The internet is abuzz with the story of a Marine in California who was recently asked to remove a Facebook group he created. Many people feel that the Marine’s First Amendment rights are being violated, and are even going so far as to claim that the Obama administration is attempting to silence the opposition.

You can read the articles as covered by Yahoo! and Fox News.

As a Marine currently serving in the Reserves, and active in local politics, this issue raised huge flags for me. I have authored several blogs promoting Republican candidates, am a member of the Republican Party, and have sponsored a Teenage Republican Chapter in my hometown. I have also expressed disagreement and outrage with the current administration. Could I be a potential violator of this directive?

In order to cover my six, I have researched the directive, how it applies to me, and how it applies to this case. DOD Directive 1344.10, dated February 19, 2008 Subject: Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, details what actions individual members of the Armed Forces CAN, and CANNOT engage in. You can read the directive HERE.

Sgt Stein made the mistake of naming the group “Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots.” By naming it so, he implies that the DOD sanctions it. By the rules, they have him dead to rights. In fact, if they so chose, he could be punished subject to the Universal Code of Military Justice under Article 92, “Failure to Obey Order or Regulation,” Chapter 47 of Reference (b).

Now, had he created a group called “Gary Stein and the Tea Party Patriots” or some such, and included a disclaimer that it reflects his opinions, and is not intended to reflect the views of the DOD, he would have been good to go, in my opinion.

We do indeed, have freedom of speech. We just have to be a but more cautious of how we wield it. You can find many a blog on my website that criticizes the current administration. However, I do have the disclaimer that the views portrayed are my own, and are not made as a representative of the USMC, the DOD, or any other agency. They are my beliefs, and mine alone.

When I attend political functions, campaign for a candidate, or work with the community, I do not do so in uniform. I won’t even wear a Marine sweatshirt. While my military service is often mentioned, I stress that I act in the capacity of a concerned citizen, NOT as a representative of the USMC.

I think I’m covered, but if the DOD or my chain of command wants to bring the matter up, I’m willing to defend my position. I would never want to use my uniform to gain political advantage. To do so would be, in my eyes, a discredit to all who have served before me.

I do, however, have a responsibility as a US citizen to be engaged in the political process. The leaders we elect have the power to make decisions that affect the lives of all of us. Those of us in the military are especially affected by the decisions of the POTUS. To sit back and not be involved seems a gross dereliction of my duty as a citizen, and as an NCO. I encourage everyone to get involved, regardless of their political party allegiance.

In closing, I’m glad this matter was brought up. Having read the Directive, I feel that I am acting completely within the guidelines of what the Secretary of Defense has laid out. I would encourage Sgt. Stein to continue to be involved in politics, and make his voice heard. I would just encourage him to do it within the rules laid out before us, and to do so in good taste.

In this case, I have to defend the actions of the Marine’s command. They made the right call, and handled the matter well. Sgt Stein was not punished, and only asked to remove the group from Facebook.

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To lead effectively, a leader must have the trust of those who follow. Without trust, relationships will have no foundation, and efforts to achieve goals will be in vain. Trust is difficult to earn, yet is easily lost.

Washington has lost the trust of the people to whom they are beholden. Recent polls reflect this loss of trust, with a 75% disapproval rating of Congress. Three in every four Americans feel that their elected officials are not serving their interests. How did we get to such a state?

I believe that there is a disconnect between those in office, and the will of the people. In spite of the advances we have made in communication and technology, many members of Congress still seem to be out  of touch with the average American and their needs.

Another factor causing this breakdown in trust is a lack of transparency. So many meetings and a great part of the decision making process go on behind closed doors, outside of the view of the American people. Why the subterfuge? Why aren’t all debates held openly, if they have nothing to hide?

Most importantly, there is a lack of personal integrity and honor. Many elected officials have lost their sense of personal accountability. Rather than take responsibility for their failings, they attempt to shift blame onto others. This part of the “political game” needs to be removed like the cancer it is. Politics is not a game. It should not be treated as such. The arrogance being portrayed in Washington must be reined in. Representatives should worry less about promoting their own agendas, and advancing their careers, and worry more about serving the needs of the people.

Integrity is something missing in Washington today. In recent times, we have seen elected officials bend and twist the spirit of the law to achieve their desired end state. Though they acknowledge the dubious manner in which they proceed, they attempt to justify their positions by claiming that past Congresses have done the same thing, and feel that somehow this makes it acceptable. It does not.

Sadly, the spirit of common decency has all but fled the halls of Congress. What was once a league of distinguished gentleman has become tarnished with the shifting of blame and accusations against the character of fellow representatives. Bipartisan debate and good spirited cooperation are no longer the first means of resolving a difference of opinion.

If a leader is to build trust, he must hold himself to the highest of standards. The leader must lead by example, and oftentimes put aside his personal welfare for the goals of the people whom he leads. At times, the will of the people may not be his own. The leader must recognize his role as a servant to the people, and be prepared to represent the will of the people.

A leader needs to be honest and open with his constituency, in good times and bad. When a leader attempts to deceive the people, trust is undermined, and is nigh onto impossible to regain. If there is a cost to be paid to achieve some good, a leader should make those costs plain, and seek the counsel of his constituency. Regular contact and communication with the people of the district is vital, and must be maintained.

When trust is established, morale is enhanced, and motivation soon follows. History has shown that even in the darkest of times, a well motivated force, with high morale, can overcome great obstacles, and achieve victory. America can achieve the greatness we once had, but to begin, trust must be restored.

Have you made a Google Profile page yet? If not, stop what you’re doing, and go do it now.

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When pushing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), it is common wisdom that you want to please Google. What better way to please them than by using their products?

What’s more, if you fill in your profile information completely, you can be eligible for featured status, and will get first page Google results. I have been working hard to bump my Google search results for the last month or so. Once I completed my profile last night, I was instantly front page.

Google has added their own profile spot to the bottom of the first page, and whoever has the most information updated on the profile gets that spot. Once I completed my profile last night, I was instantly front page.

The profile also makes it easy to link to all your other sites as well.

Greater visibility on Google means my sellers’ listings are seen by more buyers, and are more likely to sell!

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Obama Bomb

I was driving east on Ocean Dr. in Hart, Michigan today when I saw this little gem sitting alongside the road. I had my camera with me, like any good realtor should, and I just couldn’t resist blogging about it.

Michigan is widely held to be a left leaning, liberal state. So much so, in fact, that Senator McCain’s campaign withdrew from the state early during the election runoffs of 2008. John, I think you gave up on us too quickly.

You see, there are strong pockets of conservatism in West Michigan. The recent Tea Parties have sounded a clarion call to the formerly “Silent Majority”, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of these types of displays.

Even if you’re a liberal, you have to admit this is pretty clever.

“March Housing Construction Drops 10.8 Percent”

By now you’ve probably seen headlines like this one. It’s dramatic, it sounds like the world is ending for real estate, and it is just the kind of dramatic overstatement that makes me gag when I read the news. But have you actually READ the article? I’ve linked it to the headline.

Believe it or not, there’s actually a lot of good news in there. The article explains that the percentage is based largely on the fact that multi-family home starts (apartments) are down, but in fact, single family home starts have stabilized. Here are two excerpts from the article which belie the headline:

“The much larger single-family sector actually stabilized in March at an annual rate of 358,000 units, the same level as February when single-family starts managed a small 0.6 percent rise.”

“The bad news is that home construction is still in the tank. The good news is that single-family activity may finally be stabilizing,” – Joel Naroff, an economist at Naroff Economic Advisers

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So why the mixed message? No, wait, scratch that. Why the completely misleading, borderline outright lie of a headline? The answer is simple: bad news sells.

The media has adopted an attitude that no one wants good news. I am a fan of Fox News, which is where this article comes from. However, they are often just as prone to adopting this attitude as anyone else.

As a Realtor, I find it encouraging that apartment starts are down. This means that people are buying homes, and are less interested in renting. With low interest rates and low prices, the consumer is realizing that renting is not their only option.

Now, more than ever, it is extremely important that we perform as real estate educators, and not just salespersons. We have to counter this type of negativity, and make people aware that the sky is truly not falling.

Somebody get on the phone and tell Chicken Little he can come out, we’re going to be OK. All we need is a healthy dose of reality. We’ve seen an increase in home sales in West Michigan real estate, and I’m doing my part to make sure the word gets out. You can help by reblogging and linking this blog to everyone you know.

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