Monday, November 26, 2007

MCM hijinks

Judge Cox once wrote, "I know that young judge advocate officers love witty exchanges, practical jokes, and a sense of the macabre in their humor." United States v. Smith, 27 M.J. 242, 252 (C.M.A. 1988) (Cox, J., concurring). It looks like one of those practical jokes made it into the Manual for Courts-Martial, as my treasured colleague Capt Tim the Enchanter Cox showed me today.

Grab your trusty MCM. Now look up "Jet" in the index. There it is, on page 34 of the index. What does it say? "See Plane." Okay, "Plane" is on page 45 of the index. What does it say? "See Aircraft." There's "Aircraft" on page 3. What does it say? "See Jet." And the cycle begins anew. And in case there is any doubt that someone inserted this as a joke, the only two mentions of "Jet" in the entire MCM are in those two index cross-references.

But wait, there's more -- though whoever the practical joker who inserted this was didn't do as good a job this time. Look up "Boat." There it is on page 7. But there's an oddity -- there are two separate listings for "Boat." One is the entryway into another gag; the other is a legitimate cross-reference. The first reads, "See Ship." The second reads, "See Vessel." Let's start with the top one, shall we? "Ship" is on page 59. Once again it has two entries. The first reads, "See Carrier." The second reads, "See Vessel." If we do, indeed, see "Carrier," it will close the circuit by referring us to "Boat." But if we go to vessel, we will see actual references to the offenses of hazarding a vessel and jumping from a vessel. It's not nearly as clever when you have to post shadow entries to make it work.

We traced the origin of this bit of tom foolery to the 1995 edition of the MCM. The speculation in the Carpenter Building was that some Army working group member snuck it in to goof on the Air Force and the Navy. Does anyone know who the culprit is?


Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that in the MCM review process, these intentional and obvious errors weren't caught. Makes you wonder whether some substantive rules have been intentionally changed for the fun of it. Humor can often be malicious.

Anonymous said...

It's all fun and games, until someone gets put in the DB. In all seriousness, this can only hurt the perception of fairness in military justice.

egn said...

You have too much faith in the review process. When our office received its copies of the 2002 MCM, the cover was missing the word "Manual," leaving us to wonder whether to cite to the publication as the "For Courts Martial," or "FCM," in our pleadings.

Anonymous said...

Although I am frequently in awe at the level of expertise in military justice matters and the sophistication of the discussion on this blog, occasionally I am stunned by the banality as well.

Anonymous said...

The initial humor directed at the Navy and the word "boat" was the work of the Army JAG School Criminal Law Division which was tasked with creating the index.