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December 17, 2009

More Undue Influence

MikeD asked a good question on the CJ Grisham post. I thought it was a good question that merited its own post:

The part of CJ's situation that bothered me the most is when he started getting grief about what his WIFE posted when he turned the blog over to her. Now maybe in my mother's day, when an officer's wife was expected to be an extension of her husband (the whole white glove party nonsense), holding the officer accountable for his wife's actions might have been expected. But today? I could even see an EEO complaint being filed against the officer that dared call CJ to the carpet about what his wife was doing.

Mind you, I can understand if there was a security clearance involved, or if his wife was violating OPSEC (e.g. "My husband is in the town of Falafelville Iraq with the 999th Typewriter Battalion conducting door to door searches for White Out.") But that's not the case. The MOMENT his career was threatened because of something his WIFE posted, he should have filed a formal complaint up the chain of command.

I was mostly curious to see your thoughts on that matter Cass. If the Unit came home and said his rating officer didn't like something you posted, what would your/his response be?

First of all let's deal with Mike's last question:

If the Unit came home and said his rating officer didn't like something you posted, what would your/his response be?

That is extremely unlikely to happen since I don't blog under my own name. I use a pseudonym precisely because I don't want my husband associated with my opinions or behavior. I can't honestly say I've ever worried about retribution from his superiors. My decision not to write under my real name was prompted solely by natural caution and a strong belief that certain things (politics and military careers, for instance) require a strict wall of separation. Any idiot ought to understand that my opinions are just that: mine. I don't speak for my husband and I certainly don't speak for the Marine Corps as an institution. But in today's feverishly politicized atmosphere, the temptation to play gotcha is just too strong.

And there's another layer of insulation there: I don't tell my husband's professional associates that I write online. A goodly part of my own family don't know I have a blog. And I don't tell most of my friends, either. The only people who know my real name are ones I trust and met online, so there's little to no overlap between my online and real world social circles.

Interestingly enough, I did choose to tell my employer that I have a blog. I did this because I'm well aware that people have been fired for blogging. If my blogging was going to be a problem, I wanted that out in the open (had that been an issue, I would have left). That said, I don't write about the company I work for or the people I work with. To me that's an absolute no-no, so it's hardly surprising that I view work related blogging with great suspicion.

That said, my identity is not a secret. I've been threatened several times with "exposure" and my response was: go right ahead. That's not the way to hurt me: if that were to happen, I'd take VC down and no one would ever hear from me again. But exposure is not something I fear and it wouldn't traumatize me or ruin my life if it happened. It doesn't seem to smart to me to risk screwing up your real life just to blog. Because people can be hateful and vindictive online, the anonymity is there to provide a layer of protection and insulation for my family. But I believe that if you write as though your real name were being signed to every post, there's little to fear from exposure. And that is what I try to do.

Now let's examine the hypothetical: what would he/I do if my husband's command counseled him about something I wrote?

It's hard to imagine that happening. I don't write about anything related to the Marines that isn't in the public domain, so OPSEC isn't an issue for me. Most of my posts are opinion pieces and I can't imagine my spouse giving anyone anything but bloody short shrift if they tried to prevent me from exercising my First Amendment rights.

That said, there is always the matter of discretion. If my husband came to me and said, "I really don't think you should have said that", I would want to know his reasons. I take his judgments very seriously, and while I'm not sure his opinion with regard to how I ought to behave is dispositive in every instance, it nonetheless carries great weight with me. There would have to be an extremely good reason for me to intentionally cause him unease, embarrassment, or discomfort. Unintentionally is a different matter: as male/female sensibilities differ somewhat, it's natural for him to have his own opinions. I am very fortunate in that he doesn't try to control me. He rarely if ever reads VC.

Although I don't understand what ground the Army has for allegedly counseling C.J. for things written by his wife, I do actually understand why they're upset. If your command tells you to stop writing about something (rightly or wrongly) and your response is, "Fine. I'll keep my blog and have my wife write the things you won't allow me to", that is an act of defiance. I objected - strenuously - to the many Milbloggers who openly talked of setting up anonymous proxies so bloggers who had been told to stop blogging by their commands could flout DoD regs. I think that's wrong and worse, openly encourages military personnel to defy legitimate authority and circumvent regulations. I can't justify that kind of insubordination over the DoD regs as they are currently written. The right answer there is to resign or protest up the chain.

I don't think the Army has the right to tell C.J.'s wife what to do. They have exactly zero authority over her.

But at the same time let's use a different hypothetical. Microsoft has an employee who blogs about work. He is told that unless he ceases and desists, he will be fired because Microsoft thinks his posts put them in a bad light. He responds by turning the keys over to his wife, who writes the same type of thing that got him into trouble in the first place. Unquestionably, Microsoft has no business telling his wife what to do. However, I'm not sure under what bizarre theory Microsoft should be prevented from firing him. It's pretty clear what just happened, and it doesn't matter much who's doing the posting.

C.J.'s case is different, because the subject of these posts has not been primarily the Army, but his dispute with the school board. On the other hand, C.J. is not a Corporal. He's a senior Staff NCO, so he is held to a different standard. He is expected to be an example for the lower ranks: that's an integral part of his job.

I am not sure of the nature of the Army's problem with his behavior is, so it's hard for me to comment intelligently. On the face of it, the Army's conduct looks bad and that is why - very reluctantly - I decided to lend my qualified support. Something about this bothers me very much too - the assertion that the Army "owns" him 24/7: that there is no sphere of his life that is his own. So long as he breaks no laws, I think his business is his business.

The problem, though, is that we don't know everything here. We don't know (or at least I don't) the exact nature of the complaint against him. Trust me I mean no disrespect to C.J. or his wife, but in 30 years of military life I've learned there is ALWAYS more to any controversy. It sounds to me like overzealousness on the part of the Army, but then again I don't know the nature of the complaint against him and I don't know Army regs. It may well be that they had no choice but to investigate him, in which case all the folks who have been vilifying the Army are essentially blaming the command for doing their jobs. Not terribly impressive reasoning there, and certainly not a hill I'd want to die on.

I fully realize that it's extremely unpopular to step back and try to look at things dispassionately, but I try not to walk around in a perpetual state of outrage. Anger clouds judgment and destroys objectivity. If there's a case to be made here (and, knowing only what I know now I think there is) I believe the strongest case is going to be the objective one. If you've got even the skeptics on your side, that's pretty powerful evidence that you have a legitimate complaint.

Posted by Cassandra at December 17, 2009 08:32 AM

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Well said. There's usually more to a story than the "I was just minding my own business when..." part that so often appears first in print. I have I don't know this CJ person or his wife, and I've no doubt that they are stand-up square, but my spidy-sense warns me against a rush to judgment based solely upon what I've read here. Of course, if one side or the other was PAYING me to be judgmental, my mind would have been made up as soon as the retainer check ckeared.

And do worry, Mrs. Emily J. Kublonick of 3417 Flat Squirrel Road, East Cresent Roll, Missouri, your secret identity is safe with me.

Posted by: spd rdr at December 17, 2009 10:03 AM

And do worry, Mrs. Emily J. Kublonick of 3417 Flat Squirrel Road, East Cresent Roll, Missouri, your secret identity is safe with me.

Pppphhhhttthhh :)

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2009 10:10 AM

That is extremely unlikely to happen since I don't blog under my own name. I use a pseudonym precisely because I don't want my husband associated with my opinions or behavior.

I KNEW it! You're Spiderman (or Spiderwoman)!!!

In all seriousness though, I do find it interesting that the reasons you're not afraid of blogging is precisely because you take sensible precautions and even then you're not violating actual rules (OPSEC/Classified material). Nor would I be so well disposed towards you if you did violate those rules.

But in the dispute with the schoolboard, neither did CJ. I do however see your point about his wife taking over the blog, IF she were simply acting as a sockpuppet for CJ. But they're her kids too. So if she's posting about HER experience with the schoolboard, yes it might be CJ's opinion too, but she's expressing herself about it. But all that aside, you do have a good point (and as my wife insists when I admit she's right, I am obligated to throw in the "as usual" :) ).

Posted by: MikeD at December 17, 2009 01:20 PM

I was just saying that, again, if she'd opened her own blog and it was totally unconnected to him, the Army would have had a really tough time bringing up the subject :)

I'm not in the least worried (nor have I ever been) about the Marines or their reaction. My precautions are taken from a human standpoint, and more to erect a clear dividing line between my activities and his than anything else.

Also, I am Spiderman. But please do not tell anyone :p

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2009 01:37 PM

Also, I am Spiderman. But please do not tell anyone :p

Some day in the next five years, someone needs to show this to your grandson, and he will then KNOW he's got the coolest grandma in the world. ;)

Posted by: MikeD at December 17, 2009 01:45 PM

"Also, I am Spiderman."

I've heard of cobwebs accumulating, but it ain't been *that* long, sista.

*skipping away through the trees and (80 degree) breeze*

Posted by: DL Sly at December 17, 2009 02:28 PM

Sly... just ouch, girl. Ouch.

Posted by: MikeD at December 17, 2009 02:41 PM


Y'all are in so much trouble :p Good thing my hair's on fire right now.

[tapping foot]

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2009 02:46 PM

*the Hun saves DL-Sly a spot on the Group W bench in the VC penalty box.*

Posted by: bthun at December 17, 2009 03:24 PM

Yeah... you guys had better run :)

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2009 04:36 PM

"So long as he breaks no laws, I think his business is his business."

That is as it should be. Did he break any laws? Let's ask some lawyers! On the one hand,....but on the other..... no offense, attorneys.

Meanwhile, the Sergeant is forced to seek legal counsel. He loses financially and professionally.

Posted by: Mark McGilvray at December 17, 2009 04:52 PM

Well, FWIW he can get free counsel at the base legal center. They are, after all, the most knowledgeable about the UCMJ.

The UCMJ is very difference from most state laws, so often civilian attys (unless they specialize or have extensive experience with the UCMJ) are not actually the best people to go to.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2009 05:02 PM

Now we have rampant moral erections. Is nothing safe?

I like reading Cassie's stuff because she does think things through before knee-jerking. There was only one time I have seen her put up a retraction, and for a six year blogger, with the quality and output she has (not to mention the incessant toe-tapping when her Hanes Ultrasheers get in a twist) and put out she puts up with from certain members of the knavery, that is impressive.

Posted by: Cricket at December 17, 2009 05:59 PM

"*the Hun saves DL-Sly a spot on the Group W bench in the VC penalty box.*"

I doubt very seriously that Da Boss will even entertain the notion of letting me out of the Dark Corner. Although, now you see why I ran that extra beer tap line in....

And I should get paid extra for not touching Ms. Cricket's *moral erection*....*knee-jerk* as the initial reaction may have been.

Posted by: DL Sly at December 17, 2009 06:36 PM

There is an interesting parallel here in the "on-duty"/"off-duty" 24/7/365 thing and DUIs and Bank overdrafts. When I was on active duty Officers, at least, were considered on active duty 24 hrs/day and it was very much the commanders business if one had a bank overdraft, let alone a DUI. And, as far as I can tell, with DUIs it's even more so today with such things being career-ending--as compared to the laxer standards in the 60s-early 70s and certainly in the years prior.. Sooo--judging from today's DUI standards "his business" off-base and off-duty is NOT "his business," n'cest pas? (not saying I personally agree--just describing the state of play..)

Posted by: virgil xenophon at December 18, 2009 04:15 PM

I guess the real question is whether what the Sergeant was doing is actionable under the UCMJ. Maybe it is just as well this matter go to trial if it spells out what is and is not allowable.

VX above mentions things actionable, whether misdemeanor or felony under state statutes. I can see where it is desireable for a command to have its memebers more or less squeaky clean legally. This can be carried too far - career death for a single DUI? This is going too far in a misdemeanor case, but probably not for a felony.

As CJ did not avail himself of the base Legal Affairs Office, I assume he was less than impressed with their services. Anyone know why? I don't, and could theorize. My best guess is that he was told (if he ever contacted them), "Are you sure you want to do this? Yeah you might win, but the fallout will be nasty."

Posted by: Mark McGilvray at December 19, 2009 12:51 PM