Archive for March 22nd, 2012 | Daily archive page

Marine To Be Given Boot Over Obama Remarks on Facebook

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Do Servicemembers Have Free Speech?

I know most people who read this story will want to side with the Marine, and I would like to do so as well, but there’s a reason I would urge you to reconsider, and it’s important that for those of you who have no military service experience to understand why his conduct, much as it is heartening in many respects, is intolerable for the chain of command.  Part of the problem is that the full and specific text of his remarks haven’t been disclosed, but when Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, a 26-yo, 9-year Marine made his remarks, he did so in a public way that poses a problem to military discipline.  I don’t like Barack Obama’s policies either, and I would hope that no Airman, Marine, Sailor or Soldier would ever follow an unlawful order, but to post remarks on what constitutes an unlawful order, in the context of the sitting chain of command, is a serious problem for the military.

Sgt. Stein is in trouble, and he says he’s surprised it’s a big deal, or that they’re seriously considering kicking him out of the Marine Corps, (note to Barack Obama: That’s pronounced like “core,” not like “corpse,”) but as a Non-Commissioned Officer of the United States Marines, he must know such things are not to be tolerated, and for very good reasons.  Were he a discharged veteran, there would be no problem.  He runs a Facebook page I have seen, but I wince because I know what will befall him.

I hate this sort of case, because I’m placed in the position of the “bad guy,” telling people some important truths they may not wish to hear.  The fact that this young Sergeant made these remarks about a politician who I find to be detestable shouldn’t deter me from recognizing why it’s important that no service-member say such things, certainly not publicly, and why a non-commissioned officer must never say them so that his subordinates may hear or read of them.  I realize that tempers flare, and that our service-members are entitled to their own political views, as they should be, but they are in the military to protect our freedom of speech, but not there to practice it.  When every service-member enlists, or is commissioned, they swear an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States, and to obey the orders of the President and those who the President appoints over them.  The presumption is always that these will be lawful orders.

The military must function with a chain of command that conveys both martial authority and delegates responsibilities.  When a service-member rises to become a non-commissioned officer, there are two things of note that occur:  The newly minted NCO is now entrusted with additional authority, and a higher standard of conduct is applied to all his or her actions, on duty or off.  This is because in function, to carry out a mission, the NCO will need the authority to issue orders, but with that authority comes a greater universe of responsibilities that extends to a higher standard of service and allegiance to the chain of command, and to the mission.  This is the professional standard expected of Non-Commissioned Officers, and it is a demanding one.

It must be this way because in combat, or in a war-time mission, the NCOs are the element of leadership that becomes most important in the organizational structure.  There are too few officers for them to be in every place at once, and NCOs are the professional core of the enlisted ranks upon which all military operations ultimately depend.  If you have poor NCOs, it won’t matter if you have great officers, and great junior enlisted personnel, because the force will suffer a vacuum of leadership that will ordinarily be crippling.  It is for this reason that the services spend billions of dollars each year developing its enlisted leaders.  The idea of a professional NCO has been an important core of the American fighting force throughout the nation’s history, and when a Sergeant makes comments that seem to disparage the chain of command, it is a highly unprofessional bit of conduct.

Now, as to the substance of what this particular Sergeant said, it’s not altogether clear how bad his transgressions may have been. There is little reported on the substance of his remarks, but rather some generalizations.  Here’s what is reported:

“Sgt. Gary Stein, a nine-year veteran, put comments on a Facebook page called the Armed Forces Tea Party page that said he would not follow unlawful orders from President Obama such as ordering the killing of Americans or taking guns away from Americans. He also criticized comments made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about Syria.”

“The Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits uniformed personnel from making comments critical of their chain of command, including the commander-in-chief, or engaging in political activity in a context that suggests that are acting as military members.”

Stop. This is enough to land him in trouble.  By specifying specific individuals in and policies of the chain of command, Sgt. Stein would have violated his obligations as an enlisted service member and particularly his station as a Non-Commissioned Officer.  Unfortunately, they don’t offer any direct quotes for analysis, but if this reflects the actual nature of his remarks, they have a case, and he’s in trouble for good cause. The story continues:

“An investigation into Stein’s comments was ordered March 8 by the commanding officer of the weapons and field training battalion at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. On Wednesday, the Marine Corps announced that rather than file charges against Stein, the matter is being handled “through administrative action.”

“Stein, who hoped to reenlist, told the Associated Press that he plans to fight the Marine Corps’ intention to dismiss him.”

“I’m completely shocked that this is happening,” he told the AP. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve only stated what our oath states: That I will defend the Constitution and that I will not follow unlawful orders. If that’s a crime, what is America coming to?”

I’m sorry to be placed in the position of disagreeing with Sgt. Klein, but if he indeed criticized Panetta by name or position, and the specific policy as it applies to Syria(or anything else,) he has indeed violated the trust with which the military had privileged him.  An NCO simply cannot go about disparaging the chain of command.  No soldier should, but when it comes to NCOs, they are expected to exhibit a higher standard of professionalism, and this isn’t it.  The remark about Obama and unlawful orders might not have been so bad, in isolation, because in that sense, he is stating a general premise about not obeying unlawful orders, although calling out this specific president conveys a certain lack of support for this particular chain of command that is unseemly for an NCO.  They are and must be held to a higher standard, and again, Sgt Klein here fails to maintain that standard.

Understand that my appraisal here is that of a man who was a Sergeant at roughly the same age that this young man is now, and I note with some sadness that when I was an up-and-coming NCO, I had a pretty solid chain of command, so I wouldn’t have suffered from such doubts.  With that in mind, however, I cannot fail to mention that he should not have said these things, and certainly not broadcast publicly on the Internet.  I’d urge all soldiers to hold their tongues on political matters, precisely because this is harmful to the United States, whether you agree with this President’s policies or not.  I realize that none would carry out unlawful orders if they were issued, but the presumption of a soldier, particularly a mid-career Marine NCO, must be that the orders he will be issued will be lawful.  To spout about non-existent, highly speculative future unlawful orders in the context of a particular president is not prudent, and exhibits a lack of professional judgment, even if I agree with is political views.

In combat, or even in training, the military relies heavily on its non-commissioned officers to carry out the mission, and it cannot tolerate, not even in minor ways, what constitutes the threat of mutinous conduct, or rabble-rousing in its ranks.  I know.  He said “unlawful orders.”  Fine.  The problem is that under certain circumstances, the President may order the killing of Americans or the seizure of guns. Those are limited circumstances indeed, but the discretion to determine which instances constitute an unlawful order lies not with a Marine Sergeant make conjecture about some unknown future order.  There are only very limited circumstances where such discretion is left to the individual service-member.  Sgt. Klein knew or ought to have known better than to let his public pronouncements go this far. Whether the punishment fits the crime is a matter of judgment on the part of local commanders, and the problem we have in assessing it is that we don’t have the full facts, or even the full text of Sgt. Klein’s remarks.  Let us hope that military authorities are not over-reacting here.  Chances are that they are not.

I realize there are those of you who will take issue with me over this, and that’s fine, but the problem is that I also understand how important the integrity of the corps of military Non-Commissioned Officers is to the safety of our nation.  Our military must not be undermined, neither from without or from within, and the conduct of Sgt. Klein threatens to do so, whether he sees that or not.  While I agree with his general assessments, to the degree they have been presented, that doesn’t mean I endorse the fact that he pronounced them publicly.  My advice to service-members who have similar views is very simple, and I know that most of them will understand me as I explain it:

For the term of your service, keep your mouth closed in public, and on the Internet still your fingers in saying or writing things publicly that would tend to place you in such a situation.  In other words,  while you are right to practice politics via your vote, as long as you are in the services, you need to be as apolitical as you are able, although in your talks with family, friends, and others in closed circumstances, you might still enjoy some of your limited freedom of speech, but you must do so with caution and an abundance of reverence for the oath you swore, that did not specify the party or politics of the Commander-in-Chief.  In other words, brothers and sisters, you must not permit your expressions to compromise your ability to lead, or shake the confidence of those who serve under you, in the chain of command.  Please remember this, and serve out your time in honor, and with respect for your oaths.  For those of you who are entrusted with positions of leadership, please remember that yours is an important role, and to undercut it with loose talk about the politics of the chain of command is to undermine yourselves.

I know the vast majority of our servicemen and women know and practice all of this, and it’s unnecessary to say it to most of you, but for those who are frustrated most with what you see coming out of Washington, I ask you to keep your cool.  This presidency and this particular chain of command is not permanent, so if you’ll wait around a while, it will change.  Whether you like that or not is your affair, but how you give voice to it is a matter of military discipline.  We need good and patriotic Airmen, Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers, and you had better believe that if things ever do go to hell in this country, we will have special need of you then.  Keep the faith, and stay strong, but do not put your careers at risk for temporary expressions of your frustrations.  We need you to stay strong, and I will do what I am able to support you.

To my friends in the Marine Corps, “Semper Fidelis.”

To those of you who are non-veteran civilians, I would remind you that you have a special responsibility too.  These young men and women in whose hands we place the security of our nation need your support too, and part of that is knowing not to ask or urge them to make statements of this sort publicly.  If they make them to you privately, that’s one thing, but do not expose them to legal liability on this basis.  Instead, as family members and friends, go be their voice.  They’re serving your security interests, and the least you can do is to try to represent their interests and support them.  Veterans, you will know precisely what I mean, and because you do know, having served, and because you now have your freedom of speech restored, you have a special responsibility because only you can express to those who do not know, what it is that soldiers must give up to serve their country.  It isn’t always measured in blood and lives, but more commonly the right to speak out publicly.  Let we veterans resolve particularly to be their voice so that our active-duty brethren feel no need to expose themselves to trouble, and so that our non-veteran neighbors can know the special meaning we hold the trust to which they have entrusted our fighting forces.

 

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Tammy Bruce: Passionately Independent Conservatism in the New Media

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

"Chick With Gun and Mic"

If you’re not familiar with Tammy Bruce, I would like to urge you to check out her show.  I listen to Tammy Bruce almost daily, as time permits, although it’s generally while I’m at work, and I’m in and out of the office, get pulled away for meetings and problems, and all the usual things that prevail upon my daily schedule.  Hers is an entertaining and informative show, and most days, I will listen to the opening hour of Rush Limbaugh, and follow that with the two hours of Bruce’s show.  It’s an interesting contrast in style and presentation, but each has their own merits above and beyond the superficial differences.  Tammy is a good deal more serious, although cheerfully so.  She’s a former liberal who woke up to the direction in which the left was steering the country, and since then, she’s been what she calls an “independent conservative,” because she owes no allegiance to party.  She’s also the author of  The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left’s Assault on Our Culture and Values,” a serious examination of how the left has debased our culture by design and intention.

Her independence also defines another distinction between her show and many others in conservative radio:  Hers is a commercial-free show that thrives on the power of subscribers, known as TAMs, or “Tammy Army Members.”  She frequently points to this as leaving her free of “Gestapos” of the sort Limbaugh is now facing in the latest controversy involving Sandra Fluke:  Advertisers who pull the plug on a host when things get too hot in the kitchen.  This helps make Bruce the leading edge of a new wave of new media that waits for none, and takes no prisoners, because she doesn’t need to do so.  She answers to her conscience alone.

I’ve been a TAM for roughly half a year now, and it’s the best investment I’ve made in some time, and while I don’t always agree with Bruce on every issue, I do respect her delivery and her passion.  She’s the beating heart exemplifying new media, and she’s part of what traditional media both deplores and fears: An independent voice that has a direct relationship with her consumers, skipping the middle-men.  From 1p-3p eastern/10a-Noon Pacific, Bruce offers up a seldom-restrained run-down on the day’s events, and if you’re a subscriber, you get a bonus with a recorded Daily TAM Briefing she posts each night, and usually a weekend update too.  The community of her listeners get together in two venues: One is a chat that is available via her website that is open from just before the live show until just after its conclusion, and the other is via the Twitter hashtag: #tbrs.   Like most talkshows, there is a core of supporters, but hers are able to avail themselves of the chat during the live show, and they enjoy an uproariously good time commenting on Tammy’s broadcast in real time, or occasionally schmoozing with other celebrities who pop in on occasion, like Jedediah Bila.

I had the good fortune to meet Tammy at meet-up she held last September 3rd, in Des Moines, the evening after the Tea Party rally at which Governor Sarah Palin had delivered the keynote address.  Tammy gave a frank talk to the TAMs present about the ongoing campaign, and what it would take to overwhelm the left in 2012.  She was precise and her thoughts were well-organized, and she was gracious as can be to all in attendance.  I was pleasantly surprised at how thoroughly engaging and down-to-Earth she was, and that she wasn’t smitten with herself like so many celebrities seem to be.  Instead, she made rounds of all the tables, and engaged the people assembled, and sincerely answered questions, making it abundantly clear that unlike some in radio, whatever Bruce says, you can bet she believes it.

As for her radio show, I find it to be quite entertaining, and besides, who doesn’t love it when Tammy blows her stack over the latest leftist outrage?  She gives voice to the frustrations conservatives feel in the face of a monolithic mainstream media that is in league with the left.   The nice thing about her show is that because of the format, she’s able to speak frankly and without commercial interruptions when she gets on a roll.  Naturally, one of her favorite targets is Barack Obama, who has several nicknames on the show, including “Furkel” (an development of his earlier label as plain “Urkel,” with an “F” prefixed in order to convey “F-Urkel,”) along with the ever-popular DB,(or Dumb Bastard.)  The show is available via TalkStreamLive.com, and they now have an iPhone app, so you can listen there too, but the best part is even if you miss it live, even non-subscribers get access to her daily public show podcast.

What I find most valuable about Tammy’s show is the perspective of a former leftist, a woman who knows how the left operates, and easily recognizes their latest game-plans usually well in advance of the rest of conservative talk radio.  This distinction makes Tammy Bruce unique in talk radio, because she’s able to cut through the superficial nonsense and directly to the meat of most issues.  This makes her insight doubly refreshing, because in so many cases, she is able to see the heart of a matter with a clarity most cannot.  She knows how the left works, and she knows how the left is able to manipulate or collude with media in pushing their agenda, because not so very long ago, she was among their number.

She doesn’t like the Republican establishment for most of the same reasons she can’t stand the institutional left: She knows the fraud at the root of their agenda.  When I need a boost in the middle of a long day, Tammy Bruce is there to offer her audience wisdom, but also a good kick in the seat, exhorting them not to wallow in self-pity or doubt.  If you want to hear what an independent conservative with a passion for her country sounds like, you need go no further than Tammy Bruce.  Hers is a talkshow with a refreshing difference that is really quite addicting, and if you become a TAM, and join in the lively discussions, you’ll soon find that the crowd she attracts is of a similar mindset.  I translate it into the impression I first got when I heard Tammy’s blunt, incisive commentary, bold and rebellious with the fervor of a warrior:  “You’re not the boss of me!”

Tammy is the first woman I’ve ever heard in radio who espouses a belligerent rejection of authority that warns those who would tell her how to live where to get off.  That’s an endearing quality in my book, in this world of obnoxious, overreaching bureaucrats who wish to tell us whether we can have salt on our fries, or how many gallons our toilet-tanks may dispense per flush.  Her direct words to the would-be tyrants?  “Screw you!

Damned straight.  Check out her show, and you’ll quickly become addicted too.

This is 1860, and Obama Isn’t Lincoln

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Who We Need

Our country is in crisis, but at present, we have no leader emerging to save the union, and it seems there will be no Abraham Lincoln to save the nation.  Barack Obama is more like his long-ago predecessor, James Buchanan, who was put in place by his party, the Democrats, to protect the institution of slavery.  Obama is in that position, as his job has been to protect and grow the welfare state, and in much the same way as Buchanan, it may be a case before the Supreme Court that defines his presidency.  If Barack Obama and the Democrats have their way, the Supreme Court will uphold the Affordable Care Act(Obama-care) thus defining the character and inevitable course of the nation, much as in 1857, Justice Taney’s ruling upholding slavery in the Dred Scott case set the nation on a course to civil war. The difference was that in 1857, the court held that federalism applied, and in 2012, Barack Obama’s justice department is demanding that the 10th Amendment and the entire notion of States’ rights be ignored. There may only be one way in which this issue is finally settled, and it may require war.

In 1860, the budding Republican party sought to set the question on slavery right, the abolitionists in the North propelling Abraham Lincoln to the presidency.  Lincoln had the distinction of overseeing the abolition of slavery, but to do so he would need to fight a war.  In much the same way, if Republicans are to begin abolishing the soft slavery of the welfare state, beginning with Obama-care, they will need to elect a leader prepared to wage war in defense of a principle.  After all, in 1860, the South was entrenched in the notion of keeping the institution of legal slavery, but the abolitionists knew that could not be permitted to stand.  In 2012, faced with a Supreme Court case that may well decide the future of the country, we wait to see if the court will act to save the country, or fail to defend the principles enshrined in the constitution as they did in the Dred Scott case one-hundred-fifty-five years ago.

People have falsely compared Obama to Lincoln, thinking his stance on the supremacy of the central government over the states is the most pressing comparison, but this simply isn’t the case.  What will save our republic now is not more government but less, and not fewer freedoms but more, and in this sense, Barack Obama has nothing in common with Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln thought that it was impossible to better the lives of some men by subjecting other men to ruin:

“Property is the fruit of labor…property is desirable…is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Reply to New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association” (March 21, 1864), pp. 259-260.

Clearly, Lincoln was not interested in Obama’s updated form of enslavement, and yet that is the central crisis that will confront this nation in the 2012 elections, and for some years to come.  Nobody can say with certainty what will be the final tipping point, but if this nation continues apace, it will plunge into anarchy and civil war, but this time, the government is likely to be on the side of the slavers.

There is something fundamentally flawed in the thinking of those who argue that this is just the natural progression of nations, because what they argue is that Americans are neither wise enough, nor even capable of sufficient self-control to attempt to restrain intemperate desires for wealth derived from naked expropriation, but I submit this is not true, at least not yet, and that we must not permit it to become true.  Once we cross that invisible plane, the ramifications will be known with little delay, as the country you had known and loved and labored to propel disappears into the fog of a war from which only savagery may emerge.

Let us not pretend that we can’t imagine what will happen in such a scenario, but let us not delude ourselves into the beautiful lie that tells us it will somehow resolve by other, less painful means.  Von Clauswitz said that war is politics by another means, and I am here to tell you that politics is just the precursor to war  in such a context as the one in which our nation now persists.  All of the political rancor we now experience would be replaced by open warfare, at least for a time, in the scenario I am describing.  That our slate of Republican candidates might not see this is disturbing enough, but that our front-runner intentionally avoids seeing it is frankly inexcusable.  Of those now in the nomination fight, I think Gingrich is most apt to understand what’s at stake, because his knowledge of history may permit him to see the warning signs with a clarity the others are neither inclined nor perhaps able to see.

Gingrich has a fine understanding of the Civil War, and he certainly knows the history of the period, and how the nation arrived in that predicament.  I think Gingrich also understands that our current predicament is in some ways worse, because whereas in 1861, Lincoln put the government in service of the proposition that all men were created equal, we now have a government committed to the notion that it is the job of government to compel an equality of results.

This is the nature of the grave danger we now face, and it is every bit as dangerous as 1860, but perhaps with the added danger that we now have  a president who is part of the problem.  Put another way, imagine that in 1861, it had been a President from the South who instead caused t he Northern delegations to Congress to walk out, and had engaged in a brutal war to compel Northern states to the “peculiar institution” that had been slavery.  That’s what we now face, as Barack Obama seeks to impose his own form of slavery on the American people.

This is why I insist that this election year is not like 1980, or even 1932.  This election is most like 1860, and if we don’t find a candidate with the common sense and righteous aims of Lincoln, it may have been in vain that we exercised our vote.  If we are to preserve this republic, we will need leaders who are willing to wage even war in defense of individual liberty.  That certainly won’t be Barack Obama, and it surely won’t be Mitt Romney, leaving us to ponder whether it is even possible to save our union once more.

Newt Knocks It Out of the Park on the Etch-a-Sketch Candidate

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Re-Drawing Romney

I wasn’t surprised to see Newt Gingrich pick up this theme, but that he did it so effectively and on such short notice is really just another testament to his mental horsepower.  The former House Speaker appeared at a campaign stop just an hour or so after Eric Fehrnstrom made his remarks to CNN, in which he likened Mitt Romney to an Etch-a-Sketch.  Call it the gaffe of the day, or the confession of the year, but either way, Gingrich was quick to seize upon the moment and throw it in Romney’s face.  After a day-long media mocking, Romney came out Wednesday evening in a tepid response designed to blunt the criticisms, but Newt Gingrich captured the moment in explaining what this episode should strike a cautious note for conservatives.  Here’s the video:

Fehrnstrom really threw his boss into a shark tank with this one.  He’s been a Romney adviser since Romney took office as Governor of Massachusetts.  What this episode demonstrates clearly is that Romney is no conservative, and once he secures the Republican nomination, he is going to move to the left dramatically.  Gingrich is right to make sport of Romney over this issue, because in fact, Romney has campaigned against both Gingrich and Santorum as though he was the more conservative of the three.  I think this episode permits us to firmly dispense with that line of nonsense.  Kudos to Newt Gingrich for not dropping the issue so easily.