Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rules for Political Activities Apply to Troops, Civilian Employees

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2008 - With the national election less than two weeks away, Defense Department officials are stressing to troops and civilian employees that federal law and DoD directives limit their involvement in certain political activities.

Political-related "dos and don'ts" pertaining to members of all service branches are proscribed within Defense Department Directive 1344.10, titled, "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty."

The federal Hatch Act delineates what federal civilians, including those working for the Defense Department, may or may not do in the political realm.

For example, servicemembers and government civilians may attend political events such as meetings and rallies, but military members must only be spectators and may not wear their uniforms. In addition, servicemembers aren't permitted to make public political speeches, serve in any official capacity within political groups, or take part in partisan political campaigns or conventions.

Under Hatch Act rules, government civilians may be active in and speak before political gatherings or serve as officers of political parties or partisan groups. They're also allowed to manage political campaigns and may distribute literature, but not at work. They also may write political articles, or serve as spokespersons for political parties or candidates.

Military members generally aren't allowed to campaign for political office. Civilians can campaign for office in nonpartisan elections. Partisan political activity is defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party or candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group.

Yet, basic rules apply to both military members and government civilians. Neither can use their position in the military or the government to influence or interfere with elections. Servicemembers and federal civilians never can engage in political activity on the job, in a government vehicle, or while wearing an official uniform.

For example, servicemembers and government civilians are not to distribute political literature at work. This also applies to politically partisan e-mail messages forwarded over the Internet.

Servicemembers and government civilians are encouraged to exercise their right to vote and participate in the democratic process. But they should know there are rules in place that govern the extent of their involvement in political activities, officials said.

Monday, October 20, 2008

United States Navy's Birthday


Russia's global dreams

While Russia has long asserted its claim to being a global power politically, it is increasingly looking to give this some substance through out-of-area military deployments and even suggestions that it will establish a network of bases and facilities to provide the strategic infrastructure for global power projection. Regular long-range patrols of the Arctic and the Pacific were resumed in 2007 for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, using both reconnaissance aircraft and strategic bombers

[first posted to - 15 October 2008]

Nuclear nationalism radiates in Iran

- Did you hear that the Iranian government has just designated the date as the "national" fruit? - Why date? - Because it gives energy and has a nucleus (Iranian joke transmitted via SMS) The success with which the Iranian government has been able to turn the nuclear issue into the proclaimed position of the 'Iranian nation' has intrigued many external observers of Iran. As the widely recounted joke reprinted above suggests, the Iranian nation has not lost its sense of humour and has taken the government's pronouncements about Iran's national rights with a grain of salt.

[first posted to - 10 October 2008]

Oct. 20, 2008 – 12:51 p.m.

Bernanke Says Stimulus Plan ‘Appropriate’

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Monday it “seems appropriate” for Congress to consider a new economic stimulus bill because of the struggling economy.

Bernanke told the House Budget Committee, “I think it should be significant, but I can’t give you a number” on how large a stimulus package should be.

The committee kicked off a Democratic effort to craft a stimulus package that may be voted on in a lame-duck session. While Bernanke did not endorse any specific proposals, he said the legislation ideally would include provisions “to help improve access to credit by consumers, home buyers, business and other borrowers.”

A scarcity of credit has squeezed banks and other financial institutions and the companies that rely on them to operate on a day-to-day basis.

“With the outlook exceptionally uncertain, the optimal timing, scale, and composition of any fiscal package are unclear,” Bernanke told the committee. “All that being said, with the economy likely to be weak for several quarters, and with some risk of a protracted slowdown, consideration of a fiscal package by the Congress at this juncture seems appropriate.”

Bernanke’s comments will give the Democrats ammunition as they try to persuade congressional Republicans and the White House to get on board their efforts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., have revived the idea of a broad stimulus in recent days, focusing on spending for infrastructure projects, aid for states, energy assistance for the poor and extended unemployment benefits.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Bright Side of the World Economic Crisis

For two weeks I have not updated this blog because I was following the news on the economic crisis. I do believe that this crisis is an opportunity to the US grow stronger.

As I already told some friends, it will be very good if the price of oil stabilize in something like US$ 45.00 or US$ 40.00. If so, it'll jeopardize Venezuela's and Iran's military programs and, like a bonus, will jeopardize also Russia's expansionist ambitions, once Russia has two majors income sources: oil and weapons which have been heavily sold to Venezuela and Iran.

It is already known by some sources that Iran's president, Ahmadinejad, is already facing a growing discontentment not only from the supreme leader and the assembly of experts, but also from the people, the electorate.

In Venezuela, the opposition will grow stronger once Chavez will not have any longer the easy money to spend on weapons to please the armed forces and on social programs which do not help to improve, afterall, the quality of life of the people. Just like the social program runned by the Brazilian government, which is just a give away of a monthly small amount of money; it's not enough to break the poverty circle, but enough to help to get votes from the miserable people.

It's true that everybody will be affected or heart in some level by the economic crisis, but if the lessons of this crisis are learned and the opportunity is used, the free world will emerge stronger than ever. Let's hope that that happens. We shall never forget that Chinese ideogram for crisis is the same one for opportunity. You just need to read it backwards.

Most of the people now are looking for the damages and the dark side of this crisis. We should look for the benefits and opportunities that come along.

Ary Dib Dias

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Editorial by The New York Times

October 4, 2008

In all the talk about the vice-presidential debate, there was an issue that did not get much attention but kept nagging at us: Sarah Palin’s description of the role and the responsibilities of the office for which she is running, vice president of the United States.

In Thursday night’s debate, Ms. Palin was asked about the vice president’s role in government. She said she agreed with Dick Cheney that “we have a lot of flexibility in there” under the Constitution. And she declared that she was “thankful that the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president also, if that vice president so chose to exert it.”

It is hard to tell from Ms. Palin’s remarks whether she understands how profoundly Dick Cheney has reshaped the vice presidency — as part of a larger drive to free the executive branch from all checks and balances. Nor did she seem to understand how much damage that has done to American democracy.

Mr. Cheney has shown what can happen when a vice president — a position that is easy to lampoon and overlook — is given free rein by the president and does not care about trampling on the Constitution.

Mr. Cheney has long taken the bizarre view that the lesson of Watergate was that Congress was too powerful and the president not powerful enough. He dedicated himself to expanding President Bush’s authority and arrogating to himself executive, legislative and legal powers that are nowhere in the Constitution.

This isn’t the first time that Ms. Palin was confronted with the issue. In an interview with Katie Couric of CBS News, the Alaska governor was asked what she thought was the best and worst about the Cheney vice presidency. Ms. Palin tried to dodge: laughing and joking about the hunting accident in which Mr. Cheney accidentally shot a friend. The only thing she had to add was that Mr. Cheney showed support for the troops in Iraq.

There was not a word about Mr. Cheney’s role in starting the war with Iraq, in misleading Americans about weapons of mass destruction, in leading the charge to create illegal prison camps where detainees are tortured, in illegally wiretapping Americans, in creating an energy policy that favored the oil industry that made him very rich before the administration began.

Ms. Couric asked Joseph Biden, Ms. Palin’s rival, the same question in a separate interview. He had it exactly right when he told her that Mr. Cheney’s theory of the “unitary executive” held that “Congress and the people have no power in a time of war.” And he had it right in the debate when he called Mr. Cheney “the most dangerous vice president we’ve had in American history.”

The Constitution does not state or imply any flexibility in the office of vice president. It gives the vice president no legislative responsibilities other than casting a tie-breaking vote in the Senate when needed and no executive powers at all. The vice president’s constitutional role is to be ready to serve if the president dies or becomes incapacitated.

Any president deserves a vice president who will be a sound adviser and trustworthy supporter. But the American people also deserve and need a vice president who understands and respects the balance of power — and the limits of his or her own power. That is fundamental to our democracy.

So far, Ms. Palin has it exactly, frighteningly wrong.

SUPREME COURT PREVIEW by The Associated Press

Highlights of some high-profile cases that the Supreme Court will take up in its term that begins Monday:

Curse words on the airwaves: In the court's first major broadcast indecency case in 30 years, can the Federal Communications Commission fine broadcast television stations for the one-time use of profanity on live programming? Cher, Nicole Richie and Bono are the celebrities who uttered familiar, but profane words on awards shows. The FCC changed its long-standing policy that exempted such "fleeting expletives" from being labeled indecent.

Cigarette advertising: The court will decide whether cigarette makers can be sued under state law for allegedly deceptive advertising of "light" cigarettes. The tobacco industry is trying to head off a wave of state-based challenges regarding the light cigarettes. At the same time, it is appealing a federal judge's order to stop marketing cigarettes as "low tar," "light," "ultra light" or "mild" because they mislead consumers. Like the prescription drug case, this dispute centers on whether federal regulation bars state fraud claims.

Religious monuments: Pleasant Grove City, Utah, wants the court to back its decision to bar a religious group known as Summum from placing a display in a public park that already has a Ten Commandments monument. A federal appeals court found that the city violated the group's free speech rights. The Summum believe that when Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, he received a second set of tablets called the Seven Aphorisms.

Navy sonar: At the administration's urging, the justices are reviewing a federal appeals court ruling that limits the Navy's use of sonar in training exercises off the Southern California coast because of its potential harm to dolphins and whales. The government says national security interests, particularly in wartime, trump those of marine mammals.

Detainee lawsuit: A Pakistani Muslim sued former Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and others over mistreatment he suffered in federal custody after being rounded up in a post-Sept. 11 sweep. The court will decide if high-ranking officials such as Ashcroft and Mueller can be sued when lower-level government workers allegedly violate people's civil rights.

Punitive damages: Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris is back at the court for a third time trying to reduce the nearly $80 million in punitive damages awarded by Oregon courts to Mayola Williams, widow of a longtime smoker. Oregon's Supreme Court has upheld the award three times and the U.S. high court twice has thrown it out. The most recent ruling by the state court relied on Oregon law to sustain the award. The justices will decide whether they agree or rather believe their Oregon colleagues are, in essence, ignoring them.

Retaliation: A longtime local government worker is fired after she cooperates with an investigation of sexual harassment allegations against a high-ranking official. The court will decide whether federal civil rights law protects employees from such retaliation in a case involving Vicky Crawford, who was fired in 2003 after more than 30 years as an employee of the school system for Nashville, Tenn., and Davidson County. The administration has sided with Crawford against the school system.

The justices also could decide to add these important cases to their docket:

Voting Rights Act challenge: A local governing authority in Texas argues it should no longer have to comply with the landmark Voting Rights Act, the 1965 law that Congress extended in 2006 for 25 more years. States and towns with histories of racial discrimination must get Justice Department or court approval before making any changes to the way elections are conducted. The law was intended to keep state and local governments from passing laws making it harder for minorities to vote. The Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1, a government board formed to provide local services to about 3,500 people, says Congress had no constitutional right to pass a bill that tried to remedy past discrimination.

Enemy combatant: The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the court to review whether the administration has the authority to capture and detain suspected enemy combatants in this country indefinitely without charges. The ACLU is acting on behalf of Ali al-Marri, a Qatar native and the only enemy combatant being held on U.S. soil. A federal appeals court ruled that the government has the authority to seize and detain anyone suspected of being an al-Qaida member. It also found, however, that such suspects must be able to challenge their military detention. Al-Marri is being held in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.

Judicial ethics: The case concerns West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin's decision to remain involved in a $76.3 million case involving a key booster of his 2004 election campaign. Benjamin was in the majority of a 3-2 decision overturning the judgment against Massey Energy Co. Don Blankenship, Massey's president, chairman and chief executive officer, spent more than $3 million to help Benjamin win his seat.

The Associated Press

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Disaster Awareness Fair

Washington Navy Yard Fleet and Family Support Center sponsors a disaster awareness fair.

Friday, October 3, 2008

DoD Announces Activation Of Unified Geographic Command

The Department of Defense today announced the activation of United States Africa Command, the sixth unified geographic command within the DoD unified command structure.

"It is, at its heart, a different kind of command with a different orientation, one that we hope and expect will institutionalize a lasting security relationship with Africa, a vast region of growing importance in the globe," said Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.
U.S. Africa Command will coordinate military-to-military contacts and focus on relationships between the United States and 53 African nations, as well as African military and security organizations. The command is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, with select personnel assigned to U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions in numerous African nations.

U.S. Africa Command is pioneering closer cooperation between government agencies by embedding members of other agencies into its military chain of command. These officials are not liaisons. They are fully integrated members of the staff. Senior leaders from the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and others bring new insights and viewpoints so that the U.S. military can more effectively support the whole of the U.S. government effort in Africa. In the years ahead, the command plans to seek international partners to join the headquarters staff, including members of African militaries.

Established in October 2007, the command's focus during its first year was to build a unique organization dedicated to long-term partnerships. U.S. Africa Command will now focus on synchronizing hundreds of activities inherited from three regional commands that previously coordinated U.S. military relations in Africa.

For more information, contact U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs office in Stuttgart, Germany, at 49-(0)711-729-4714.