I don’t remember doing so with any of the minimum wage jobs I’ve had, but in all my professional positions, I had to provide to my employer some form of ID that proved I was eligible to work in the United States. In each of these cases, my U.S. passport was sufficient, but a birth certificate would have also worked. It’s annoying to me that I have to provide proof of citizenship (or a visa that allows employment in the U.S. for non-citizens), but that’s the law passed by the government. And speaking of government, in January of 2009, Senator Barack Obama became President of the United States. If I have to prove my citizenship for my tech job, doesn’t this same requirement apply to the top job in America? In the case of the job of U.S. President, the Constitution specifies the requirements for the position in Article II, Section 1:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

There’s no doubt that President Obama is over 35, and there’s also no problem with his residency in the States. The problem comes from the phrase “natural born Citizen” and what it means. The Constitution never defines it, and there has been some legal wrangling over what constitutes a natural born citizen. So is Obama a natural born citizen? Well, there’s no arguing that he was born of a U.S. citizen mother and British subject father, since Kenya was a British crown colony at the time of Obama’s birth in 1961. If Obama had been born in Kenya or somewhere else outside the States, then U.S. citizenship could still be conferred by his mother’s citizenship, but then the legalities become a bit manky since the law at the time put some restrictions on citizenship that his mother wouldn’t qualify for, as one email I have received puts it:

US Law very clearly stipulates: ‘If only one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth, that parent must have resided in the United States for at least ten years, at least five of which had to be after the age of 16.’ Barack Obama’s father was not a U.S. citizen and Obama’s mother was only 18 when Obama was born, which means though she had been a U.S. citizen for 10 years, (or citizen perhaps because of Hawaii being a territory) the mother fails the test for being so for at least 5 years **prior to** Barack Obama’s birth, but after age 16. It doesn’t matter after. In essence, she was not old enough to qualify her son for automatic U.S. citizenship. At most, there were only 2 years elapsed since his mother turned 16 at the time of Barack Obama’s birth when she was 18 in Hawaii. His mother would have needed to have been 16+5= 21 years old, at the time of Barack Obama’s birth for him to have been a natural-born citizen. [no, I'm not going to put [sic] after every error. Sheesh. — CM]

Accepting this poorly written email as correct, the law states that his mother would have to be a citizen for at least 10 years, “at least five of which had to be after the age of 16.” Since his mother was 18 when Obama was born, she doesn’t qualify. QED, so call the press and announce Obama isn’t a natural born citizen, right? Well, no. Her age would only matter if Obama were born outside of the United States.

Obama’s birthplace is listed as Honolulu, Hawaii, which makes him a natural born citizen because of his birth, and the age and residency of his mother just doesn’t enter into it. “He wasn’t born in Hawaii, he was born in Kenya, dontchaknow?” Really? Then why are there announcements printed in both the Honolulu Advertiser and Star Bulletin announcing his birth? This makes him a natural born citizen, and the debate is over, right? Wrong. Nothing stops a good story, or even a bad story, if enough people tell it.

“Then-candidate Obama published his birth certificate, showing he was born in Hawaii!” Well, actually, no. He published a certification of live birth, but that is not a birth certificate. And that’s different enough to provide an excuse to continue the debate over his citizenship. But one thing that the certification provides is a location of birth. But we don’t have to just accept that certification. Hawaiian state officials have recently stepped forward to state that they have seen Obama’s actual birth certificate:

“I … have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen,” Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said in a brief statement. “I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago.”

“OK, so he was born in the U.S., but he renounced his citizenship at some point!” I have seen this argument also in emails. Here is the meat of the claim:

Q: Did he travel to Pakistan in 1981, at age 20?
A: YES, by his own admission.
Q: What passport did he travel under?
A: There are only three possibilities:
1. He traveled with a U.S. Passport,
2. He traveled with a British passport, or
3. He traveled with an Indonesia passport.
Q: Is it possible that Obama traveled with a U.S. Passport in 1981?
A: No. It is not possible. Pakistan was on the U.S. State Department’s “no travel” list in 1981.

Conclusion: When Obama went to Pakistan in 1981 he was traveling either with a British passport or an Indonesian passport. If he was traveling with a British passport that would provide proof that he was born in Kenya on August 4, 1961, NOT in Hawaii as he claims. And if he was traveling with an Indonesian passport that would tend to prove that he relinquished whatever previous citizenship he held, British or American, prior to being adopted by his Indonesian step-father in 1967. [Again, presented as I got it -- CM]

There’s just one problem — Pakistan wasn’t on the “no travel” list in 1981. In fact, the State Department had issued a travel advisory in 1981 with regard to visa requirements when entering Pakistan, showing that it was OK for Americans to travel there. So Obama was free to use his American passport, just like anyone else, when he visited.

OK, so where are we in all this? We have a Hawaiian official who has publicly declared seeing Obama’s actual birth certificate and that he was born in Hawaii. There are two announcements posted in Hawaiian newspapers announcing his birth in Hawaii. There is a certification of live birth that, while not being the same thing as a birth certificate, clearly states he was born in Hawaii. And finally, there’s no problem with him having traveled to Pakistan in 1981 with a U.S. passport.

Still think Obama isn’t a natural born citizen? Then try this on for size: when Senator Hillary Clinton saw her support eroding as Obama gained steam during the 2008 primaries, don’t you think she would have released any information she had about Obama being ineligible for the Presidency? She would have had everything to gain and nothing to lose if Obama were shown to be ineligible for the office, but she never came forward with the charge. You may dislike practically everything Obama has done as President, as I do, but I have seen nothing that convinces me that he isn’t eligible for the office. I see plenty to show he’s not ready for the office, but nothing that would legally prevent him from actually holding the office. Besides, if he were ineligible, we would have to deal with the administration of President Biden. *shudder*

So why the big brouhaha over his birth certificate? Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent defending Obama against the many lawsuits brought forward asking that he prove his status as a natural born citizen of the United States. These lawsuits could be satisfied and easily dealt with if Obama were to produce his actual birth certificate, but instead he has chosen to fight them. Why spend the money, time, and effort to fight these lawsuits when they could be dismissed with the brandishing of a single document? Could this be a hornet-trap kept active by the democrats to lure in and force conservatives to waste their time on this issue rather than letting conservatives fight them on other more challenging issues?

Perhaps it’s just the American tendency to believe in the concept of equality under the law, but I would like to have Obama, and anyone else who is elected to any position in government, prove that he is legally eligible to serve in that office. After all, when I got my job, I had to prove I was eligible to work there. It just makes sense to me that people in government should be held to the same standards they hold other people to.

Since I work in the computer software industry, I enjoy walking past the cubicles and offices of my fellow employees. I’ve had the chance to discover that when it comes to office decoration, there are several schools of thought.

Some are what I call “business plain,” with only work-related information on the desk and walls. A family photo or occasional calendar is about the only indication this denizen has a personality. Boring!

If I were to hazard a guess about what type of office is the commonest, I would suggest the themed office. This is a space strewn with paraphernalia from some favorite movie, game or sports team. Within just a few feet of my office space, there are posters for the local college football team, a large model of the Iron Giant, and signs indicating the Tech Wizard is in, accompanied by a row of wizardly models and items. Office toys in these places are a must. Zen gardens are common, as are little toys like kinetic art sculptures and squeeze balls. Several people went wild with Nerf guns at Microsoft, and it was not uncommon to see Nerf battles raging down the halls. Magnetic poetry sets are great for the break room fridge or the hallway whiteboard.

Some cubicles are heavy on posters, whether inspirational — “Unity!” “Perseverance!” “There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’” — or very geeky — “There are 10 people in this world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.” “2 + 2 = 5 for very large values of 2.” or “I’m lost. I have gone out to find myself. If I return before I get back, please ask me to wait.”

Then there are the few offices that really stand out. I’m thinking of one with 50+ posters and stickers. Most are of the insultingly funny variety: “Did you eat a bowl of stupid this morning?” “My imaginary friend thinks you have serious issues.” “I’m sad that you suck.” When you find an office like this, stop and make friends with the owner. This is the person who totes the Xbox into the office for some lunchtime play, or who knows the people who do.

Some offices succumb to too much cute. These offices have dozens of pictures of family, dogs, cats, and sometimes calendars of dogs and cats. Grandparents are drawn to these offices, sensing a kindred spirit. You can recognize them by the photo album tucked under an arm. Unless you are also armed with your own family photos, avoid these offices. If you’re a diabetic, run.

None of this office décor is a problem in the workplace (assuming you are not diabetic), but some things are best kept out of the office. For instance, few things rile people up faster than religion and politics. Since I now live in a battleground state, there is a pretty even mix of Republicans and Democrats in my office. Emotions run high when it comes to politics, particularly in an election year, so placing a large Bush or Kerry sign in my office would be guaranteed to cheese off half my co-workers. This is not the wisest way to start a new job.

Religious or political differences between co-workers are bad enough, but when these things happen between employer and employee, it is tantamount to harassment. If my position or chances for promotion are based on my participation in the boss’ religion or adherence to his chosen political party, that has clearly crossed the line of acceptability.

People are still likely to express their deeply-felt beliefs. One of the guys at my workplace wears a lanyard with the initials W.W.J.D (What Would Jesus Do?) on it. In another cubicle, there are several Bible verses written on a small card attached to the wall. Neither of these instances crosses the line for me, but I am religious myself and have little difficulty with such items. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what others may find offensive. People have claimed that merely seeing a Bible on a co-worker’s desk is an offense worth suing over. Other people have been fired for wearing a cross to work. The problem lies not in the nature of the subject matter, but rather in the offensensitivity of others.

But what is too much? Who draws the line? Sadly, the final judgment lies with those who are offended. This means that an innocently intended comment, political opinion, or religious idea could be seen as offensive. In a society where people respect each other, the offended person would talk to the other person privately, explaining why the comment or item is inappropriate or offensive. But ours is a society where simple issues that could be solved by a heartfelt conversation are increasingly settled in court. Offensensitivity is driving respect and tolerance out of the corporate workplace, and it keeps people from discovering some of the most interesting aspects of their co-workers’ personalities.

Personally, I share the opinion of Rhode Island delegate Stephen Hopkins in the movie 1776: “in all my years I ain’t never seen, heard, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about.” I would prefer the open and free expression of people’s opinions and beliefs. But not everyone feels this way. If you think one political party is better than another, or if your religious beliefs are important to you, then you had best spend time expressing these concepts outside of work. This is why I vent my feelings here, rather than climbing on a soapbox on the corporate campus. If you cannot keep away from volatile subjects at work, be ready for the potential heated comments or lawsuits that will come from hypersensitive people.