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.

Advertisements

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.

It seems that folks are a little obsessed with “Making History” when it comes to political decisions these days. But I ask you, is it more important to make history, or to prepare for the future?

During the Presidential Elections of 2008, I endured wave after wave of news reports and public sentiment that voting for Obama and electing the first black President would make history. The Democratic Party held him up to be the candidate that would bring hope and change, and would be the consummate sign that America had changed.

Now, I have steadfastly acknowledged that Obama’s campaign was one of the greatest election campaigns ever run. The campaign used every available media source, grassroots effort, and marketing strategy known to man, and they were highly effective in getting the message out.

A large number of voters voted for Obama to make history, by electing America’s first black President. Another large segment of voters voted for Obama because they were just so sick of the past administration that they wanted something, ANYTHING, but what we had. OK, fine. So be it. They made their voices heard, and President Obama won the election. History was made.

Now we have a healthcare bill signed into law using a process that makes the manufacturing of sausage look like a Renaissance Masterpiece. But hey, we made history! Again!

A significant portion of the country didn’t want it because they didn’t understand what it contained. Evidently, no one else did either, since today the government realized it missed some of the targeted protections for children. I also noticed several changes to the bill when I went back to the online Library of Congress file. As it goes to the Senate for reconciliation, more changes are expected.

We now have Healthcare Reform that cannot sustain itself, will stress Medicaid to the breaking point, and adds to our already ridiculously large deficit. How’s that for making history?

In any event, they did it, and are currently enjoying their victory. Will it be a victory for the nation, however? Eventually, someone is going to come to collect the debts America owes. What will happen at that point? Will we be bought out, go bankrupt, and join the ranks of failed governments in the history books? God, I hope not.

Will healthcare reform be the ruin of America?

Greek Ruins

We need a government that can work together. We need leaders that can focus on the issues, and rise above petty name calling. We need BOTH PARTIES to grow up, and act like the distinguished leaders we thought we were electing. We need respectable leadership that will dignify the offices they represent. We need Congressman and Senators who truly represent the will of their constituents, not party or personal goals.

The Obama campaign promised change. This administration is no better than the last, it’s just a different party, with a different agenda. Partisanship continues to run rampant, and new ways are found to circumvent the protections set up by the Constitution. These circumventions are waved off by key figures, who justify their actions by saying, “Well, the other party did it when they had power!”

That’s not making history, it’s repeating the mistakes of the past.

We don’t need to continue making history, we need to avoid becoming history.

The Healthcare issue isn’t even at the top of most Americans’ priorities list. Americans are primarily concerned with the economy, and even more importantly, unemployment. Let’s encourage our leadership to wipe the slate clean, put some band-aids on their sore egos, and focus on these two issues.

I think everyone will be a lot more willing to discuss healthcare reform once we get Americans working and get a plan in place to balance the budget. It will take more than one party, and it will require that the average American get off the couch and get involved to elect leaders that can bring it about. I’m in. Are you?

A few months back, someone slipped a pill in my drink, while I wasn’t looking.

No, nothing as scandalous as a ruffie, nor even as trippy as ecstasy. Instead, someone slipped me the Red Pill, and I began to wake up and see what was going in our government.

In case you’re not familiar with the pill I am referring to, allow me to share a quote from The Matrix:

You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Obamacare, wake up!

OK, so nobody really physically slipped me a pill. Nevertheless, I have been driven of late to stay abreast of political goings-on, and obsessed with researching and understanding the inexplicable push by Democrats to force through a Healthcare Bill that is rife with controversy, encompasses one-sixth of the U.S. economy, and provides healthcare to…well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

The reason I use the Matrix metaphor is because the majority of my fellow citizens seem to still be asleep. The deeper I look into this bill, the more disgusted and sickened I become. I try to shake those near me awake, to no avail. They either don’t see the problem, or refuse to. They have become so desensitized to government corruption that they don’t realize how severe our plight has become.

Equally disconcerting is when people are aware of what the current administration is doing, they shrug it off, or try to justify it by pointing out the indiscretions and wrong-doings of past administrations (namely, President Bush). I seem to remember learning a  lesson as a child, a lesson like: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

By this logic, I guess the next administration can just come in and do whatever it pleases. Then again, why wait for the next administration? Obama has two years left. Will we give him a blank check to continue unraveling our country?

I saw a similar defeated attitude in Iraq. When patrolling the villages around Fallujah, as elections were drawing near, I had the opportunity to ask the Iraqis of Al-Anbar how they felt about the upcoming elections. The prevailing theme was, “They’re all liars, and what we think won’t make a difference, anyway.”

There were some exceptions, where people were excited about the elections, but they were in the minority. I did what I could to encourage the people of Iraq to stay motivated. After all, this is what my fellow Marines and I had fought for. The right for Iraqis to have free elections, and liberate themselves. Had it been for nothing?

The lesson I took away from my time in Iraq in 2008 was a painful one. You can’t help those that won’t help themselves. If you believe you are beaten before you even begin, you will surely be defeated.

Now, here I am back home, 18 months later, seeing some disturbing similarities. People believe that the government will do whatever it wants, and that all politicians are liars. A people so discouraged in their leadership that they are convinced that resistance is futile. (Yes, I spent too much time watching Sci-Fi movies in my younger days.)

President Obama, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Harry Reid and their party have managed to bull through H.R. 3962 – Affordable Health Care for America Act. The Act was passed and signed into law today by President Obama in spite of the objections of the American people. Numerous polls indicated that this was not healthcare reform that the American people want.

There are plenty of sources to cite that claim this is because of misinformation propagated by the Republican Party. The GOP has been accused of fear mongering and spreading lies about the bill. Allow me to toss my chips in with the GOP on this one. I have spent hours reading the bill, and have found nothing in it that convinces me otherwise.

On the contrary, I have found it much easier to debunk the supposed benefits the Democrats claim are being provided. It’s been said that we need some true Bi-Partisan effort to achieve heath care reform, yet the only thing Bi-Partisan about this bill has been the opposition to it. Not one single Republican voted for this bill, but several Democrats voted AGAINST it.

President Obama has made claims that the Republicans are fighting the bill just to be stubborn, labeling them “The Party of No.” In fact, in an attempt to make an appearance of bipartisanship, the Democrats tacked on some Republican amendments to the bill. They refused, however, to address the problems that Republicans had with what was already in the bill. When the Republicans held their ground on the issues, and refused to vote for a flawed bill, they were again accused of being “The Party of No”.

I’m so sorry, Mr. President, that the Republican Party wasn’t as easy to buy off as some of your Democratic colleagues in Nebraska, Louisiana, and Northern Michigan (Yes, YOU, Mr. Stupak!). The Republican Party was on the right side, this time. The side of the people.

In conclusion, I ask that my fellow Americans do one of two things: Either wake up and get involved, or have the decency to plug me back into the Matrix. I’m getting too old to fight these battles alone.

Besides, I can’t pull off the leather trench coat look like Keanu Reeves, and I would damn sure look ridiculous in leather pants.

The clock is ticking. The 72 hour countdown to the vote on the healthcare bill has begun, with zero hour being 2pm EST on Sunday.

Democrats are rounding up as much support for the bill as they can, with President Obama attempting to convince Democratic Congressional Representatives that their political future lies in the passing of the bill.

The Washington Post has released a great chart that shows how Congress voted on the original bill in November, and where they stand now. Being a Michigan resident, I’m focusing on Michigan.

The chart shows all fifteen Representatives from the State of Michigan. The first column indicates where the Rep stands as of today. The second column shows how they voted on November 7th.

The votes are split by party. All seven Republicans are against the bill, and seven of the eight Democrats are for the bill.

There is one Democrat from Michigan who remains undecided on the issue. That would be Bart Stupak of District 1, from the Upper Peninsula. Stupak is a staunch Pro-Life advocate, and has stated that he will not vote for the bill unless his amendment to prohibit federal funding of abortion is included in the bill. The Stupak Amendment is not being viewed favorably by many Pro-Choice Democrats, and could be the weak link in this bill’s potential passage.

One thing that strikes me as odd is that no candidate, with the exception of Stupak, has changed their stance on this bill since it has been redrafted. The original Senate Bill is 2409 pages. The new Amendment, dated March 18, 2010, is an additional 153 pages. There are other documents as well to be considered, including the Reconciliation Act prepared by the Congressional Committe on the Budget, another 445 pages.

Nothing in any of this caused anyone to change their minds??? Well, if they haven’t read it, I guess it wouldn’t.

Fear not, however. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has graciously arranged for the public to have 72 hours to digest this 3000+ page nightmare.

Oh, and if you thought all this reform was strictly about Healthcare, think again.

There are several sections relating to education reform as well. To be honest, the Amendment is so convoluted and filled with “strike subparagraph x of section xxx and insert blah blah blah”  that my head is currently throbbing just trying to read it.

On initial review, I gleaned that the Amendment is pumping more money into grants for students, schools, and teachers. There are several revisions to the Pell Grant. The Amendment also includes changes to the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Now I’m not saying Education Reform is a bad thing, and it certainly could use some reform, but does it need to be dealt with in a healthcare bill???

In the Marine Corps, we have an expression that I will attempt to clean up for those of a more “genteel” nature. It involves cramming 10 pounds of “waste product” into a 2 pound sack. The analogy seems fitting for this bill as well.

Healthcare reform is needed. But not just any reform. We need clear, concise, well thought out reform. Most importantly, it needs to be reform that we can AFFORD as a nation. The current bill is a runaway train of Progressive ideology, and it needs to be stopped.

Call your Representatives today, and urge them to vote no this weekend. Pray that this will even come up for a vote.

It is beginning to look more and more like a federal healthcare bill is going to be rammed down the throats of the American people. Despite numerous polls indicating that the American people do not want the current healthcare bill being offered, key Democrats in Washington are turning a deaf ear to the people and attempting to ram the bill through anyway.

President Obama has painted himself into a corner with this bill, having spent the last year trying to get it approved. Healthcare has now become known as a “Signature Item” for the POTUS. Many pundits have gone so far as to say that if he doesn’t get this bill passed he will be dubbed as a failure, and have no political relevance for the rest of his term. It’s almost if they are daring him to do it.

Mr. President, the people are going to respect you a lot more if you can acknowledge that the current bill is flawed, and work to get it right. Trying to strong-arm a bill through that is flawed, imperfect, and full of special interest pay-offs is wrong on so many levels. While I can appreciate a certain “dig-in-your-heels-and-finish-what-you-start” spirit, there comes a time when you have to admit that you have misread the will of the people, and you need to realign yourself with it.

Everyone knows this bill stinks. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly states that the American people can know what’s in the bill AFTER it passes, everyone’s internal BS detector should be going off and sounding a red alert. What are Pelosi and Reid trying to hide? Why this mad push to shove something, ANYTHING through before the upcoming recess???

The answer is obvious: they know they are doing something wrong. We know they are doing something wrong. If you were buying an insurance plan, or a car, or a home, and the agent selling the product said to you, “Sign this, sign it now, and don’t read the fine print!” what would you say? You’d run away as fast as you possibly could. If she had nothing to hide, why wouldn’t she want you to read the fine print?

Yet this is exactly what is happening in Washington even now. The leading Democrats are running around to other Democrats, trying to pressure them into voting yes on the Senate Bill. Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak, of Michigan, has even stated that he is receiving threats from the party because he won’t vote yes on the bill. Other Democrats are siding with Stupak against the bill because of some questionable items in the bill that open the door to abortions being paid for with federal tax dollars.

It still remains unclear how we will pay for this bill. Estimates of how much the proposed bill will add to the deficit run into the BILLIONS. Non-partisan studies reveal that we simply cannot afford the bill as written. When questioned about this, Democrat supporters of the bill attempt to shrug the question off, claiming that the funding can be resolved through reconciliation. They believe the best thing to do is to pass the bill, and worry about funding it later! Have we learned nothing in the last few years about what happens with this type of “blank-check” mentality?

The media has made this a battle of wills, and has even stated that if the bill doesn’t pass, Democrats are going to lose political capital. At the same time, the press warns that if the Democrats vote yes, and pass this bill against the will of the people, the Dems will be destroyed at the polls during the mid-term elections is November of this year.

It’s a no-win situation for the Democrats. A true damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario. It shouldn’t have come to this, but it has. I only hope that remaining holdouts against this bill in the Democratic party will do the right thing and hold true to their committment to vote against this atrocity of a bill. The time could come for healthcare reform, but this is not the kind of reform that the people want.

Why hustle through an imperfect product? It is widely held that successful healthcare reform could be the hallmark of Obama’s presidency.  Why not do it right? Remove the shadows surrounding the current bill, and remove the taint of corruption from this issue. After all, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

I urge you to call your Congressional Representatives today and stress to them the importance of  doing the right thing. Scrap this bill, and let’s get started working on meaningful legislation that can do some good for everyone. Remember what you learned in the 80’s, and “Just say NO!”

Oh, and maybe we could even focus on some other issues; like reducing the deficit and/or getting Americans back to work. Just a thought.

In the spirit of March Madness, I have prepared my own Final Four, as it pertains to our political choices this August. Remember, the election this year is one of the most important elections of our lives. Get out and vote!

Michigan State Representative – 100th District

Jon Bumstead for 100th District Michigan State Representative

Tim's Pick: Jon Bumstead

Currently held by:  Goeff Hansen (R)

District Covers: Oceana, Lake, and Newaygo Counties

Who’s Running:

  • Jon Bumstead (R) – Newaygo
  • Jane Drake (R) – Fremont
  • Marc Libants (R) – Newaygo
  • Scott Tillman (R) – Fremont

Michigan State Senate – 34th District

Tim White supports Goeff Hansen

Tim's Pick: Goeff Hansen

Currently held by:  Gerald Van Woerkom (R)

District Covers: Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, and Newaygo Counties

Who’s Running:

  • Goeff Hansen (R) – Hart
  • David Farhat (R) – Muskegon
  • Mary Valentine (D) – Muskegon

U.S. Congress – 2nd District of Michigan

Tim White picks Jay Riemersma

Tim's Pick: Jay Riemersma

Currently held by: Peter Hoekstra (R)

District Covers: Consists of the counties of Benzie, Manistee, Wexford, Mason, Lake, Oceana, Newaygo, Muskegon, Ottawa, and the northern portion of Allegan County and the northwest portion of Kent County.

Who’s Running:

  • Jay Riemersma – (R) – Holland
  • Bill Cooper – (R) – Muskegon
  • Wayne Kuipers – (R) – Holland
  • Bill Huizenga – (R) – Holland
  • Fred Johnson – (D) – Holland

Governor of Michigan

Hoekstra for Governor

Tim's Pick: Pete Hoekstra

Currently held by: Jennifer Granholm (D)

Who’s running:

  • Peter Hoekstra – (R) – (US Congress)
  • Mike Cox – (R) – (Michigan Attorney General)
  • Mike Bouchard – (R) – (Oakland County Sheriff)
  • Tom George – (R) – (Michigan State Senator)
  • Rick Snyder – (R) – (Venture Capitalist)
  • Alma Smith – (D) – (US Representative)
  • Andy Dillon – (D) – (State House Speaker)
  • Virg Bernero – (D) – (Lansing Mayor)
  • George Perles – (D) – (MSU Trustee)

The list of candidates is still changing as we lead up to the primary on August 3rd. For an unofficial list of candidates visit http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/election/candlist/10PRI/10PRI_CL.HTM

To learn more about my picks, subscribe to my blog! You can also visit their respective websites by clicking on their highlighted names.