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Thread: TRADOC ordered to watch President?

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    Default TRADOC ordered to watch President?

    Yesterday afternoon, we were informed that all students in the CCC would watch the President's address to Congress and discuss it the following morning. RUMINT indicated that this came down as an order through the TRADOC chain of command. Being at the bottom, I cannot confirm or deny that, but was told it came from GO levels.

    Does anyone in the know have any further information on this?

    It made me uncomfortable that I would be directly ordered to watch a Presidential address. Officers and Soldiers have a personal responsibility to stay informed, but an apolitical military should not be telling its members, "You will watch this speech." During our discussion, which had to be greatly caveated to prevent inappropriate political discourse while in uniform, the instructors with over 20 years service stated this is the first time they were ever ordered to watch a political speech. Comments from my fellow students were almost entirely negative, focusing on being ordered to watch it. Quite a few references to Brown Shirts and 1930's Germany came up, which was probably not the intended response. The discussion of actual policies fell along normal political fault lines, and did not really add anything positive to a class on targetting.

    I take great effort to remain neutral while in uniform, and while publicly discussing leaders and issues, and this just did not sit right. What was so important about this speech, or this President as to warrant that order? This is very easily a slippery slope.

    Those in the know, please let me know.
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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question Completely understand where your coming from

    Quote Originally Posted by patmc View Post
    Yesterday afternoon, we were informed that all students in the CCC would watch the President's address to Congress and discuss it the following morning. RUMINT indicated that this came down as an order through the TRADOC chain of command. Being at the bottom, I cannot confirm or deny that, but was told it came from GO levels.

    Does anyone in the know have any further information on this?

    It made me uncomfortable that I would be directly ordered to watch a Presidential address. Officers and Soldiers have a personal responsibility to stay informed, but an apolitical military should not be telling its members, "You will watch this speech." During our discussion, which had to be greatly caveated to prevent inappropriate political discourse while in uniform, the instructors with over 20 years service stated this is the first time they were ever ordered to watch a political speech. Comments from my fellow students were almost entirely negative, focusing on being ordered to watch it. Quite a few references to Brown Shirts and 1930's Germany came up, which was probably not the intended response. The discussion of actual policies fell along normal political fault lines, and did not really add anything positive to a class on targetting.

    I take great effort to remain neutral while in uniform, and while publicly discussing leaders and issues, and this just did not sit right. What was so important about this speech, or this President as to warrant that order? This is very easily a slippery slope.

    Those in the know, please let me know.
    Not sure myself hadn't heard that, however;

    Do have to ask though why exactly would it be of concern that your leaders highly recommended you watch something which concerns greatly what is going on in relation to the state of the union the services have the sole role of protecting and defending.

    Being at least aware of that type of thing doesn't seem like it would require anyone to necessarily be any more political than they already are. And as this forum is so great at showing no matter how hard you try politics in general affect greatly the direction services are likely to take. Best thing is practicing being able to discuss it in relation to your job without having to take any given side but rather focusing on factors ad effects on the environments you work in.

    Sidenote: if your on a mission and blank shows up belonging to an organization that may not reflect your personal preferances does it not affect in some ways initial impressions and perhaps make the initial communications rougher. If you have practice sticking to the facts your probably going to be better equipped to work with those who are or even cannot be as apolitical as yourself.

    And are perhaps the reactions that you experienced reflective of the fact that for so long "don't be political" has equated to don't talk about it only those at echelons above have need of even being around it. I've often wondered how much that has effected the larger evolution of our services
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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patmc
    Quite a few references to Brown Shirts and 1930's Germany came up, which was probably not the intended response. The discussion of actual policies fell along normal political fault lines, and did not really add anything positive to a class on targetting.

    .... What was so important about this speech, or this President as to warrant that order? This is very easily a slippery slope.
    First, it wasn't a TRADOC or CAC order, because it certainly didn't come to Leavenworth, which is the higher for all the branch schools and part of TRADOC. So I imagine its local.

    Second, the State of the Union address is not your normal political speech. It is a constitutionally mandated executive report to Congress. However, it is given by politicians to politicians, so of course it will be political in tone.

    I guess I have a hard time making the mental leap from being required to watch the Commander and Chief's State of the Union Address to Nazification and indoctrination. Given he is our CINC, I don't see the harm in military officers watching and understanding the national priorities outlined in his annual mandatory report to Congress. Hell, 53 million citizens watched it. Perhaps it wasn't necessary, but making the analogy to Gobbels-like propaganda is silly. You weren't ordered to repeat what he said or turn off your brain, were you?

    Now if your "discussion" afterwords was poorly guided by instructors, that's a different question.

    We have formations all the time where the president or other dignitaries speak to military audiences - welcome homes, service academy graduations, ship commissionings, photo ops (anyone remember "Mission Accomplished?"). It isn't endemic to any president, all of them do it. They all make political and foreign policy speeches in front of a cheering background of soldiers. Watch any USMA graduation speech or addresses to staff colleges (which are all mandatory). I'm pretty sure this goes back to the founding of the republic. Welcome to the military.

    Now I suspect much of the b*tching is simply because your peers had time taken away that could have spent doing something else (which I suspect it is). If it's also because some of your classmates don't approve of the President's party or image, tough luck. He's the CINC now, and you can be ordered to listen to him anytime for any reason, like any other superior officer. You even have to obey his lawful orders and salute him.

    I may be reading too much into this, but I just don't see the issue with being forced to become an informed citizen. I also imagine the class watched the opposition response? (not that it matters)
    Last edited by Cavguy; 02-26-2009 at 05:28 AM.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I wonder if anyone in the Armed forces has ever been

    directed to watch a televised address by the President before. I truly don't know but I've never heard of it. I've gone to formations for a few and to a Field House to hear one speak in person so I know that's normal and is so for pretty obvious reasons -- but I haven't heard of this before.

    Anyone?

    That speech incidentally was not a State of the Union. The man has only been on the job for a month so it was legally and technically a formal address to Congress. The SOU for the calendar year after an election belongs to the outgoing President; Bush like all since Carter (who sent a written one which used to be the norm) elected to not send or do one. It is not constitutionally an annual requirement, it's just traditionally done in January or February of each year.

    I did notice most of the left wing web sites are referring to last nights as a State of the Union. S'okay. Even the historians accept that as an SOU -- but with an asterisk...

    Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43 also gave non-SOU addresses about their budget to Congress in their first month so Obama's just following the recent pattern.

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    Serving soldiers being ordered to watch the address while they are off duty makes me a bit nervous also. It strikes me as being one thing to be dragooned off to be the audience while on duty but being ordered to watch what was essentially a political speech while off duty doesn't seem right to me. Guided discussions about political speeches also make me think of "political cadres" from the bad old days across the seas. That perhaps is a stretch but it makes this civilian a tiny bit jittery.

    Also, I wonder what would have been the press reaction if the same order had been given for the Bush's address'?
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    ...and did not really add anything positive to a class on targetting.
    You were directed to watch the speech for a class on targeting? That doesn't make much sense to me. In principle, in an academic setting, I wouldn't think the order is that big of a deal and is fair game. Had my line commander given such an order I think it would be different. But for a targeting class?

    And as Ken note, the yearly speech is more tradition than anything else. The Constitution says:

    He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Why would anyone be nervous about a lawful order to listen to their Commander in Chief? Really? This makes you nervous? Does it make you nervous when ordered to stand in a Change of Command formation? Does it make you nervous to attend PT formation in the morning?

    There are better things to get nervous about. If you say you are nervous about what you heard at any of those events, fine, that is your right. But to simply attend if directed? To me that sounds like your duty.
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    Default endorsement

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    First, it wasn't a TRADOC or CAC order, because it certainly didn't come to Leavenworth, which is the higher for all the branch schools and part of TRADOC. So I imagine its local.
    Sir, I was told that the email traffic discussing it started from GO at Leavenworth. Can't confirm or deny that, but that was what I was told.

    Second, the State of the Union address is not your normal political speech. It is a constitutionally mandated executive report to Congress. However, it is given by politicians to politicians, so of course it will be political in tone.
    It was not the State of the Union. It was an address to both houses of Congress. State of the Union should come later. That is why we wondered this specific speech.

    I guess I have a hard time making the mental leap from being required to watch the Commander and Chief's State of the Union Address to Nazification and indoctrination. Given he is our CINC, I don't see the harm in military officers watching and understanding the national priorities outlined in his annual mandatory report to Congress. Hell, 53 million citizens watched it. Perhaps it wasn't necessary, but making the analogy to Gobbels-like propaganda is silly. You weren't ordered to repeat what he said or turn off your brain, were you?

    Now if your "discussion" afterwords was poorly guided by instructors, that's a different question.
    Again, it was not the State of the Union, and nobody remembered ever being ordered to watch a Presidential address. We've been at war 7 years, and suddenly we have to watch an address? The question arose to why now? Someone asked when the last time military officers were forced to watch speeches, and someone answered 1930's Germany. Answer was in jest, but slippery slope. My brain is still on, but this smelled of endorsement of a politician or a party, which is what bothered us.

    We have formations all the time where the president or other dignitaries speak to military audiences - welcome homes, service academy graduations, ship commissionings, photo ops (anyone remember "Mission Accomplished?"). It isn't endemic to any president, all of them do it. They all make political and foreign policy speeches in front of a cheering background of soldiers. Watch any USMA graduation speech or addresses to staff colleges (which are all mandatory). I'm pretty sure this goes back to the founding of the republic. Welcome to the military.
    This comparison did come up, as we had been forced to do a Q+A with some local Congressmen a few weeks ago. I think there is a difference between a local Q+A with give and take, or an actual speech to a military audience vs an order from higher for all pax to watch a partisan political address or to attend a political rally. Maybe there isn't a difference though.

    Now I suspect much of the b*tching is simply because your peers had time taken away that could have spent doing something else (which I suspect it is). If it's also because some of your classmates don't approve of the President's party or image, tough luck. He's the CINC now, and you can be ordered to listen to him anytime for any reason, like any other superior officer. You even have to obey his lawful orders and salute him.
    Sir, I was planning to watch it anyway because I am interested and have a duty to stay informed, but that said, Americans, including military officers, have the right to ignore politics if they want to. One has the right to be as oblivious or ignorant as they wish, which includes not watching political addresses on tv. Not my MO, but its their right. Welcome to America. That said, I understand he's in charge, and I salute and follow orders. And your statement "ordered to listen to him anytime for any reason, like any other superior officer..." is not correct. Not all orders are legal. Not calling this specific order under that banner, but simply saluting and executing is exactly what happened in Germany. Also, I understand that when Captains complain, it is b*tching, but I am pretty sure the Majors at ILE or SAMS would have had similar responses if they were ordered to watch a political speech without explanation why.

    I may be reading too much into this, but I just don't see the issue with being forced to become an informed citizen. I also imagine the class watched the opposition response? (not that it matters)
    Again, I like to be an informed citizen, but it is one's right not to be. We were NOT ordered to watch the response, and it was not discussed. This was basically endorsement of one party's speech, and not the other. Would you be comfortable with a Company Commander ordering his Soldiers to go home and watch the speech, with questions to follow in the morning? You can suggest Soldiers be informed and vote, but can you force them?
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    Nervous to listen to his orders? No. Being ordered to go home and watch his speeches? Yes. The question was why this speech, why now? What if being informed means Chain of Command orders to start watching every Presidential speech? What if the discussion sessions become partisan debates? Is that good for the military?

    Standing in Change of Command or PT formation while on duty is a pretty weak comparison to being ordered to watch a Political Policy address off-duty. If I was ordered to attend a poltical rally or campaign meeting in uniform, I would be nervous. It is not my duty to attend a political rally or speech in uniform. It is the opposite.

    Entropy, we're in Targeting block, so that was the setting. It had nothing to do with the material. All students in the CCC were told to watch it, with discussion to follow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Why would anyone be nervous about a lawful order to listen to their Commander in Chief? Really? This makes you nervous? Does it make you nervous when ordered to stand in a Change of Command formation? Does it make you nervous to attend PT formation in the morning?

    There are better things to get nervous about. If you say you are nervous about what you heard at any of those events, fine, that is your right. But to simply attend if directed? To me that sounds like your duty.
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    Quote Originally Posted by patmc View Post


    Again, I like to be an informed citizen, but it is one's right not to be. We were NOT ordered to watch the response, and it was not discussed. This was basically endorsement of one party's speech, and not the other. Would you be comfortable with a Company Commander ordering his Soldiers to go home and watch the speech, with questions to follow in the morning? You can suggest Soldiers be informed and vote, but can you force them?
    This wasn't a party's speech. It was an address to both houses of congress. There is a major, major difference. More later.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    This wasn't a party's speech. It was an address to both houses of congress. There is a major, major difference. More later.
    No, but it contained easily discernable shades of partisanship, as most speeches made by politicians do.

    PAT: I'm reporting to FACCC next week. I'll ask around and see if the same happened at Sill. I think maybe your instructors/leadership just wanted to have a healthy discussion about what the CCC students thought about the speech and/or message. Did the OBC students there do the same? It's possible this effort was coordinated from "the top"; I guess it's plausible the new Commander in Chief cares about what his military officers think. If I were him, I certainly would.
    Last edited by jkm_101_fso; 02-26-2009 at 02:13 PM.
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    A few comments:

    1. Iím not seeing the issue here. Since it was part of the curriculum, it was duty time, just as if completing a paper outside of classroom hours is a duty. On-duty/off-duty is not the way to frame this.

    2. Being apolitical is not the same as avoiding watching political events. It means not taking a position publically as a military member and being actively involved in a partisan fashion.

    3. I think its relevance to a targeting class is excellent. Just as Ken alluded, this wasnít a traditional SOU address, and so it begs the question as to why the President and his team decided then to address a joint session of Congress. To target particular audiences to garner support for their policies! As military professionals, we should be able to remove ourselves from our own political views and evaluate the address from the perspective of the target audience (the various segments of the American populace). This sounds an awful lot like being able to view Iraqi/Afghani/wherever events from the lens of that local population (cultural relativism) instead of from the lens of American culture (ethnocentrism), and using that information to both craft the message and be able to gauge the effectiveness of the operation.

    4. When I was at the gym yesterday morning, what I saw on the news were polling experts pontificating on whether the President was effective in his rhetoric (i.e., in doctrine speak, was the information operation effective?) through the use of focus groups that were representative of the American demographic. If the instructors didnít include this type of analysis to help the discussion, then they missed an opportunity.

    5. It sounds like your class was unable to do this to a large extent based on your comments; whether it was due to the immaturity of your classmates or the unpreparedness of your instructors or some combination of both, donít target the assignment as being off the mark, target the execution.

    6. Lastly, while it wasnít detailed in nature (and I didnít catch his whole address), I think that there definitely parts of the address where President Obama addressed the nation with his Commander-in-Chief hat on. His comments on torture, while applicable all servicemembers, was especially important for the Army Intelligence School to hear (Iím assuming thatís where youíre attending the CCC base on your location). Could this have been broadcast in class in a condensed fashion? Absolutely, but then again, the expressed purpose was to analyze targeting, and so watching the entire address was appropriate.

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    What I don't get is why the instructors didn't simply tape the address and replay it in a focused classroom setting. That would seem to me to be far more useful than relying on peoples' memories and running a poorly-focused session after the fact.
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    JKM,
    I don't know if OBC or other CCC's were given similar instructions, we just got word as we were about to call it quits for the day. We were told that the order came down from TRADOC for all Captains in the course to watch the address, and be prepared to discuss it the next morning. No perspective, angle, or what to look for was given, just told, go watch. Sorry about Lawton, but Sill is nice at least. Enjoy the CCC.

    Shek,
    As for the curriculum, the first half-hour each morning is used to discuss the night's readings. The next morning, discussion of the speech replaced the reading discussion. The speech had nothing to do with our material, and all CCC, regardless of what block/subject, were told to watch.

    I agree there is a difference between being apolitical and not watching politics. The issue was with being ordered to do so, which none of us nor the instructors could remember happening before. Using it for a targetting class would probably have led to political motivations, and I'm not sure the discussion would have stayed apolitcal after that.

    The instructors got the word the same time we did, and the morning before class they were given instructions on how to frame the debate to avoid political ideology from coming up. SGI's are good dudes, but were not given a real prep or focus other than "discuss." Again leads to ask why we were instructed to watch if no prep or reasoning were given?

    I don't think the immaturity of a squad with average age over 30, average over 5 years service, and almost all combat vets was the issue, but I may be wrong. With the limited guidance we were given, we tried to discuss the speech, but being it was a political speech, the discussion quickly resorted to debating policy, which I hope was not the intent.

    And again, watching the speech had nothing to do with targeting. We just happen to be in that block. If we were in doctrine block, the doctrine instructor would have led the discussion. We get plenty of no-torture briefings, don't worry.
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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Not that my opinion matters....

    Ditto on Shek's response...

    To have concern regarding a directive to watch a presidential address as part of a classroom assignment, is akin to the response Bob's World provided...

    This isn't politicization of the officer corps, rather it is the professionalization of young members of the fraternity...

    Unfortunately it appears it resulted in a poor outcome, the same result as any other ad hoc, poorly planned and unenthusiastically executed mission...
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Acknowledging that I'm a dinosaur

    and dating from a time when regular officers did not vote -- my father cast his first vote ever for Eisenhower in 1956 at the age of 50, allowing me to have voted one election before him -- and thus am a strong believer in a totally apolitical military, I agree with patmc.

    It was not a good thing.

    It was, IMO ill advised on the basis of one cannot only do nothing wrong, one cannot even give the appearance of doing something that might be wrong. It was ill advised in that it could give the appearance of favoring a person or party (thus my earlier question , has anyone heard of anything like this before). As I also said above, formations are one thing -- being told to listen to a speech that is going to be acknowledgedly political is an entirely different thing and anyone who contends they're similar really ought to give that some thought.

    That's an opinion and doesn't mean much.

    This is fact -- from patmc's description it was very poorly explained and done. For anyone to order something -- and it was an order -- then blame it on 'some GO' is beyond pathetic. Has he or she who said that been counselled yet? If not why not?

    Not that anyone cares but bothers me that anyone defends it, even with caveats on how it was done...

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question As noted above understand where hes coming from

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post

    It was not a good thing.

    It was, IMO ill advised on the basis of one cannot only do nothing wrong, one cannot even give the appearance of doing something that might be wrong. It was ill advised in that it could give the appearance of favoring a person or party (thus my earlier question , has anyone heard of anything like this before). As I also said above, formations are one thing -- being told to listen to a speech that is going to be acknowledgedly political is an entirely different thing and anyone who contends they're similar really ought to give that some thought.

    That's an opinion and doesn't mean much.

    This is fact -- from patmc's description it was very poorly explained and done. For anyone to order something -- and it was an order -- then blame it on 'some GO' is beyond pathetic. Has he or she who said that been counselled yet? If not why not?

    Not that anyone cares but bothers me that anyone defends it, even with caveats on how it was done...
    1- Any opinion of yours is something I look hard at especially if I find myself questioning it. Tend to reflect on why I might see it differently.

    2- As you state perception is prominent or at least should be in considering any course of action.

    Question is why is it that the awareness of what those who make decisions related to what we do is deemed endorcement of one particular side.


    I get the impression concern, not sure I get the practical concern with whether its appropriate or not?
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Don't know that it is

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    1- Any opinion of yours is something I look hard at especially if I find myself questioning it. Tend to reflect on why I might see it differently.
    Me too you too -- but we are all, after all, mostly expressing opinions and the idea is, I thought and do think to make people do that -- think.
    2- As you state perception is prominent or at least should be in considering any course of action.
    True -- but we shouldn't forget it's also easy to miss in a rush to get things done...
    Question is why is it that the awareness of what those who make decisions related to what we do is deemed endorcement of one particular side.
    Don't know that it is. Hmm. I said that, didn't I. What I do know is that that if you aren't supposed to be taking sides in anything and you do something that looks like you just might be thinking about maybe taking a side or even leaning a bit, you have a strong obligation to insure that your rationale is clearly explained. It does NOT have to be accepted by your audience but you must have explained your logic. Thus is the gospel according to Ken.
    I get the impression concern, not sure I get the practical concern with whether its appropriate or not?
    Practically speaking it is immaterial, irrelevant and don't mean nuthin' -- philosophically, IMO it 's wrong (do recall I admitted I was doing the Dinosaur thing...). In the opinion of others it is not. The reality is it will bother some and not others for a variety of reasons. We'll have to get Marc to explain it...

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    Ken, thank you, sir. I think my original position and intent has blown up a little. I'm not calling citizens to the rampart, warning of a politicized officer corps because we had to watch one speech. I wrote to see if anyone else had received the same order, or if anyone knew about it.

    The opinion of my class was that is was very unusual, and since it was ordered, we questioned why and if it was appropriate? I also agree that in the scheme of things, it is small potatoes, but still not the right thing. If the intent was to make informed students, which was hopefully the reasoning, it was poorly planned and executed. The presentation and execution left more questions than answered, and it did not add to our class experience. The discussion focused more on why we watched it rather than tax cuts vs tax hikes (which maybe is a good thing).

    Hopefully another victim of the good idea fairy.
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    Default I'm not quite as much of a dinosaur

    as Ken. And I'm far more inclined to say that putting on the uniform did not deprive me of my rights of free expression as a citizen - this in my obligated first tour of duty 1969 - 71. But, having said this, I believe Ken is absolutely correct in his analysis and perception of this case. In the great schem of things, it's not all that important, but it is a bit troubling - even more so that the source of the order is less than totally transparent.

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