When he was much younger, I played tag with my oldest child. I realize that nowadays this game is no longer politically correct, as it is both violent and exclusionary. However, hear me out for a second.

He was always able to tag me after just a bit of running. As a dad, you must employ a liberal let-my-kid-tag-me policy, else they’ll get frustrated and quit. The playing field must be leveled by throttling-down on adult speed and agility. Essentially, parents Harrison Bergeron ourselves for the sake of the kids.

When “it,” I’d give chase and remain far enough back to allow the kid to feel like he was skilled enough to deftly avoid my pursuit. After awhile, I’d throttle-up in order to give him equal time as “it.” This was when something curious happened.

He’d pick the nearest object–maybe a tree, maybe a chair, maybe a bush–touch it, and yell “BASE.” According to him, being on base meant that he was immune to being tagged. As he and I were the only participants, this left me in a bit of a lurch. A conversation ensued.

“You’re just calling base when I get close to you.”

“Uh huh,” he replied.

“You can’d do that. You just pick the nearest thing and call it base.”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s not fair. You can’t just call everything base when it suits you, and you’re just making up the rules for base as we go.”

“Well, this is base,” he stated while looking up at me in a righteous and defiant manner.

At this point, the conversation proves useless, and I resort to wandering around and acting disinterested until he vacates his self-declared base. At that point, chase began anew.

I realize now that this notion of “base” reinvented itself on college campuses, still with the same self-righteous indignation and disregard for logic.

Now, they are called “safe spaces.”

Azimuth Check: This is a Private Space

First, please note that this blog is my private space. It is my safe space. You don’t have permission to be here unless I explicitly give it to you. Don’t make me get some muscle.

How do I do this? Easy. Just a few steps.

  1. Occupy a space that is widely and reasonably regarded as public and viewable by members of the public.
  2. State that I need privacy and a safe space.
  3. Prevent press access, photos, videos, etc.
  4. Profit?

Most of the individuals in the video you’re about to watch are students. Two are public employees. One of those public employees works for the University of Missouri as a director in the student life department and not, so far as I can tell, an academic. The other is an assistant professor in their communications department. Her name is Melissa Click and she appears in the last moments of the video. She specializes in the field of Mass Media.

Judge for yourself. How well does this purported mass media expert understand the role of the First Amendment in a public space, especially as it relates to members of the press?

Azimuth Check: What can be done with 36 Months?

Random musings after returning from a trip to Washington, DC.

36 Months

My good friend Daniel Gershburg finally started blogging, and the internet is better because of it. To date, he has only published a handful of posts at 36 Months, but those that are there are great. You should follow it, as I am.Compass

Today’s post focuses largely on impostor syndrome, an affliction suffered by most (all?) lawyers. Read. Learn.

Here’s something you may not know about Daniel: He is the only person I’ve ever invited to guest-post here at Unwashed Advocate. This is true. I asked him twice. He politely declined both times. I can’t say that I blame him. The content at 36 Months is all Daniel, and that’s a good thing, and right for him.

The Military Brain Drain?

Since I first wore a uniform, there have been no less than 4 occasions in which the military was accused of hemorrhaging its most talented young leaders. Largely, this is blamed on a very impersonal and imperfect personnel system, lack of mentorship, and not utilizing the skills and education of young leaders. Today, The Atlantic decided to weigh-in. On this, I have several thoughts.

Imperfect Personnel System. The military human resource systems manage an institution that employs more than 1.4 million total uniformed personnel. Think about that. That’s a lot of people. It is impossible to give each of them a long, detailed, personal evaluation for promotions and selective growth opportunities. With an institution that employs that many individuals, the system, out of necessity, will be largely impersonal.

Consider my last promotion in the Army, to Major. After I served a requisite number of years as a Captain, the Army considered me for promotion. In deciding whether I should be promoted, a board of 3 senior officers, randomly selected from across the Army, sat down at Ft. Knox, Kentucky to review the files of hundreds of us who were eligible for promotion. They looked at my evaluations (each a 2 page document that reviewed my performance at least once a year (I had about a dozen)), my Officer Record Brief (a one-page document that summarizes my career, awards, assignments, deployments, and educational history), assorted other awards and official records, and an official photo in snazzy, military-issued polyester. They had just a couple of minutes to review my records and decide whether I was a good or bad candidate for promotion. After that, they had to move to the next person’s file.

Is this impersonal? Yes. Is it necessary in an organization that manages hundreds of thousands of personnel? Yes.

If you work for a huge organization, expect the personnel systems to be tailored accordingly. Don’t act surprised when you feel like just another number. I asked one of my good friends and a former JAG officer why he left the Army. His reply was “I wanted to be part of a meritocracy.” That’s fine. He wanted to get paid for his abilities, not his longevity. He made the right choice. Being 1 of 1.4 million wasn’t for him.

Having said that, the military does make attempts to design evaluation systems that allow for effective “racking and stacking” of personnel by ability. However, let’s go back to that 1.4 million number. With that many people, designing a perfect and infallible system is impossible.

Lack of Mentorship. I grit my teeth when I hear about the military’s “lack of mentorship.” This is bullshit. Mentorship happens all the time. It happens at every meeting, training event, and social. Mentorship happens most effectively when junior leaders watch senior leaders at work. Again, this happens all the time. The problem is that many junior leaders don’t pay attention or believe that they need frequent feel-good conversations with their leaders or tummy rubs when they properly format a memo.

The problem is not a lack of mentorship in the military. The problem is a lack of junior leaders capable of or willing to recognize and learn from the mentorship they are given.

Senior leaders can provide mentorship, but they can’t internalize it for others.

Utilizing Skills. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Army’s Engineer branch.I love listening to young members of this corps. One in particular amused me.

“I have a degree in civil engineering and passed my fundamentals of engineering exam. Now, in the Army, I just learn how to blow stuff up,” he said.

I replied “Did you think you were going to be building a suspension bridge over a particularly scenic span of the Hudson River? Did you google Combat Engineer before you chose to enter the Army?”

And, with that, the conversation moved to another subject.

As an aside, would you complain about being paid to just “blow stuff up?” Me neither.

And Keith Lee is mad, mad, mad.

He discovered that Fiverr isn’t just for having videos made to creep-out your buddies.

Law Hawk Returns

He’s back, and better than ever.

Big thanks to JMo for getting this to me.

Required Reading on Lawyer Mindfulness

Your task for today is to read two posts, written yesterday by Mark Bennett. Everything you need to know about being mindful as a lawyer is contained in these two relatively short pieces.

They are provided at no cost to you.

Just don’t expect to cull excuses from his words.

The first identifies the problem.

The second provides a solution.

My goal here is to provide a worthy addendum to his thoughts.

I found one.

Here it is:

Azimuth Check: Farewell to a Fellow JAG

We all need an azimuth check every now and then. This weekend, I got a huge one.

In mid-2004, I reported to Fort Lee, Virginia where I underwent the first phase of training to be a JAG lawyer. This included learning Army customs and courtesies, basic weapons training, basic soldier skills, and other rudimentary military training. Owing to the fact that I’d already spent 5 years as an Infantryman, I asked to skip this stuff. Plus, I was already a Captain.Compass

Instead, the JAG powers-that-were told me, “Nope, we need you to be the class leader.”

This began about a dozen weeks of herding proverbial cats. It is one thing to deal with privates who have no clue about the Army. It is entirely different dealing with a gaggle of lawyers who have no clue about the Army.

The class consisted of Active Duty members, Reservists, and National Guard members. One of the National Guardsmen was a particularly clean-cut man who was about my age, First Lieutenant Beau Biden.

In short, Beau performed magnificently. He conducted himself as a quiet professional, even when enduring some of the less-endearing tasks, such as unmasking in the gas chamber, smearing camo paint on his face, and crawling on the ground while being yelled at to “get that helmet in the dirt!” He always had a smile on his face and seemed to enjoy the best part of the experience–being around the other members of the class. Nobody saw him as Joe Biden’s son. We all saw him as a good friend and a great classmate.

I didn’t stay in contact with Beau after we left Fort Lee. I’m not really the staying-in-touch type. However, I valued the time I spent with him, as did the rest of the class.

A fantastic friend. A great classmate. A quiet professional. A quality Army officer. An American Soldier.

He is missed.