website...

#22 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 08:11 PM:

So, when does the GOP issue them brown shirts?

#23 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 09:05 PM:

According to my Constitutional specialist, this particular "edge" has been walked by both parties many times. The current ruling on this issue is that military personnel in uniform may appear at such functions, may speak in a generic "rah rah support the troops" speech, but in no way speak in support of a political position/person/party. A picture of an elected official introducing a person in military uniform doesn't cross that line. What did the Sergeant say?

It would still be a good idea to counsel troops exposed to these "invitations" to make sure they completely understood what they could and could not do.

It also doesn't look good. But George "run as the more moral person" Bush seems to been disregarding morality issues since before his second presidential election.

#24 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 09:12 PM:

I wouldn't want to be a soldier in the position of refusing to appear at a GOP political event. The GOP isn't even a little bit shy about punishing people who say "No" to it.

#25 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 09:43 PM:

Robert -- are you telling us the military are too stupid to realize who's been screwing them for the past several years? I don't expect them to have caught up to the fact that "spitting on returning veterans" is a lie, but being sent out with inadequately armored vehicles just so Bush could have a nice little war to run on ought to have ... penetrated.

#26 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 10:07 PM:

j h woodyatt: Terry Karney writes: We serve the Constitution, not a party.

So you say. Apparently, unless words really do speak louder than actions in these matters, some of you serve the Party first and pay secondary lip service to the Constitution, the people and the law.

Jeez, you might want to chill on Terry Karney a little bit. He sounds like a soldier who knows enough about his job to be on the right side of this thing. I'd be more inclined to thank him for that, and support him, than to give him a hard time.

#27 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 10:34 PM:

CHip -- Rumsfeld and the rest of the Pentagon suits get their share of derision from the boys and girls in uniform. The tone in the military has turned much more skeptical in the past few months. Zogby did a poll which showed that 58 percent of the MARINES in Iraq polled think we should get the hell out of the country ASAP. The total for the other services was even higher.

But the institutional memory, the memory that gets passed down from one generation to another, taken as the unvarnished gospel truth, is that the Democrats hate the military, and it's going to take a lot of time and effort to reverse that, and I don't see the Democrats making the necessary effort to do so.

#28 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 10:47 PM:

Lin, with all due respect to your resident Constitutional expert, this doesn't have anything to do with the Constitution.

It has to do with DOD 1340.10, which states:


In accordance with the statutory restrictions in 10 U.S.C. 973(b) (reference (b)) and references (g) and (h), and the policies established in section 4., above, of this Directive, a member on active duty shall not:


E3.3.8. Speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.


E3.3.18. Attend partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces.

Not a word there about what the person says.

Further, still from DOD 1340.10:


Some activities not expressly prohibited may be contrary to the spirit and intent of section 4. of this Directive or section E3.3. of this enclosure. In determining whether an activity violates the traditional concept that Service members should not engage in partisan political activity, rules of reason and common sense shall apply. Any activity that may be viewed as associating the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security, in the case of the Coast Guard, or any component of these Departments directly or indirectly with a partisan political activity shall be avoided.



This Directive does not preclude participation in local nonpartisan political campaigns, initiatives, or referendums. A member taking part in local nonpartisan political activity, however, shall not:

E3.5.1. Wear a uniform or use any Government property or facilities while participating.




Members of the Armed Forces on active duty engaging in permissible political activities shall:


E3.6.3. Refrain from participating in any political activity while in military uniform, as proscribed by reference (f), or using Government facilities or resources for furthering political activities.

#29 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 11:23 PM:

Maybe troops aren't getting the whole picture, after all, it appears that military censorware routinely blogs left-wing blogs/shows while permitting right-wingers

#30 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 11:33 PM:

Mike Jones: hey, it's a small internet. And it's good to see you blogging again, praise Ultor.

Sorry. Carry on.

#31 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 11:49 PM:

JKRichard sounds right on the money to me, for what it's worth. Rules are only valid for the amount of effort one spends enforcing them.

And I don't know what good it would do to purge the anti-military contigent of the donkeys--house divided cannot stand, all that jazz. I think instead we need something other to rally around, which seems in pitiful low supply.

Sure, the elephants are evil, evil people. We can't take away their credit cards. ITMFA, that's all I can say.

#32 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 11:59 PM:

John, first, I said "specialist," not expert. However, the issue remains that having persons in military uniform appear and in fact speak at political rallies during times of war has a long history in American politics. If, based on my knowledge of both human nature and the nature of the military, if there had been courts-martial for appearing at, and speaking generically at, political rallies, by this point the military might just forbid anyone from appearing. Do you honestly think a military person, with a knowledge that others have been courts-martialed for appearing and speaking generically at a political rally, run that risk? Based on our tendency to sue people at the drop of a hat and the common man's tendency not to do things because "I might get sued," it is my experience that the tendency to remember having the ax fall on one's compatriots' heads is remembered long and long, military or otherwise.

I cannot, and my specialist cannot, in any way refute the rules-and-regs as cited. Except to say that to forbid a person from speaking, uniformed or not, is a violation of said person's constitutional rights of free speech (hence my constitutional specialist paying attention to this matter). The traditional understanding/interpretation of this set of rules-and-regs is that it is to prevent a person in military uniform to use the authority inherent in wearing a uniform to tell people how to vote, specifically whom or what to vote for. If I, and my specialist, are incorrect, please cite the courts-martial or other disciplinary action for someone in military uniform, for appearing at a political rally, and speaking generically.

Bush and company are snivelling, backstabbing, lying, cheating, two-faced, hypocritical, unethical, and immoral, and those of us who despise him and his greedy, slimy, give-a-bad-name-to-pond-scum cohorts are more than willing to get pissed when they appear to do something illegal. But I don't think this is one of those times. It pisses me off because Bush and company are using the military like a toy, tossing it all over the world to enforce the neocons' opinion of how they want things to be without regard to how the people who live there want them, send them into combat inadequately supported and inadequately trained for the duties they will be performing, and then act like "we're all buddies together." But in my informed-but-not-expert (and certainly not current-military nor JAG) opinion, having a person in military uniform appear at a political rally and speak generically is not in violation of military rules-and-regs. I did not confirm, before expressing this set of opinions, with those of my acquaintance who are active military, nor with those who are or have been JAG. I will contrive to do so.

Again, what did the Sergeant say?

#33 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 12:23 AM:

Every time I hear that the GOP "supports our troops" and the Democrats don't, I ask why the GOP (except for Arlen Specter) voted against VA funding for little things like, oh, mental health care for returning Iraq vets.

#34 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 12:57 AM:

Taking the heading of this post literally, you might be interested to know that the Australian constitution actually has a provision whereby anyone, citizen or non-citizen, can restrain public officials from acting beyond their authority. According to a recently retired High Court judge, this means, for example, that " that legal black hole known as Guantanamo Bay" couldn't happen here.

#35 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 01:40 AM:

He's not to blame. He's following orders.

If the order is illegal, following orders is not acceptable, precedents include Nuremburg.

#36 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 01:46 AM:

The institutional memory is more nuanced than just Dems/Reps, more on the lines of Liberals scorn us, Conservatives support us.

The present conflict isn't doing much to change that, because lots of guys see anti-war, as anti-Bush. Add the Swift Boat Boys calling Kerry's service into question, while Bush got a pass, and the idea that Dems/Libs don't serve comes into play.

I know a guy, dear friend, went to Iraq together, he sees support the troops, not the war, slogans and asks what they've done specifically. Most of them say they are doing all they need to... sorr of the flip side of the 101st Fighting Keyboards.

There are groups (NOW of Lompoc, Calif, who go and find people from and mail them care packages every six weeks or so, or the guy on The News Blog who is sending out Brita type filters because he heard that KBR wasn't doing the job.

Do they say who they are, maybe. If they did it would help the cause of persuading the troops that all liberals aren't apathetic about them in the concrete.

But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool, and he gets to come home, before he goes back, and the cycle of units (better than the piecemeal of Viet-nam) means that there are troops over there who had three years to see how things are going, so the present administration isn't as loved as it might seem. The opposition may have to work to get the votes, but there are votes to be had.

Woodyatt: Did you mean to insult me, or my fellows? I can't speak for everyone, and not looking to tilt (be it left or right) I don't have very many people I've served with who serve other than the oath the swore. Most of them served under Clinton (who wasn't popular, and less so back in '93 when I enlisted) without mutiny, so I doubt they are likely to become the power behind the coup.

Would some? Sure, they are as human as anyone else, but I think that were push to come to shove the army wouldn't go for the President in that sort of situation any more than the rest of the nation, and probably less, so the snark was probably mis-aimed.

#37 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 02:08 AM:

Terry Karney writes: Woodyatt: Did you mean to insult me, or my fellows?

I'd be very surprised if you and your fellows were as thin-skinned as all that. Last I checked, career military folk typically don't have a very high regard for what civilians think of them— often with very good reason.

No, I didn't mean to insult you. I simply meant to have a frank exchange of views.

Terry Karney continues: I can't speak for everyone, and not looking to tilt (be it left or right) I don't have very many people I've served with who serve other than the oath the swore. Most of them served under Clinton (who wasn't popular, and less so back in '93 when I enlisted) without mutiny, so I doubt they are likely to become the power behind the coup.

Ah yes, but that was before the evil liberals, who totally control the media, stabbed the military in the back and kept them from winning the War On Terror.

Terry Karney concludes: Would some? Sure, they are as human as anyone else, but I think that were push to come to shove the army wouldn't go for the President in that sort of situation any more than the rest of the nation, and probably less, so the snark was probably mis-aimed.

Fair enough. You've got a better perspective on how the corps is aligned. I'm just saying the recruiting message here is pretty lame. I'm a big believer in the virtue of having an all-volunteer military that draws from all walks of life, all professions and classes, races and religions— and I'm very alarmed to see the U.S. military, in the span of my adult lifetime, become much more politically polarized than I think is healthy for the Republic.

Your mileage may vary. Maybe you don't think it's a problem. Those marines standing on that stage next to Marilyn Musgrave certainly don't seem to think it's a problem. I think it might be important to consider how your civilians are likely to interpret a message like this. That's all.

#38 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 02:51 AM:

If you think the military is far too influenced by the right, then work to get the recruiters back on college campuses again where they have been shut out. The military used to draw a sizable number of its officers from the Ivies before the Vietnam War, and was much more politically balanced. However, since many liberal college campuses kicked ROTC and recruiters off campus, the officer corps has shifted drastically rightward. If you want to change things in that regard, then the left has to encourage its young men and women to join up and become officers and NCOs. Letting ROTC and recruiters back on campus will upset many in academe, but they tend to dwell in ivory towers anyway and don't have a clue how the real world works. The issue of gays in the military is just, IMO, a bogus one being used to keep the military off campus, and if you get rid of that, then another will be found. I have found that the most vocal opponents of the military being on campus at the University of Maryland, for example, are those that, if you listen to them during and after class, still feel that the world would be a paradise if the Soviet Union had won the Cold War and Marxism ruled the world. Like I said, ivory towers without a trace of reality...

#39 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 04:52 AM:

Robert Glaub writes: If you think the military is far too influenced by the right, then work to get the recruiters back on college campuses again where they have been shut out.

Yes. That is a core worry of mine. I was very displeased when San Francisco recently passed Proposition I, which made it city policy to "oppose military recruiting in public schools and consider funding scholarships for education and training that could provide an alternative to military service."

I'm sympathetic to the complaint that recruiters have been getting away with some pretty sleazy practices when it comes to steering young— mostly impoverished— kids into military service, but making it official policy to oppose military recruitment in SFO schools was a bad move, for all the reasons I mentioned in my previous posts.

That said, I know where the recruiters offices in SFO are located, and they are very poorly staffed. It's my impression that the armed forces are not trying very hard to recruit in San Francisco. Too many liberals here, you see— so I expect they don't feel it's worth the bother. I doubt they have even noticed the effect of Proposition I on their efforts, especially since Proposition I didn't have any functional effect other than to make a [poorly formed] political statement.

I realize the institutional memory of the armed forces are that liberals "hate" the military, but let's be honest: the military cultivates a culture that hates liberals. They've got a lot of gall to do that, and then turn around and complain that liberals are too resistant to their recruitment efforts. An awful lot of the anti-liberalism you find in the military is just self-indulgent wallowing in baseless myths about what most liberals think and believe, and only very rarely a reaction to any real anti-military sentiment among liberals.

Meanwhile, the same military culture that blames all liberals for the sins of a few routinely swallows the grossly hypocritical and obscene posturing of so-called conservatives who profess to love the military while showing the same disrespect, or worse, that their liberal counterparts among the civilian population do.

The rightward polarization of the military is a problem that can be partially blamed on liberal disenchantment with military service. I won't dispute that. But the armed forces are not serving the national interest by working to magnify that polarization, e.g. by showing up in uniform to partisan political rallies where liberals are routinely demonized as enemies of America.

p.s. The ROTC and recruiters haven't been "kicked off" as many college campuses as the conservatarian mythology factory would have us believe. They often say that Harvard and Yale have kicked them off campus, but this is demonstrably not true. Four of the eight Ivies have ROTC programs. Ending the ban on gays in the military would put the ROTC and recruiters back on every single one of these campuses. Alas, what was that I wrote above about the military and its anti-liberal culture?

#40 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 08:44 AM:

When I was in grad school, my advisor worked for the NSA. (By this point, they were not as secretive as they once were. I mean, you drive down BWI and there is a sign which points you to their location and once you get there, there is a sign out front telling you that you have arrived at the NSA. There is also a cryptological museum nearby. This is to say that at least we can now admit to the agency's existence.)

At the time, their line in recruiting was that our national security was so important, that the only thing they were interested in was hiring the best and brightest. Nothing else mattered. (Ok, you had to pass the polygraph exam to make sure you weren't going to overthrow the country. But they were at least projecting the message of not looking for an ideological fit. For the record, I didn't not apply although I knew a few people who accepted job offers.)

I've always found it unredeemably sad that our military apparently cares more about what the potential non duty related behavior of their recruits rather than deciding that our nation's security is so important that they want the best people they can find. I mean, there are already plenty of rules regarding fraternization. It seems to me that one can apply them fairly regardless of sexual orientation.

If they truly bought the stereotype that gay men would jump every man they saw, they wouldn't have problems with gay men in the military. All gay men would be bounced out about as quickly as they came in. They could then say something about how they tried and perhaps justifiably ban gay men from service.

The problem, of course, is that gay men exercise at least as much control over their behavior as straight men. (I would argue that under certain circumstances, gay men are capable of more control.) So that hypothetical scenario could never happen. Letting gay men in openly would mean leaving them in. Ultimately, it seems to be that it's about the discomfort of the straight man's fantasy that a gay man will find him attractive. (I honestly have no idea why any straight men is even remotely concerned about this.)

This strikes me as a really stupid reason to compromise our national defense. This is undoubtedly also related to a conservative set of decision makers in the military.

The good things about the recent Supreme Court decision then it that it might encourage a more diverse set of voices to join the military and that the Supreme Court explicitly affirmed that the schools involved have every right to encourage protest against those organizations they are bound by law to provide administrative support for.

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 08:56 AM:

Lin, please inform your Constitutional specialist that the Bill of Rights does not apply to active duty military members. What applies to the military is Article 1, Section 8. Freedom of speech quite explicitly does not exist in the military.

Second point, you and your Constitutional specialist are missing the word "partisan" in the "partisan political activity." The uniformed persons who appeared at War Bond rallies during WWII were not engaged in partisan activites.

Furthermore, the military of today is bound by the regulations of today, not the regulations as they may have existed at any previous time. It is regulations, not the Constitution, that ended flogging and took away the rum ration. It was regulations, not the Constitution, that integrated the military.

Regulations or no, the military has a long history of refraining from partisan political activity of any sort. That tradition is in danger here.

What the sergeants said, even if they stood mute, is irrelevant.

#42 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 09:07 AM:

j h woodyatt said:
That said, I know where the recruiters offices in SFO are located, and they are very poorly staffed. It's my impression that the armed forces are not trying very hard to recruit in San Francisco. Too many liberals here, you see— so I expect they don't feel it's worth the bother. I doubt they have even noticed the effect of Proposition I on their efforts, especially since Proposition I didn't have any functional effect other than to make a [poorly formed] political statement.

My understanding is that there's a shortage of recruiters everywhere. My cousin is a recruiter for the Army. Although he'd put in his years, the stoploss is keeping him from getting out of the military, and his alternative was a third tour of duty in Iraq (not that the other places he's been sent [Afghanistan, Korea] were a whole lot better.)

So I'd say that it has less to do with "too many liberals to bother to send a recruiter" and far more to do with "too few recruiters spread far too thin"

#43 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 09:29 AM:

I'm a lot more concerned about the military not being allowed to see some ordinary civilian media than I am about uniformed military doing partisan political speech, even if the former is entirely legal (is it?) and the latter definitely is not.

#44 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 11:13 AM:

Woodyatt, it just keeps sounding like you are as ideologically bound as any supposed member of the armed forces, just to a different stance.

but let's be honest: the military cultivates a culture that hates liberals. They've got a lot of gall to do that, and then turn around and complain that liberals are too resistant to their recruitment efforts. An awful lot of the anti-liberalism you find in the military is just self-indulgent wallowing in baseless myths about what most liberals think and believe...

Why should we be honest about it? I think you're wrong. A strong work ethic, adherence to a code, personal responsibility, and a sense of being in something larger than oneself are all things that the military tries to ingrain in its members. Is this the culture that you are implying is anti-liberal?

And the seeing of conservatives as the saviors of the military isn't self-indulgent wallowing in baseless myths? And self-indulgent wallowing about political myths is not typically American in what universe?

I'm in acedemia. I'm going to be here for probably the rest of my career. I'd be crap in the military, with bad joints, an independent streak as wide as the mississippi delta, and a love of institutional politics. On the other hand, the last one qualifies me innately for working in a university, where I've found a whole lot of ivory-tower liberals who are anti-military because that's the institutional memory here, and I'm looking out our dept. window at the ROTC building. They've never thought about their political views, because they 'know' it's true. The military are evidentally a bunch of right-wing conservative nuts who go around killing college students at will for peacefully protesting. Oh yeah, Kent State is still the overwhelming viewpoint here. 'They'd as likely shoot us as do anything if we talked to them.' It's self-indulgent, unthinking dogmatisim.

I have a couple theories as to why the neo-christian right recruits better than the 'thinking' left, and one fairly cohesive one. This also applies to some extent to poor, inner-city recruitment. The right is more accustomed to the thought processes involved with being part of something larger than oneself, and with the idea of a duty...because that's what their church preaches, and what the church *is*. Conservitive churches often encourage enlistment "for God and country". I went to a church for many years where the young men were encouraged to go into ROTC or officer training hopefully in MD or CO (women, of course, were not). It was seen as a duty, the thing you should do if you could. I have yet to be in a liberal or even moderate church with that attitude, though those institutions encourage other types of service to God. It also could be part of the reason that disadvantaged enlistment is high, because they want that feeling of belonging and might have had it in their churches. This is not to say that there are not religious liberals, we're just not as dogmatic about it most of the time. Besides which, the liberals seem to have a majority of the atheist, agnostic, deist set, who often believe man stands on his own and shouldn't be parts of things larger than themselves, and then drown out those of us who are quietly religious.

I would not wish the military upon anyone. In fact, I've recently tried to discourage my friends from enlisting, since I would rather not see them killed (or, in one case, because he got in it to shoot at things. He's now an army dentist, and no longer a friend). But it has it's good points, and has it's people who are liberals to the core, as the liberal set of society has just as many unthinking assumptions of the military who they think of as barberous anyway...

#45 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 11:18 AM:

part of the reason that disadvantaged enlistment is high

And also the possibility of getting an education that actually might be worth something, rather than the minimally-competent stuff that some large school systems produce.

#46 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 11:26 AM:

j h woodyatt wrote: I'm a big believer in the virtue of having an all-volunteer military that draws from all walks of life, all professions and classes, races and religions— and I'm very alarmed to see the U.S. military, in the span of my adult lifetime, become much more politically polarized than I think is healthy for the Republic.

Is it in fact reasonable to expect an all-volunteer military to draw from "all walks of life, all professions and classes, races and religions"? Persons who join the military tend to do so because they lack other opportunities. An all-volunteer military will by its nature draw disproportionately from the lower classes and the poorly educated.

Although I'm not necessarily sure that the military has a strong anti-liberal bias (the few officers I know have all been broad-thinking), that such a bias may exist should hardly be surprising. Military life demands respect for authority and tradition, and relies at its core on discipline and obedience. These are values and character traits that align themselves more easily with conservatives than with liberals.

#47 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 11:47 AM:

Richard Anderson writes: Is it in fact reasonable to expect...?

I think it's reasonable to believe in the virtue of having... I didn't say I think it's reasonable to expect.

I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect, but I'd like to believe it's a worthy goal. If we can't do that, then it seems to me we have exactly two [unpleasant] alternatives: a) embrace turning the military into simply the armed wing of the conservative partisans, or b) a system of conscription without the usual set of deferments for privileged elites.

I know many conservatives would prefer the former. I suspect many liberals would prefer the latter. I don't like either of them very much, and would prefer to believe that the armed forces can recruit from all walks of life. Many police forces have been relatively successful at this, probably because the police are actually required to interact with civilians as a primary job function. If their culture diverges too much from the civilian population they're supposed to serve, you find out very quickly and embarrassingly. The armed forces don't have this feedback.

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 12:23 PM:

It occurs to me that, if it is a good thing for a volunteer military to reflect the society it comes from, than all parts of that society must feel that it is worth volunteering to defend that society.

That is, perhaps, an ideal. For the military to do its job, there are some parts of society who would be best turned down. But even Conscientious Objectors have been found roles within the military.

Now look at the results of the last two Presidential Elections. Look at the votes counted. The USA is in a balanced state, half the voters apparently Republican and half Democrats. How that maps to conservative and liberal is a lot less clear.

And, if you're one of those 50% who didn't vote for Bush, what is there worth volunteering to fight for? Maybe rather a lot, but is it enough?

I don't know. From here it looks as if at least half the country has no good reason to fight: it's not a war for America, it's a war for the Bushistas. It's a war for Guantanamo Bay, and the falsified worldview that floods the US mainstream media.

And it's not the sort of war in which religion becomes important; there's no Oliver Cromwell coming out of this one.

#49 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 01:48 PM:

Woodyatt: It isn't thin-skinned, it's prickly.

Your tone, and content challenged my ethics, and (to be quaint) my honor and veracity. It did, in fact, offend me, "So you say. Apparently, unless words really do speak louder than actions in these matters, some of you serve the Party first and pay secondary lip service to the Constitution, the people and the law. is rude. "So you say." That's a challenge to the content, and not one of questioning interest, but of open, even hostile disagreement. Saying I, or my fellows, pay, "lip service," to our oaths, well that goes past merely rude, and into what used to be thought of a territory demanding the settling of debts of honor. You may not (in fact probably didn't) mean to say you thought I paid such lip service, but the idea was there.

You want my honest opinion.... the all volunteer army has a huge flaw, which is positive feedback and hostile work environment. Go and read, "Making The Corps" for an insight as to what the problem might be.

The problem is that people who don't like the military, don't enlist. Most of the people who do like the military (as an idea, not as a thing to live in... but bear with me) are more on the conservative side of things (what they want to conserve may vary... look at me, I'm a progressive, with some decidedly liberal stances, I want to preserve them... that makes me a conservator of those values).

Those who are more liberal, feel out of place, which means they don't stay. Which makes the place more conservative, which makes it less comfortable for liberals.

It's the one good argument I've ever seen for a draft.

You say, however, that the military hates liberals, and that such hate has no basis.

but let's be honest: the military cultivates a culture that hates liberals. They've got a lot of gall to do that, and then turn around and complain that liberals are too resistant to their recruitment efforts. An awful lot of the anti-liberalism you find in the military is just self-indulgent wallowing in baseless myths about what most liberals think and believe, and only very rarely a reaction to any real anti-military sentiment among liberals.

But you know what, you are making a pretty good case that they are right in those beliefs. You are stereotyping, and when someone who might have a better knowledge comes along, your response is to say they are wrong.

Want to know why the recruiting offices in SF are poorly staffed? For the same reason you don't see Wal-mart in Beverly Hills... they don't get much traffic. Where are the offices in Oakland? Recruiting costs money. It's not a job people like, and to be honest, SF is a funny place to be a soldier. Some of the few times I have felt uncomfortable in uniform were taking lunch when I was on missions in San Francisco (which is a city I adore). There were parts of town where I was treated as a leper.

Other parts of town where there was zero reaction, and some where I felt really welcomed. This goes back to 94, and continues to the present.

Me, I chalk it up to people being people.

Nancy: I worry about them the same. The one leads to the other (and may have so small effect on shaping the opinions woodyatt is worried about). When the news gets tilted the way the restrictions seem to be tilting it, and the soldiers are allowed, even encouraged to show up at partisan events (and the question then becomes, who is enforcing the reg, and how... if going to a Dem Rally is a violation, the converse isn't, and troops are doing just that, then we have the problem woodyatt is worried about, and more besides, because that will border on a Praetorian Guard sort of thing.

Right now recruitment is buggered. The people who spend all sorts of time supporting the war, refuse to fight (all hail the mighty 101st Fighting Keyboards). Those who don't support it, quite rightly, see enlisting right now as a stupid thing to do. Not only is it reinforcing failure, and lending credibulity to something they despise, it's doing it by putting one's life at risk.

Which leaves only the really gung-ho, most of whom are yuong, and have swallowed, not the military's POV, but the common trope of evil, army hating, liberals vs. good, patriotic, country serving conservatives.

The risk of positive feedback getting out of control exists.

Right now, I don't see it. But then again, we tend to self-select for people who share our views (and being in a Guard unit, I see people with a different take on the situation. In the event California were to secede, at least 80 percent of my unit would go for the state, not the feds, and I'd wager that's pretty much true across the board. For the Regular Army, in event of a, wider, civil war, I'd expect the divide to be more 60-40, for the feds), so the folks in uniform I correspond with, they aren't the best of representitive samples (and I have to depend on things like the 5-20 weeks a year I spend in places like Korea and Ukraine, mingling with the rest of the Army to get my opinions), but I don't think the Army is on the Gov't's side, just because they are Republicans, any more than they would be against it, were they, presently, Democrats.

#50 ::: Anna ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 02:17 PM:

"that " that legal black hole known as Guantanamo Bay" couldn't happen here."

Two words...Pacific Solution.
I know, I know, no torture as such but you have to admit the style of detention for refugees (or not as the case may be) and their children came perilously close.

#51 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 03:01 PM:

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that colleges that receive federal money for any programs can't keep the military recruiters out of their law schools, and in fact have to provide the same services they provide to all other recruiters.

It's pretty generally regarded as meaning that military recruitment is back on any college campus the military would like to be on. This specifically trumps the colleges' right to insist that only organizations that do not discriminate can recruit (DADT was the discrimination issue in question in the case).

Even so, I'm not sure this is entirely a bad thing, especially considering the above commentary.

#52 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Sisuile said, the atheist, agnostic, deist set, who often believe man stands on his own and shouldn't be parts of things larger than themselves,

The atheists I know would tend to say that man being on his own is precisely why people must be involved in things larger than themselves.

#53 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 03:12 PM:

j h woddyatt wrote: I know many conservatives would prefer [turning the military into ... the armed wing of the conservative partisans].

What's the basis for this statement?

Seems to me all we're dealing with are political opportunists who're using the military (wrongly, according to Mr. Ford) to more tightly wrap their party in the mantle of patriotism. Which is far different than turning the military into the conservatives' "armed wing." Furthermore, for the latter to happen, conservatives would need the complicity of at least the officer corps. Sorry, but I cannot seriously believe that more than a small fraction of military officers would hold their oath to the country and the Constitution that lightly.

#54 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Well, the Air Force has some prolems in the officer corps, with a certain sort of Christianity being very helpful in getting ahead.

I don't see that in the Army (though for the reasons I gave above, the Army does tend to a more overtly "christian" stripe than I see in day to day life.

Xopher: There are some problems with the decision in Rumsfeld v FAIR. The logic is weak, and it seems they are fliping the interpretation of one of the precedents. For a more detailed take on it see Dale Capenter at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Some of his reasoning Most interesting is its treatment of the “expressive conduct” doctrine. The Court has never had a satisfying theory of what conduct should get free-speech protection. Some conduct does get some level of protection (flag-burning, nude dancing) and some conduct doesn’t (perusing an adult bookstore). Different verbal formulations have been offered to explain the distinction but they’ve always been very indeterminate. Now the Court says that First Amendment protection extends only to conduct that is “inherently expressive.” Slip op. at 16. As best I can tell, this formulation of the test for what counts as protected expressive conduct is a new one.

It’s difficult to predict what conduct will count as “inherently expressive,” and thus get First Amendment protection, and what conduct will not be deemed “inherently expressive,” and thus get no First Amendment scrutiny. I'm not sure the distinction amounts to much more than the old obscenity standard, "We know it when we see it." The Court appears to mean that inherently expressive conduct is that conduct for which the expressive component is “overwhelmingly apparent,” and thus needs no further accompanying speech to signal that it is expressive. This, the Court thinks, helps us separate flag-burning (inherently expressive) from the exclusion of the military from law-school recruiting (not inherently expressive)...

One could support the Court’s result in this decision – that the Solomon Amendment is constitutional – while still being quite concerned about its potential narrowing effects on First Amendment freedoms. The upshot of the Court's view about free speech and associational rights is this: the government could require schools to admit military recruiters, not merely withdraw funds from schools that object to the recuiters' presence.

I happen to agree, wider recruiting (and a wider slice of the body politic in uniform) is a god thing. I am not sure I like the way the Court came to the decision it did.

#55 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Whoops, make that "according to the persuasive, well-documented argument of Mr. Macdonald."

#56 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 03:58 PM:

It looks as though what's being censored is forums and streaming radio--the kind of censorship which isn't unusual in workplaces and doesn't necessarily have a political spin.

#57 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 04:38 PM:

Terry - I know you meant a good thing, but as is my wont I started thinking about what it would have meant if you'd typed that on purpose...

Mars. That's the connection. And possibly Athena, as representative of the body politic.

#58 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 05:15 PM:

Are y'all familiar with Major Bob Bateman, who corresponds with Eric Alterman over at Altercation? He's got an interesting take on the item from that recent poll of military personnel which suggested that the bulk of them still think Saddam and al-Qaeda were connected. You can find it here (scroll to "Correspondents' Corner").

#59 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Sisuile: the atheist, agnostic, deist set, who often believe man stands on his own and shouldn't be parts of things larger than themselves.

You should be careful when talking about things you're not familiar with. You're certainly not describing me (almost 40 years as an agnostic, >30 years as volunteer at SF conventions at every level from gofer to chair, singer in several choruses, ...) or any of the non-believers I know.

It \might/ be accurate to characterize non-believers as being less willing to surrender the right to make their own judgments to people who will abuse them for personal gain (e.g. the conservative politicians the military mistakenly regards as friends), just as they are unwilling to surrender that judgment to a "higher power" that they consider a superstition; but I haven't tried asking a larger sample than an immediate academic world what they think.

#60 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 07:47 PM:

Richard Andersen asks: What's the basis for this statement? [That many conservatives would prefer the alternative of turning the military into the wing of the conservative party with access to crew-service weapon systems.]

My personal history discussing the matter with a lot of conservatives, mostly military veterans, who have a low enough opinion of conscription that they would much prefer a military with no conscripts and a deeply polarized corps over a military filled with conscripts from all walks of civilian life. They can't imagine that a deeply partisan military would pose a problem for the Republic or its armed forces, so long as that partisanship is oriented toward conservative parties. I doubt my conservative friends, who have made their views clear to me, are unrepresentative of American conservatives generally.

I would also point out that current proposals for the resumption of conscription are all coming from liberals and Democrats in Congress, and not from conservatives or Republicans.

#61 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 07:56 PM:

Anna: I agree that the Pacific Solution and the Australian treatment of asylum-seekers generally reeks to the heavens. Maybe it calls for a constitutional challenge.

#62 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 08:07 PM:

Terry Karney writes: Your tone, and content challenged my ethics, and (to be quaint) my honor and veracity. It did, in fact, offend me, "So you say. Apparently, unless words really do speak louder than actions in these matters, some of you serve the Party first and pay secondary lip service to the Constitution, the people and the law. is rude. "So you say."

Okay, you're offended. I sincerely apologize for offending you. I honestly didn't think you'd be so easily offended, and it was my mistake.

You asserted that those marines standing next to Marilyn Musgrave serve the Constitution and not the Larimer County Republican Party. I think they may or may not still serve the Constitution, but they are certainly standing in service to the GOP in that picture. I'm sorry you were offended that I didn't adopt a suitably deferential tone with you when I noticed the gap between what you were saying and what is clearly happening. I was under the impression that such deference from civilians was more annoying to professional soldiers than anything else. Apparently, I was wrong about that. My bad.

As an explanation for my tone (not a defense or an excuse), I would offer that I have been many times presented with a parade of bullshit from people who claim to have a background as intelligence officers in the U.S. Armed Forces, and I tend to treat their pronouncements as trustwothy only to a point. Particularly these days, now that the profession of military intelligence officers in the America armed forces and other government agencies has been so thoroughly disgraced.

#63 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 09:08 PM:

Xopher, the decision also said that the colleges are free to protest the recruiters, so while they have to treat them equally with the other recruiters, they can stand around them with signs.

#64 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 10:12 PM:

j h woodyatt: Terry Karney has been posting at Making Light for some time, and in my experience it's actually quite difficult to offend him. That you nevertheless managed to do so, says more about your post than his response.

I'd have thought it was accidental -- control of tone on-line eludes all of us from time to time -- but then you managed to come up with an apology that repeated and redoubled the original offense. So I'm forced to conclude that not only did you do it on purpose, you worked damned hard at it.

#65 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 11:16 PM:

I'm sorry you were offended that I didn't adopt a suitably deferential tone with you when I noticed the gap between what you were saying and what is clearly happening.

I can't speak for Terry on why he was offended. I can tell you that failure to "adopt a suitably deferential tone" isn't why I'm offended.

#66 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 12:08 AM:

James D. Macdonald writes: I can tell you that failure to "adopt a suitably deferential tone" isn't why I'm offended.

Well, I can't guess and I don't know.

I'll just shut up and try not to compound the offense with any further insult. My sincere apologies. I did not mean to offend, and I'm sorry I did.

#67 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 12:35 AM:

Marilee: yes, that's so. They can even put up signs right outside where the military recruiters are working: "Warning: the US Military discriminates against Gay and Lesbian people. The university does not endorse their recruitment. We are obliged by law to provide space and services to them, but we strongly recommend that you avoid letting them talk you into joining."

Or whatever.

j h woodyatt: this last was much, much better. I'm not one of the military types in here, so I can't say if it will be enough, but it shows that you know you did something wrong, and regret it, and it makes no attempt to justify the behavior (which often kills an apology). Kudos for that.

Terry is one of the Good Guys in every sense of the word. I dream of finding a guy like him (except, you know, not straight and married; also he's wayyy too creative a cook for my health!). He's posted repeatedly, here and elsewhere, about how coercive interrogation techniques (including but not limited to torture) are not only dishonorable and illegal, but stupid and useless as well.

He's one of the guys who are what the military is supposed to be, and often is. He defends not only our lives and our fortunes, but our sacred honor—to the extent we have any left after Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. If he'd been at the latter it never would have gotten as far as it did.

In short, he's a deeply admirable human being. Just for background.

One more thing: I have the strong sense that when military people refer to their honor as a "quaint" notion, they're about as angry as they ever get. It's a real warning sign.

#68 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 12:39 AM:


As it happens, I am familiar with the atheist/agnostic/deist set, mostly because I'm on campus and hanging around people who can only be qualified as geeks. (ok, so we all can as people who have obscure knowledge and discuss it to the odd hours of the morning. We're comfortable with that.) Most of these people are atheist or agnostic, and believe firmly in the individual, and how one should be able to stand compleatly indepentantly. Granted, the other point is that they're all in their 20s, and so immortal and invincible, and so don't need to leave their mark...or haven't had time or spent the effort to figure out exactly what those beliefs mean. But I'm familiar with them.

#69 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 02:49 AM:

Sisuile, atheism is a very diverse `belief' system. I doubt there are many useful generalisations that you can make about atheists.

Theists are the people like George Washington et al, who believe in a non-interventionist God, with moral duties, etc, right?

As to the military/political issue, I'm not an American, or a soldier, so my opinion about your military and politicians is pretty moot.

However, is the American military really that polarised? It all seems a bit melodramatic to me.

#70 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 03:22 AM:

Terry Karney asks:
Where are the [military recruitment] offices in Oakland?

Well, actually, there's quite a large office with a prominent street front at the edge of Oakland's downtown business district -- 21st Street and Broadway. (Quite near the Paramount Theater, for those who know that landmark.)

#71 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 04:06 AM:

(adding to Xopher's comment) Terry Karney's Live Journal weblog is a worthy read (and he's linked it with his name, so getting there is easy). Just in case anyone needs some more background.

I went into hyperbole-mode regarding how highly this pleasure-luvvin' liberal thinks of Terry, but fortunately for you guys, there's the delete key.

My first conscious impressions of the military were formed by the antics of National Guardsmen on university campuses, filtered through the interpretations of the adults around me (yes, this dates me), and Terry's done a great deal to counter those deeply-seated attitudes, at least with regard to his own being as a soldier.

Crazy(and, uhm, *small voice* seriously off topic, eep!)Soph

#72 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 05:02 AM:

j h woodyatt: James D. Macdonald writes: I can tell you that failure to "adopt a suitably deferential tone" isn't why I'm offended.

Well, I can't guess and I don't know.

Not to prolong something that doesn't need to be prolonged, but in case you would like to try to discover what you can't guess and don't know, you might re-read Terry's comment here and then consider your use of the word "you" in your first paragraph here.

You don't need to debate me or anyone else about it. If you want to try to understand what you can't guess and don't know, reflecting quietly on the above may help. Quite reflection is about the only useful way for sorting something like this out, I find.

#73 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 08:59 AM:

Keir: You're confusing deists (who believe in a Great Watchmaker; a god who made the universe and then left it to its own devices) with theists (who believe in an active god).

#74 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 10:44 AM:

Let's not beat about the bush (no pun intended): To use soldiers as stage props during a political rally works on two levels, the direct and the implicit.

1. As a show of strength.
2. As intimidation: "We have the guns on our side, so watch out."

Can you hear that sound of marching soldiers approaching the rally... tromp tromp, tromp tromp... it can't happen here... right?

#75 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 11:24 AM:

j h woodyatt: Lets recast the source of my offense. It wasn't that the Marines might be seen as supoorting, publically, in uniform; with some semblance of institutional imprimatur.

It had nothing to do with my expecting a deferential tone. It's that you cast aspersion on me, and everyone who serves.

Lets see how this hypothetical sounds.

"I have never cheated on my wife."

"So you say."

The latter is a direct (if somewhat passive) accusation that the speaker is speaking falsely. That, whether, or not, you intended it that way, was the source of my original offence. I don't know to what "point" you are willing to grant people credit, and it seems my profession is one which makes you less likely to accept my description of my beliefs and experience. I am, because of that profession, pretty much used to that. I do know that your follow up didn't do much to make me think it was merely infelicitous usage.

Those Marines did something I think is wrong. I'm not a Marine, so I don't know what the level of ongoing awareness of Art. 88 is. I do know that even as black-letter as it appears to me there is the slightest of shades of grey; and how it was presented to them might mean they did it without intent. That, because I know that in the Army it's something glossed. There's a lot of things to cover, a lot of annual briefings that have to be handled (even in the Guard, we have at least one entire day of the 24 we get for home station drills, on mandatory briefings, from Familiy, to Sexual Harrassment, to Subversion and Espionage Directeed against the Army, and stuff like the Geneva Conventions; which matter a lot to my line of work), so things we don't see as needing a whole lot of fine detail (like Art. 88, as well as Art. 92, Failure to obey a lawful order) get mentioned, and we move on.

Is it perfect? No. It means that, as I said, if I find out a troop has done something like this, I'll sit down and counsel them. I'll find out what they were doing, and why (is it a political event to be seen when the president shows up in your mess-tent with a thanksgiving turkey? Yes. Is it prohibited? No. What's the difference? Perhaps more important, how does the troop see the difference.) I'm not sure what I'd do if the troop said they went there to support the mayor/congresscritter/county sherriff.

I do see it as worse than hitting one of the massage spas which are off-limits near Ft. Lewis. But I don't think I'd refer them to the commander. Not the first time. And if I did, it's not likely I'd make it a court-martial reccomendation. I'd probably sit them down with the First Sergeant, and talk about why we don't do that. If I thougt it would help, I'd assign some homework; examples of what happens when the military starts meddling in civil gov't. Try to make that troop understand; with the expectation that they would pass it along, indirectly, to every one else.

And I'd have an in depth on Art. 88, probably for the company.

This has gone on too long, so I am willing to let it lie. I accept, as given, your apology.

David Goldfarb: re the office in Oakland... my point exactly. Oakland, just accross the bridge (and a quick trip on BART) has a large office, and the political makeup of the area (in terms of voting) is about the same. The reason is almost certainly that they get more recruits.

Xopher: Aw, shucks. If you come over I promise to keep the cooking safe.

Keir: Is the military that polarised? I'm not sure I completely understand the question. Polarised about what? The war. More, and less, than the general public. Less, in that the mission is number one. That mission may be just to get everyone home alive (and as whole as possible), or it may be to actively prosecute the fight. In either case we all put our game face on and do the mission, nuance comes later (and yes, that means, at some level we don't think about it, not past the question, "Is that order lawful." I don't see a way to have a working military which doesn't have that problem. If the order is horrid, but lawful, who gets to decide? The only answer I can see which doesn't lead to chaos is the policy makers, and the only way I see that working is to see to it the policy makers aren't in uniform. It's one of the drawbacks to the huge powers given to COM commanders).

But when it comes to the moments outside the mission, we tend to hold our opinions more strongly (even if some of us hold them more closely) because to be against the war; as an idea, means we go out and, in pursuit of one set of ideals (the oath, our comrades, our personal sense of honot) we do something which conflicts with another (our sense of the rightness of "this" war, fear of being hurt or killed for something we don't believe in, sense of loss at the things we could be doing instead, etc.). When that strain becomes too great, we leave. We let our contracts run out. We extend for shorter periods of time, so that we can leave, should that become the only path we can accept.

Are we more polarised than the polity at large? I don't know. My world has had so many soldiers in it, for so long, that I can't really see it without some of those filters. I am not sure how polarised the rest of the nation is.

Are we so separate from the rest of the population that we have a completely different set of ideas about the nature of the country? I don't think so. Not yet. Could that happen? Yes. See my comments above about positive feedback loops and self-selection for political ideals. No offense to the Marines out there, but I see them as the bellwether for that. The nature of the Corps (my father was in, active from 64-68, and reserve for some time thereafter. I've also played with a lot of Marines. I have a decent idea of how they work; at least for an outsider) is such that they could more easily than the rest (though the religiosity of the AF Officer Corps give me pause) tilt to having an internal political ideation, which manifested in organised outside political action.

I think all of this reflects some of the cultural polarisation which is seen in the nation at large.

That, however, is a problem too great for me to worry about, in the abstract. I will continue to worry about the things I can affect, and to persuade others that they ought to be concerned about them too.

#76 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 11:29 AM:

A.R. Yngve: You are right. There are more subtexts to it (we are the real patriots, reminders of how desperate the struggle is, etc.) but those two are chilling, and why it's forbidden.

Why it needs to be forbidden.

Why this needs more public attention.

I do, however, recall that there has been some relaxing of the regulations, to allow serving members to attend large scale events (like political conventions) in uniform.

I don't know what to make of this. I think it a horrible idea, but I can't support having troops attend the party I support's convention, and I can't see the party I don't support refraining from dragging in all the troops it can muster.

Things are very strained.

#77 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 12:33 PM:

Michael Weholt writes: You don't need to debate me or anyone else about it.

I am reading everything posted in this thread, but— as I said— I don't want to compound my errors by causing further insult and offense. I don't think I can post on this topic without doing that, so I'm not going to do it anymore.

I'm mortified that I have caused offense when I honestly didn't want to do so, and I feel frustrated that I can't communicate what I am thinking without others, whom I like and admire, taking personal insult from it. There are aspects to this that are deeply troubling to me, and I don't know what to do about it except go the flck away and hide. I certainly can't discuss them here, so I will not be making or responding to any further comment.

#78 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 12:48 PM:

A.R.Yngve wrote: Let's not beat about the bush (no pun intended): To use soldiers as stage props during a political rally works on two levels, the direct and the implicit.

1. As a show of strength.
2. As intimidation: "We have the guns on our side, so watch out."

I dunno -- seems to me it's primarily about political one-upmanship, with the Republicans using the military as a backdrop to show that (a) they're patriots, and (b) they're the party that's serious about prosecuting the War on Terror.

Tangentially to the discussion in this thread, last night I attended, by invitation, an awards ceremony held by the local squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. (For those unfamiliar with the organization, CAP is an auxiliary of the Air Force, and, according to its web site, was created by the federal government to promote aerospace education, to provide a training program to support the nation’s youth "in contributing to society and preparing for successful adult lives," and to provide emergency services.

The emergency-services aspect is important for the mountainous region where I live, because CAP operates search-and-rescue missions and emergency-care flights. However, my impression is that the nut of CAP is its youth training program, which, in giving kids and young adults opportunities to fool around with airplanes and rockets, educates them in leadership skills and moral values. Unstated is that in so doing, CAP also creates a pre-qualified pool of potential recruits for the military -- CAP members wear Air Force-style uniforms, have a chain of command, and follow military codes of conduct. (None of which I have an issue with.)

What I found intriguing last night was the speech given by the squadron's Moral Leadership Officer (a local highway patrolman), which basically (a) noted how well the economy and the country are now doing in comparison to when he was young, (b) lambasted the media for losing interest in 9/11, and (c) praised the President for continuing to focus on defeating the determined enemy who attacked our country. Oh, and then the MLO got around to what he should've been doing all along, praising the character and abilities of the two boys who were receiving CAP's Billy Mitchell Award.

As far as I was concerned, the speech was clearly partisan despite excluding any mention of political parties, and it was invidious given the role this officer plays in guiding the moral and ethical development of his cadets. I don't know the extent to which this sort of propagandizing occurs elsewhere in the Civil Air Patrol or the "real" military, but all I could think as I sat there was "Holy sh*t, we have a commissar in town!"

#79 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 12:57 PM:

I would also point out that current proposals for the resumption of conscription are all coming from liberals and Democrats in Congress, and not from conservatives or Republicans. J H Woodyatt

Not a Congress critter but see e.g. Dr. Pournelle:
I think public schools are a good thing for a Republic. But then I am also an advocate of universal manhood conscription for a year with reserve obligations as vital to keeping a republic (see Machiavelli for details and arguments).

Notice that one consequence of deploying reservists is increased casualties.

#80 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 01:05 PM:

To say "Things are very strained" is a bit of an understatement.

Trouble is, Bush has used troops as props since the beginning of this debacle. Remember the little event on the deck of that aircraft carrier, the one that even came with its own comemorative action figure? Or the surprise Thanksgiving visit which was much more of a photo op to bolster domestic support than it was anything to improve the morale of the troops?

Feh. This is just more of the same. Official handbooks may say it's a no-no, but official handbooks have obviously been thrown out the window when it doesn't amuse Rumsfeld, cf. The Geneva Convention.

#81 ::: netsqueech ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 01:18 PM:

I'm thinking there may be one more consequence of having uniformed military at political events: to reinforce the idea that the GWOT is in fact a "war," meaning that the appropriate response is large numbers of armed men under military discipline. Impressing that theme on the debate is IMHO half the battle of justifying the Iraq war; now it becomes impossible to argue that tracking down Al Qaeda should be handled, and could be accomplished more effectively, by a police organization like Interpol.

As Pynchon says, "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers."

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 01:18 PM:

From a comment at Gleen Greenwald's blog:

I've been reading Pauline Maier's From Resistance to Revolution, about the ideology behind the American Revolution. She quotes this passage from Cato's Letters, which discusses signs that would indicate to patriots that their government was headed towards tyranny and that resistance was needed. See if you can spot anything familiar:

"Such traitors might isolate the prince from his people, making him dependent on ministerial 'misrepresentations' for his knowledge of affairs; they might engage the country in ridiculous, expensive wars to keep men's minds under 'constant Fears and Alarms,' depriving them of 'Leisure and Inclination to look into publick Miscarriages'... They would prefer 'worthless and wicked Men' for public posts 'without any regard to the Qualifications for those Employments, or indeed to any Qualifications at all but as they contribute to their Designs, and show a stupid Alacrity to do what they are bid.' And they would, 'by all practicable Means of Oppression, provoke the people to disaffection; and then make that Disaffection an Argument for new Oppression ... and for keeping up Troops.'"

Is it time yet?

#83 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 01:28 PM:

Kevin: Does Bush use the military as a prop more than other presidents? Yes. Is that wrong? Yes. Is his use of them as props illegal? No.

On the one hand he has a prop anytime he gets on Marine One. If he wanted to direct the WH photographer to include a Marine in as many pictures as possible, he can. He can also use pretty much any event he wants as a prop. Sometimes (as with his obvious discomfort at Coretta Scot King's funeral) this backfires. His showing up is a political statement.

Clinton made a visit to the troops. He handed out a pair of political Medals of Honor. That sort of shabby use of the trappings of power are things politicians do.

I think Bush makes a fetish of it (and then tries to blame the troops when it backfires cf. the "we had nothing to do with the banner, the crew of the ship put it up all on their own) and he mistreats the troops to do it (the Lincoln's return to port was delayed so he could make that photo-op).

The strain I was addressing is larger than ust the one in the service.

Richard Anderson: I see that all the time. There's nothing really one can do about it. The commander gets to shoot off his mouth (viz. Gen. "My God is bigger than your false prophet" Boykin).

#84 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 02:27 PM:

Tromp tromp, tromp tromp...

#85 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 03:09 PM:

A.R Yngve: We can oppose that.

I recall a man who heard the creaking grind of tank treads and stood before them.

The tanks stopped.

#86 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 04:32 PM:

Clinton made a visit to the troops. He handed out a pair of political Medals of Honor.

Have to ask for an expansion on that one?

#87 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 06:00 PM:

The only time I saw someone on tv stand in front of a tank was Tianamen Square. According to Wikipedia, he was most likely shot a few days later, in private off camera.

I'm not saying we shouldn't oppose a great many things, but we should hardly act all surprised about them. Republicans like throwing money at the military. Ergo, if you want to have a Republican fundraiser, you have as many military types there as you can muster up, with as many uniforms and bits of frippery as you can get them to wear. Democrats? Rather ambivalent about the whole military thing, so from a fundraising angle it's pretty much a wash.

Handing out medals to soldiers and other individuals is a state ceremony with considerable pedigree and generally isn't done at party fundraisers, which would be a grave breach of decorum. Wearing the medals, uniforms and whatnot? It may be a court martial offense within the military, but if they're not giving any actual court martials for it, then it's a military blue law. To a civilian it's simply bad taste, the same as it would be for a professor to show up in a professorial gown anywhere outside a commencement ceremony or a doctor to show up in a white coat anywhere outside a hospital or doctor's office.

Of course the military is ridiculously fetishistic for its dress uniforms anyway. Remember high school career day? Aside from the military recruiters, how many actual uniforms did you see in the room? No professorial robes with specially colored hoods and tippets on any of the college recruiters, right? Maybe a nurse's uniform, if there was a very old nurse, but beyond that? If I remember correctly, the police and fire department had specially printed T-shirts, but so did most of the colleges. Meanwhile the military has one guy in dress blues and another in camo sitting on a tank in the middle of the blacktop.

My general thought is that military dress uniforms should be reserved for military ceremonies and for the occasional civilian ceremony where it is appropriate to wear a tux. Black tie Republican fundraising dinners? There's something frankly ridiculous in having old soldiers able to wear their uniforms while current enlisted wear tuxedos.

Unfortunately, during a war, everything is political. Dana Gioia, head of the NEA, set up "Operation Homecoming," which is done for soldiers returning from the war to write about their experiences. Should a public reading of those writings be done in uniform or out?

#88 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 10:25 PM:

Sisuile: what you're describing are libertarians; it's not an uncommon philosophy among geeks, but it has nothing to do with liberalism, and (IMO) very little to do with people who conclude independently that they're unsatisfied with the evidence for a god. I also doubt the validity of any observations made solely on your campus, which you've already characterized as one of extreme viewpoints.

#89 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 12:02 AM:

Another reason for the ideological differences between the military and the left is that most military members tend to be optimistic about this country. They acknowledge its faults, but are confident that they can be overcome. There are some leftists in the science fiction world whom I have known for almost twenty years. In all that time, they have never said one good word about the United States. They refuse to acknowledge that this country has ever done anything good in the world. To hear them tell it, this is still the land of Bull Connor with his police dogs and George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door. They will not admit that blacks and women and other minorities have made any progress. For to admit that, they would have to acknowledge to themselves that this country has done something positive. The Democrats need to remember that the two times they recently won the presidency, Bill Clinton was actually optimistic about this country. He pointed out the good things that the United States has done. This outraged the hardcore left, but resonated with the center and won him two elections. If the Democrats can come up with a positive message they will win in '06 and '08. If they don't, they will lose.

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 12:05 AM:

Clark: There was a helicopter shot down in the Southern No Fly Zone. It was a friendly fire shooting.

Two of the occupants were given Medals of Honor. They didn't deserve them. They didn't do anything above and beyond the call. They didn't expose themselves to especial risk. They were in the wrong place at the right time.

Kevin: THe guy in Tiananmen, yeah, he might have been, but (so far) this isn't China, so I have faith that a people power display like that isn't likely to end up with that result.

The recruiters are usually in Class B. I don't think I've ever seen one in Greens, much less Blues, or Mess at any recruting event. Since one of the quirks of military service is the wear of uniforms whenever one is on duty, and the duty uniform for recruiters is Class B, I don't see it as being fetishistic.

If the people who were entitled to the robes and such wore them to work everyday, then that would seem appropriate to me as well.

The difference between the retired, and the active is that the retired folks aren't subject to the UCMJ any more. They aren't supposed to wear the uniform to events where it's not appropriate, so y rights they oughtn't wear it to political events either, but you can't throw them in jail for it; since the only crime in wearing a uniform is either impersonating an officer (which requires that one actually attempt to excercise the perquisites, or authority of one) or wearing false medals and awards.

#91 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 12:28 AM:

Terry: The only Medal of Honor citations I can find for actions during the Clinton administration are the Gordon and Shughart medals from Somalia. While there was a helicopter shootdown involved there, the rest of the circumstances don't seem to match your description. Am I missing something somewhere?

#92 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 01:26 AM:

I meant politically polarised. And now I think about it, that was the wrong word entirely. Sorry...

So I'll just re-ask the question, more carefully this time.

Is the military highly conservative/Republican?

To Fragano Ledgister, thanks. I can never keep philosophical/religous sects straight.

#93 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 01:54 AM:

Keir, there are polls out there which indicate the Army officer corps is pretty strongly Republican. Given what's been going on at the Air Force Academy with evangelism, I suspect that the same is true in that branch. The Navy and Marines I don't know about, although my mother tells me when I was growing up in a Navy officer family she and my father were the only Democrats in their circle of friends.

#94 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 02:00 AM:

I guess it's a cultural thing. I haven't seen military uniforms at any partisan event, ever, here. I'm certain that at least the conservative parties would do it if they thought it would help them. However, I think that they have made the same judgement that I would - that the appearance of troops in uniform at any partisan event here would be electoral disaster for that political party.

It might have something to do with the fact that no military careerist has ever been elected to major political office here. I believe. I speak under correction, and I have chosen my words carefully. Of course, an honourable military record would be an asset to a politician - but the nearest use I have seen to that is a Minister in the local state legislature who had both legs blown off by a mine in Vietnam while serving as a private soldier. I can only recall one Prime Minister - John Gorton - for whom a military record was considered relevant at all. He owed his notoriously craggy features to the violent contact of his face with a P-40's instrument panel, but he was serving during hostilities only, and advanced no further than Flight-Lieutenant.

Of course, politicians of any stripe like having their picture taken shaking hands with serving personnel, which is subtly different, somehow. I'm not exactly sure how, but I know the difference.

#95 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 05:40 AM:

The tanks trundle on. Next week it will be three years since a young woman from Olympia, Washington, USA was run over by an Israeli tank at Rafah, in the Gaza Strip. Her family and friends are still mourning, still struggling. Here's a couple more links from the people on her side: has a good selection of links to other related places, such as eyewitness accounts and photos.
Also see

#96 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 05:45 AM:

Oh, and Dave, that's mostly pretty right, but it's interesting that a lot of our well-respected State Governors and Governors-General (aka Heads of State-ish) — also less-respected ones — are recruited <ahem> from one or the other branch of the armed forces. Naturally it started back in British Colonial times, but, well it goes right up to His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC.

#97 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 06:44 AM:

Epacris, I did say "elected to major political office" and that I had chosen my words carefully.

I say nothing about Rachel Corrie's death, except that I regard it as deplorable. You would, perhaps, not agree with the route by which I reach that conclusion, but I believe further discussion is not worthwhile, and that it would in any case trespass upon the good nature of our hosts.

#98 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 09:21 AM:

Christopher Davis:

You're right, I think I was conflating the timiung of the shootdown, with the awarding of the medals.

#99 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 03:30 PM:


I'm certain you're right about the uniforms. I could probably pick out dress blues from class Bs if I saw them side-by-side, but I'm seeing things through the filter of memory. The point is that in the early eighties, high school was very much a dress casual affair, at least in my part of California, and between the teachers who don't even have any official uniform, the plain clothes campus cops and the students, the campus military recruiter stood out like a peacock.

Admittedly, this may be because every other group and organization has put traditional uniforms in the closet, or at least given folk the option of not wearing it while on duty--I was used to going to speech and debate tournaments and running into plain-clothes nuns from the Catholic schools. Of course, I'd be creeped by the idea of plain-clothes recruiters, but something on the order of the police T-shirts would likely have done something to address the image.

As for something being fetishistic, much of that is a matter of perception. When the Catholic church, usually the benchmark of hoary ceremony and pickled costume, has more relaxed dress requirements, I don't think it's wrong to view anything beyond that as a fetish.

When you couple that with some of the military's other actions--for example, with gays--the military seems even more fetishistic.

My sister was a captain in the airforce (jumping straight in as a medical doctor) and while she liked some of the military just fine, she really had no patience for the "hup-hup shit" as she calls it.

#100 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2006, 07:28 PM:

Nice word that seems to derive from some foreign corner of the British Empire: mufti, which are the civilian clothes of someone who usually wears a uniform.

#101 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2006, 11:13 AM:

I don't have a hatred of all things military, or of uniforms -- but I'm naturally suspicious of fascist tendencies. After all, Europe was the primary stage of two world wars, started by fascist governments which overthrew democracy and glorified war.

The United States is not a fascist state. But keep an eye on your politicians, or it just might become one in the future. There are historical telltale signs to look out for.

The fully-formed fascist state is by its nature in a condition of permanent warfare. It must have an enemy to justify its existence -- real or imagined.

Sure, there are real enemies of democracy, but seriously... does anyone REALLY think the Middle East is going to conquer the world? One thing the infighting in Iraq does illuminate, is that there's no such thing as "Arab unity" -- Sunnis and Shi'ites hate each other more than they hate Israel. Osama bin Laden is a loser in a cave. The global Jihad doesn't exist. 9/11 was a pinprick on a giant.

But it can be useful to keep a population in a permanent state of fear of a nebulous threat, so nobody will ask the obvious question:

"Mr. President, we have thousands of nuclear warheads and a huge fleet of nuclear submarines that can strike any city in the world...

"So why on Earth should we feel threatened by Iran, or North Korea... or Al-Qaeda, for that matter? We could clobber them anytime without a single act of war. Just replace gasoline with other technology such as fuel cells or alcohol. Why should we act so scared?"

Why act threatened, when you actually can win? Why go on using so much oil, sending so much oil money to loathsome dictatorships in the Middle Est, when you could simply pull the rug from under their feet with a new energy policy?

But no: You need that bogeyman, so you don't just kill it. It's like Dr. Evil's son asking:
"Dad, why don't you just shoot Austin Powers?"

#102 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2006, 08:26 PM:

It's been a long, long, long time since I was in the military. I think my elder nephew, who has his head wedged up his ass when it comes to social values but apparently not so far as his general same-gender cohort (anti-abortion, Schmuck-supporting, buying the Rovian bullshit, etc. ... he grew up in Montgomery County in Maryland. The area gives me the creeps...), what most interested him in school was junior ROTC, ADD didn't help matters. If he is to the -left- of the typical Future Military Member, and given that my sister and brother-in-law in a number of areas are to the left of me --

(though they were both employed for much of their professional careers working in defense... my sister's fiscally much more liberal than I and socially varies as to where she's more liberal and less liberal than I... both she and her husband are Rennselaer graduates, and it's a place of fewer extremes than MIT where I graduated from) --

anyway, he's a rightwinger-influenced college student son of parents who are much more liberal than he is....

Changing the topic to my years in the military, I still remember ROTC Summer Camp and the fascist Southern Males [not ALL of them, but most of them...] there, whose mindset fit in with the religious rightwing Christian bigots at the Air Force Academy, but even more bigoted against women ("Women, they're women, women shouldn't be pilots), Northerners (they were always making deprecatory remarks about "Yankee Dimes" and "Yankee Dollars" which spiteful comments they thought were hilariously funny), and "liberals." They also were not the most intellectual types I'd ever run into--the cadets from Georgia Tech were intelligent lifeforms, and the ones from Florida who were engineering or science majors. The business and phys. ed. majors from Ole Miss, Auburn, University of Alabama, Lousians State University, the Citadel, etc., seemed to have never taken a class in their lives that involved -analytic thinking- and observing the world as it is as opposed to what they believed it ought to be. [Note, this was also back when the emphasis was on acquisition of healthy males with 20/20 vision and good reflexes to be pilots, college degree required but no restrictions on major... this hunks of male meat had impressive bodies, and brains that lead weights in clocks had more flexible movement than... yeah, it's hyperbole, but they weren't interested in intellectual pursuits and sneered at Northern Liberals, particularly female ones...]

Ironically, most of them probably didn't go into the military--Vietnam wound down and then the military didn't seen 5000+ new pilots every year, and gave the vast majority of the phys. ed. and business majors letters telling them the Air Force was not interested in commissioning them to be pilots, and wasn't all that interested in bringing them on as adminstrative officers, either. The engineers and science majors it wanted, the "I'm majoring in getting through college in anything that I can pass classes in and am going to be a pilot" types the Air Force didn't want anymore, the war had wound down and it didn't need more pilots.

Coming on active duty, I was in places that mainly were full of geeks--Cheyenne Mountain as an orbital analyst, no calculus, no way into that field, Thule--the radar site was the reason for the base to still be there, there were a dozen or so officers attached to it who came mostly out of Missile Warning or Space Defense, which again both required being able to calculate ballistic trajectories. Los Angeles Air Force Station was extremely technical--but the Air Force was biased in favor of promoting pilots, not geeks, past Captain. I decided to get out when I got for a number of reasons, including the equation that people who weren't pilots' promotion rate to major from captain, at the 12 year point, was maybe 20%... at Noreascon III, someone came up to me after I was on a panel and said that the promotion rate at Space Divison, eight years after I got out, was 10 percent--even though Space Division had some of the brightest and most creative people in the Air Force at it.

I had bosses and other officers in the section I was in who were lieutant colonels who'd gotten so disgusted with the Air Force than they turned down promotions to colonel, they decided that they were serving 20 years and that was it, they'd had enough bullshit.

Again, that was a long time ago... but the best and brightest seems to be saying "Up yours, Air Force," tired of stupid laws that were more concerned with appearance than facilitating having an effective military and high quality reliable equipment at reasonable prices instead of all the obnoxious torturous expensive ways of business that had to be done because of Congressional incompetence and failure to allow contracting and planning to be done in sensible fashions, such as TRUSTING the people working on programs and rewarding them for performance of what got developed over time, instead of focusing on short-term everything and not having the long=-term performance and costs affect the careers of the people making the decisions and running the programs..

Hmm, I'm reminded of the refrains from one of Jordin's songs, "When the ship lifts, all debts are paid." When the person left an assignment, anything that broke or went wrong -after- the person left, got blamed on the person who replaced them--of the blame evaporated, since the people responsible were gone.... It's pin the blame on the incumbent, and the person whose actions caused problems that hit three weeks later, skates, especially if the person was pulling the "make things look good in the short term and who cares about the long term?"

Smells like the Schmuck? one night ask--hmmm, it's the exact same mentality, and the mentality ruling the USA with short term reward and payout trumping all.


The military promotes from within, and making general depends on politics... and the politicians in charge have been for years not Republicrap rightwing bigots. Note the conversion of DACOWITS from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services to Famileee focus, with slime like that queen bee bitch misogynist Elaine Donnelly and her bogus think tank that I can't remember the name of--I have NEVER seen ANY credentials for the bitch that give her any stature for being an "authority" about women in the military and keeping women out of the military--no academic studies, no military experience... one day she showed up in the tow of another Queen Bee Misogynist Bitch, Phyllis Schlafly, at a Republican National Convention... and Queen Bitch Donnelly's bogus think tank, which has a political agenda of locking all women other than Schlafly and Donnelly and Beverly LaHaye and their ilk in Christian Extremist Wifely Purdah-equivalent, gets US Government contracts to write misogynist policies for US Government implementation....

Yeah, I despise them, and why shouldn't I? I'm no female bitch Queen Bee lawyer or Privileged Married Lady carrying out the agenda of touring the US and getting paid to tell the women of the world how FULFILLED it is to be a stay at home housewife and how that is the only moral and decent and acceptable career for a woman... despite the fact they they personally are off touring the USA and in public rather then they themselves staying clapped up in the kitchen playing Fascinating Woman at beck and call of the family, or playing Clorox House Bimbo wiping up after the family that don't even bother pissing in the toilet bowl rather than all around it (reference, the "Bathroom Bowl" Clorox radio commercial of "I have a husband and [3 or 4] strapping sons [and their aim is off with regards to the Bathroom Bowl].... but I keep the bathroom Bowl clean and tidy with Clorox Wipes [by going in their after them and wiping the piss they spray all over the toilet and the floor with Clorox Wipes]." And it included the nauseating Happisong jingle "Mama keeps the house fresh with the magic of Clorox" words and music...) and such.

But anyway, bottom line--the military's socially gone backwards to intolerance and bigotry regarding religion, regarding women, etc. When I was stationed in Colorado Springs the attitudes that made for "a hostile climate" to female cadet and to non-evangelicals particularly and more generally to non-Christians, tended to get stomped on strongly when noticed at the Air Force Academy. The negative comments my literal college classmates (some instructors there were grad students at MIT earning their doctorates when I was an undergrad and were in 18.305/18.306 when I was, it was a grad-level pair of math classes) had about "the Zoomies' attitude toward education" involved cadets comments about, "I don't need to learn physics, I'm going to be a pilot, not a physicist." One of my classmates replied, "You don't want to be a pilot, you want to be a truckdriver!" They didn't mention to me any signs of misogyny in the cadets, and the cadets I ran into weren't displaying any--as opposed to three years earlier, the the bigotry and misogyny of various Deep South male cadets.

What had changed in the interim included the military academies being forced by Congress to go co-ed, women being admitted to pilot training, etc. -- there were some MASSIVE social changes occurring-- and the cadets at the Air Force Academy were from all over the USA, not just one region.

Since then, though, the social climate has changed to my mind back to the hypocrisy of the 1950s... and that whole agenda is redolent of the Schmuck and his associates.

#103 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2006, 01:18 AM:

Kevin: We are of an age, and my nuns were still in habits, so the JROTC cadre didn't seem all that strange to me. On the other hand, Thursdays, when the JROTC kids were required to wear uniforms... they looked silly, because they didn't look comfortable in the clothes, they were playing dress-up.


#104 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 01:01 PM:


I think it must have had something to do with where we grew up. Our school didn't even have a JROTC, or at least not that any of my friends knew about or noticed, and the only students in uniform were the cheerleaders, who still had more casual attire than the recruiting officer.

Actually, my college didn't even have an ROTC presence. It wasn't until I went to graduate school I saw any of them.

#105 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Kevin: I forgot to mention that, in addition to being of an age, we both went to school in Calif.

But yes, I can see where not seeing uniforms on a regular basis, they might seem strange.

It isn't as if we can't be fetishistic about them (you ought to have seen my boots, back in the day. Now, I polish 'em and have done. Then, it hurt to be in a direct line if the sun was out).

p.s. I'm presently in Korea, where the boots aren't going to be more than, "black, with polish, and lots of snivel gear is the order of the day.

#106 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 09:15 PM:

I grew up on Navy bases or in military communities, we always had NJROTC.

#107 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 12:31 AM:


Thanks for adding "snivel gear" to my vocabulary. I'd never heard of it before, though being a skier, I have suitcases full of it in all strengths. Even some day-glo examples from the eighties which I'm certain would be the definition of not regulation, fluorescent pink, yellow and turquoise.

I agree that the strangeness does have to do a great deal with what you're used to, but by the same token, one of the key rules of human cultures is that you occasion more comfort among the natives by adopting the local costume or some approximation thereof. "When in Rome" and all that. If you make an effort to set yourself apart, you will be treated as "other." Admittedly, this is something of the point of a military uniform, but it's still going to cause friction when dealing with a community with a more casual mode of attire.


#108 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 01:55 AM:

Fetishistic isn't too strong a word - folks who've never had occasion to see them will have to imagine the visual impact of shirt garters on hairy legs.

On the other hand I've seldom seen more casual effect by contrast than aircrew wearing coveralls for daily wear some for contrast but mostly to save cleaning bills.

Notice the services seem to currently be competing in redesigning designer uniforms for eye appeal - blue camouflage for the Air Force and looking more like Marines for sailors.

Obs SF - Joined the Spaceforce to Strut My Blues.

#109 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Blue camouflage is a wonderful and lovely thing if you're designing entertaining activewear for high school students. For servicemen and women, it falls under the category of "What were they thinking?"

Trouble is, I can tell exactly what they were thinking: They were wanting to look cool to prospective recruits, they wanted to use the Air Force's heraldic colors, and they wanted to make some concession to there being an actual war on and servicefolk, air force included, are going to be out in the field and might need something less formal and more functional than what they've been wearing.

So you end up with something that looks better on runway models than on actual servicefolk. Or perhaps on both, if you look at this picture:

It appears that after the death of Robert Palmer, his backup girls were inherited by Muammar Gaddafi who's dressed them in the proposed new air force uniforms. Simply Irresistible!

#110 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 04:17 PM:

Y'know, though, making the Air Force fatigue uniform a Hawaiian shirt makes a certain amount of sense....

#111 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 05:03 PM:

I'm not grokking the term 'snivel gear'. Even with two context samples. Could someone explain it?

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 08:42 PM:

Snivel gear is the clothing/equipment one wears to keep out the nasty weather.

It's usually used in conjunction with the cold, but a poncho counts.

So, right now I have on a lightweight poly-pro shirt, long-sleeved, and regret not popping on a pair of silks, since the office here is a trifle cool, and I have on a summer-weight uniform.

I left my Gortex in the billets, but I have wool gloves and a pair of hand warmers in my map-case.

I also have ear muffs (flat, sort of a hat with no top) that I can wear under my hat.

In Iraq I had one of those gel-filled evaporative neck coolers (if you want to send a care package to the troops, those are swell).

It keeps one from snivelling (though nothing stops bitching/griping).

#113 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 10:38 PM:

Terry - That sounds like an everyday Seattle wardrobe (except for the neck cooler thing - that would be death here). I've never worn so much GoreTex and polypro fleece in my life.

I think it's required by law, or that REI has a mind-control beam installed on the north slope of Mt. Rainier.

#114 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 04:17 PM:

Y'know, though, making the Air Force fatigue uniform a Hawaiian shirt makes a certain amount of sense....

Now there's a thought.

I noticed recently in the L.L.Bean catalogue they had official plaids for all the service branches and even for West Point. I actually rather liked the West Point plaid.

Now, to design and market a set of Hawaiian shirt patterns for the various service branches....


#115 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2006, 02:28 AM:

Kevin: Where did you find that, and is the MI plaid any good (I am thinking of being really silly and getting a kilt in it, so I can wear it when I do a military exchange to Scotland this summer).

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