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THE CENTURION

A series of pertinent – and impertinent — observations about military justice.

A marvelous new invention; the marvel of the age.  A machine that processes and prints legal documents ; it’s immune from electrical storms and power failures.  It defeats hackers and viruses 100% of the time.  Surely it will revolutionize the computer industry. What is it?  See the end of this column.

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Military judges generally will not permit counsel to cite Wikipedia articles as authority.  A piece in the 20 August Washington Post describes how virtually anyone can create or edit pages of this “free encyclopedia.”

Accuracy?

There are two views.

Author  Tia Ghose claims that a 2005 study in the journal  Nature found most Wikipedia data equally reliable to the Encyclopedia Britannica.  And a 2011 study found that Wikipedia articles were allegedly on a par with professionally edited data bases for healthcare professionals.

Contrariwise, Journal PLUS One  faults Wikipedia entries on controversial topics such as global warming or acid rain.   The public is free to edit Wiki pages, so controversial matters might be revised up to three times a day!  Sometimes, the new “editors” simply delete large chunks of text they don’t like.

The Post article concludes with  wise advice — Wikipedia can be a good jumping off point…but it’s hardly  the last word on any given topic.

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Gardener Sarah Baker got in trouble after local officials ordered her to cut her overgrown Iowa  lawn or be fined $1, 000.  She claims that a manicured lawn is unnatural, and that her “free” garden welcomes a wealth of interesting birds and butterflies.

How “different” can an individual be before the law steps in?   Consider, in a military setting:

·         Plastic elves and flamingos in the front yard of an E-7’s on-post married quarters

·         A house whose Warrant Officer owner painted her front door a bright purple

·         A well-kept home of a Captain from Alabama featuring a small flagpole with a Confederate flag

·         Dorms with the following:   A picture of Malcolm X in a shared room …a photo of Mecca, posted by a Muslim soldier on his door…a poster showing the controversial Donald Trump with  words of praise….the same picture at another location with words of condemnation….a cartoon of retired Army General Boykin, who strongly opposes the nuclear deal with Iran

At what point does military society  trump individualism?   [And what if society generally favors the view expressed — for example, the gay group which purchased a home next to an aggressive church known for disturbing the peace at  funerals of gay fallen warriors and painted it in the many colors of the “gay flag”].

Looks like there will always be work for JAGs as commanders wrestle with individual versus group rights.

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This blog is not intended to press political opinions.   However, as he battles cancer, we respectfully relate a short encounter with former President  Jimmy Carter.  It was about 15 years ago, and we were traveling to Fort Leavenworth on a commercial flight out of Washington Reagan.  Serious-looking agents came through the airplane, giving us the  once-over.  We passengers learned that former President Carter was boarding.    When we reached cruising altitude, Mr. Carter walked through the plane shaking hands with anyone wishing to do so.  He was not running for public office, and he surely did not need our laurels.   He just seemed to be making a kindly, thoughtful gesture.

  I shook his hand and said, “God bless you, Mr. President.”

That occurred years ago. Today,  as he faces  cancer, we respectfully repeat: “God bless you, Mr. President.”

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ANSWER:  That “marvelous new invention?”   It’s the typewriter   J


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