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Roundtable: Facebooking Marine, Pension Reform, Prisons Change

Evening Edition

Aired 3/23/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests: Tony Perry, SD Bureau Chief, LA Times

Alison St. John, KPBS News

Dana Littlefield, U-T San Diego


A Marine on Facebook

Saying he is “completely shocked that this is happening,” Marine Sgt. Gary Stein of Temecula is headed for dismissal from the Marine Corps for criticizing President Obama on his Tea Party Marine Facebook page.

Stein, a nine-year veteran, posted that he would not follow unlawful orders from the President, his commander-in-chief, such as killing Americans or taking guns away from Americans. Earlier anti-Obama posts were about health-care reform.

Stein was notified Wednesday that his comments were “detrimental to good order and discipline,” a violation of the Code of Military Justice. Stein says he will fight the dismissal because free speech trumps military law. Should he prevail, it’s fair to say the entire military would have some adjusting to do.

Pension Reform?

When the city’s Independent budget Analyst looked at San Diego’s pension reform initiative set for the June ballot, it came to the conclusion that the city would save nearly a billion dollars over 30 years, but not from pension reform. Instead, the savings come from salary freezes – pay raises of zero percent for five years.

On KPBS, Mayoral Candidate Bob Filner described the initiative as a “fraud.” Carl DeMaio said the measure caps pensionable pay. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the measure doesn’t guarantee a five-year salary freeze. Labor leaders say the measure violates labor law. The IBA also found that moving employees to 401ks would cost the city $13 million over 30 years.

Realigning Prisoners

The state’s prison realignment plan, which went into effect Oct. 1, shifted responsibility for some low-level offenders from the state to the counties.

People convicted of non-violent, non-serious crime could serve their time in county jails, rather than state prison. The counties also take over many aspects of parole.

The ACLU concludes that counties have dramatically increased spending on jails and that a huge number of people are in jail awaiting trial, not convicted of anything yet. The ACLU recommends amending pre-trial detention laws to keep low-level offenders out of jail until convicted, sentencing reforms, and discouraging further jail construction.

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Avatar for user 'darkmatter'

darkmatter | March 23, 2012 at 2:09 p.m. ― 5 years ago

i am a 23 year vet. i had a lot of 9 year people who had issues. in my career that is who i spent the most time on. the la reporter (tony) was good at pointing out that you cannot always say everything you want to say about your employer w/o repurcussions. but then we were exposed to a constant reference to "following lawful orders" in the conversation. i wish there were a similar term to "straw man" that i think is going on here...maybe "straw canard."

"Stein, a nine-year veteran, posted that he would not follow unlawful orders from the President, his commander-in-chief, such as killing Americans or taking guns away from Americans. Earlier anti-Obama posts were about health-care reform."

i never ever heard anyone say that. not they couldn't have. in fact i would have said you cannot be made to do something illegal. hey, maybe even you can say it...i suspect you can. but examine in your life if during a conversation or blog or news program or whatever, did anyone pipe up when you were talking about the policies of your employer...or did you ever expect anyone to say, "they cannot make me do something illegal." on the face of it, it is simply ridiculous.

but if they did, would it not be in reference to what you were talking about. say, someone says the sky is blue and perhaps someone pipes up and says, "you cannot make me follow unlawful orders."

what was the context that this stein was talking in. was it a conversation about lawful orders? did anyone say, this is an order and you have to follow it? maybe they did. but if they did, just where is the reporting of what caused this comment?

people, this was a thread talking about health care. just what lawful order was he talking about? somebody posted something about lawful healthcare orders? i am stymied just thinking about it.

to make a long post longer i will just say making a statement, "you can't make me do something illegal" does not exist in a this case it simply does not exist.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | March 24, 2012 at 11:41 a.m. ― 5 years ago

This guy is pushing the line of Sedition. The military is bound by it and tradition. I'm a vet and the drill sergeant made it clear to all of us that when you choose to be in uniform you don't have the same freedoms enjoyed by those out of uniform. You don't have to like it, but there it is.

I'm not sure booting him out of the service versus a lesser disciplinary charge is necessary, but after reading how this guy presses his luck by standing his ground I'm beginning to think they should kick him out on his stupidity and stubbornness alone.

He thinks he has the constitution on his side. What he doesn't realize is that his commanders have a right to order him to keep his mouth shut or else. If he can't abide by the military's rules, then they should kick him out. They've enough troubles as it is than dealing with a moron in uniform looking for 15 minutes of fame.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 24, 2012 at 4:17 p.m. ― 5 years ago

David65, your post is well written and I tend to agree with your points.

If this guy had made a political post unwittingly I'm sure we would all agree it's a minor mistake and he should simply be reminded of the rules and we all move on.

But, as David65 points out, it seems as though this guy kept pushing the envelope, seeing how far he could go. Almost like a game of chicken, and I think when he started getting media attention it fueled him to press a little harder still.

I think it's important to realize that our military men and women are indeed human beings who are not void of logic and personal thought.

But the issue I have with this guy's arguments is a broader issue I have with the general political discourse in this country surrounding the constitution.

The problem with constitutional arguments is that they can be very complicated, often philosophical, and many times based simply on inference from vague writing.

This is why we have an entire branch of law dedicated to constitutional issues and indeed why we have courts to rule what is and isn't constitutional.

You can take almost anything in our society and mold a constitutional argument out of it.

I have noticed the tea party in particular likes to throw around the term "unconstitutional" when speaking of policy or people they don't care for, yet not speaking out in other cases that fit their agend where constitutional questions can be equally or even more clearly raised.

An example would be a person who would scream bloody murder if the government tried to take away their guns, but they think their neighbor who was born on U.S. soil to foreign nationals should not be an American citizen.

My point is that if this guy had a valid, passionate conviction about something in particular that the military was doing that he was at odds with, I could sympathize.

But instead, his whole beef seems to be with certain constitutional philosophical beliefs that tie in to a particular political ideology that does not favor the current Commander in Chief.

An example that he is really nothing more than a political activist with a political agenda (and not a constitutional one) is that he is endorsing Republican candidates to replace the current President. Both republicans and democrats lead the military under the same constitutional principles and under pretty much the same rules of long-held principles and policies regardless of who is in office. This guy's sincerity might be a little more believable if he was making an argument about military rules vs the constitution in general, but he is not - he is implying that one political party and one President is somehow being more "unconstitutional" than the other side and is thus coming across as simply a political hack.

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