Passport to Trouble

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Since it was disclosed last week by the State Department that some contract employees were caught prying into passport information about Barack Obama and John McCain the State Department has launched an investigation. They are not the only ones investigating!

The news media has come up with the supposedly alarming fact that the Office of Passport Services, a branch of the State Department, employs approximately 2,500 contractors in different offices throughout the country. I say ‘supposedly’ alarming because, according to the State Department, these contract employees are investigated as thoroughly as any government employee so the risk of getting people with ties to criminal or anti-American organizations should be no greater than it would be if only government employees were used.

Why so many contractors? Because applications for passports have risen dramatically in the wake of the new government requirements for travelers to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean to have passports. In 2006, for example, there were 12 million passports issued; the new regulation took effect in January of 2007 and as a result in 2007 the number of passports applied for and issued grew to 18 million.

When you apply for a passport there are people, government employees or contractors, who will have access to all the information you supply on the passport application, starting with the lady or gentleman behind the counter in your local passport office, and others who will have access to the information (times, dates, etc.) that is accumulated as you use the passport in various countries around the world. The only way to get around this is to not apply for a passport and , as a result, not travel internationally.

Much more troublesome on the passport front is a series of articles in the Washington Times discussing the export of our new electronic passports overseas. Yes, there are places in Taiwan and other countries where U.S. Passports are being manufactured, using our technology and materials. There is a growing concern about the security of such operations outside of our borders and — to put the icing on the cake, also a new scandal brewing.

Here is a disturbing quote from the Washington Times article:

“The Government Printing Office’s decision to export the work has proved lucrative, allowing the agency to book more than $100 million in recent profits by charging the State Department more money for blank passports than it actually costs to make them, according to interviews with federal officials and documents obtained by The Times.

The profits have raised questions both inside the agency and in Congress because the law that created GPO as the federal government’s official printer explicitly requires the agency to break even by charging only enough to recover its costs.”

If the GPO, a government agency, can be that blatantly unethical, it begs the question: what else have they done and how might they have already impacted national security?

I guess we can put the blame for this episode on our favorite whipping boy, G.W. Bush. He is an outspoken fan of outsourcing — mainly, as the GPO can attest to, because it saves the government money. I’m a big fan of saving money but when it comes to saving it at the possible expense of National Security, as with the case of taking the manufacture of our electronic passports (those “keys” to our country’s main entrance) outside of the U.S., I would prefer to go with the lowest bidder among American owned and operated companies.

News Links:

Associated Press: Passport Case Raises Outsourcing Concern

Washington Times: Outsourced passports netting govt. profits, risking national security

Blog Links:

The Conservative Beacon: U.S. Outsources Manufacturing of Passports

ars technica: Analysis: the Obama/Hillary passport breaches and Real ID

Whymrhymer’s P.O.V. can also be found at the Blogger News Network at the American Chronicle and now also at Blogcritics Magazine.

A “Typical White Person’s” Perspective

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Barack Obama apparently deftly delivered another bullet to his foot with his recent comments about his “white grandmother.” He called her a “typical white person” and the news commentators on radio and TV are lovin’ it! The tone of their comments boil down to this: ‘How dare he, a black man running for president, use racial stereotypes when racial stereotypes have done so much to hurt civil rights.’

Well take it from a typical white person, stereotypes or not, I can certainly understand his grandmother’s fear of walking past certain people (be they white, black, Hispanic or other) on any street. WHY? Simply because some of them are very different and different is, to many of us typical white people, not good — in fact it’s scary sometimes. I used to feel the same way.

To be clear here, I’m not talking about skin color (actually skin color has almost nothing to do with “racial” attitudes) and I’m not talking about people who I have previously met, I’m talking about that stranger who’s mannerism, dress and body language — in general terms, the way he or she presents his/her self — is so different from my own that it send out a danger signal. Be honest, you’ve all seen them! They are the punks who walk down the street talking loud and giving everyone they see “the look” that says ‘hey, you better not be lookin’ at me or I’ll jump your a**; they are the bleary-eyed drunks and druggies who look like they are ready to do anything for another drink or ‘fix’; they are almost any young people who are travel in “packs”, acting like they are the kings and queens of the sidewalk and YOU are on THEIR sidewalk.’

Am I a racist for thinking this or seeing people that way? Hell no! I’m just a typical white person who has been raised to behave a certain way and to expect people to behave a certain, non-threatening way. I’m sure that neither Barack’s white grandmother or I are the least bit intimidated by 95+% of the people we see on the street no matter what color they are. Perhaps if Barack’s white grandmother spent more time in urban ghettos she would become accustomed to all the different manners of dress and behavior — perhaps if I spent more time there I would also be more comfortable with those who seem to go out of their way to look and act “different.”

Over time I’ve become immune to most of those differences by spending time in what are usually called “bad” neighborhoods; my work takes me there so it was a forced immunity — not something either Barack’s Grandmother or I would have a reason to do voluntarily.

News Links:

U.S. News and World Report: Obama ‘Typical White Person’ Comment Delights Clinton Aides

ABC News: Obama Attempts to Clarify “Typical White Person” and Which Offensive Comments He Heard at Church

Blog Links:

Shanebertou.com: One Typical White Person’s Reaction

Texas Hold ’em Blogger: ‘A TYPICAL WHITE PERSON’

Obama’s Impossible Mission

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Can we assume that Barack Obama feels that it is the job of a president to heal racial wounds that were inflicted centuries ago? From his own remarks its a safe bet that he does.

In Obama’s beautifully crafted oration on race this week he made some very obvious points: poor people are stuck in a cycle of poverty; less educated people get poorer paying jobs; many public schools are dishing out substandard education. He made these points with special emphasis on the black community and very clearly stated:

“We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.”

Why, you may be asking yourself do we need to remind ourselves about past inequities? That, at any rate, is what I’m asking myself! How does that help?

Obama then went on to say:

“This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.”

‘Fixing’ Racism From the Oval Office

Look beyond the oratory and beyond the humble facade in this last statement and you will see that Obama truly believes that racism in the U.S. today is a problem that the president and the U.S. government can somehow, eventually, legislate out of existence. Not, he said “in a single election cycle” and not “with a single candidacy” but the implication is clear — he believes that, over time, the government should and can fix it!

It is the stark absurdity of this proposition that should raise eyebrows (and blood pressures). Racial inequality, as well as inequality based on gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs and personal preferences are not problems that will ever be solved with the stroke of a pen — not in the next administration or in any administration following that — provided we are still living in a Democracy and we are still bound by the Constitution.

Today, thanks to government prohibitions on discrimination in the workplace and in public facilities of all kinds, institutionalized racism is as dead as it can be in a free and democratic society. If we are to move beyond that we will be in a territory that we do not want to enter. Forcing people to coexist in public is one thing but that, as we all know, is not where racism ‘lives.’ Racism lives in the head and the heart! It will not be erased by presidential edict or by any legislation that could possibly be considered legal under our Constitution.

The Specter of Quotas

The only “tool” the government has left to address racial inequality is the racial quota; and the quota, as evil as racism itself, is not dead yet.

The majority of Americans are intelligent enough to realize that a particular ratio of white to black to brown faces in a school, college, university or work place will not enhance anyone’s education or make a company run more efficiently. If schools with a majority of black students provide substandard education, it is the problem with the schools that needs to be addressed not the colors of the students. If a company bases its hiring decisions on race and not on the qualifications of the applicants, that company will either fail due to its own ineptness or it will eventually wise up and revise its hiring practices.

Racial quotas accomplish only one thing, they stir up resentment: resentment from the person who is benefited by a quota and who knows, deep down inside, that he or she has accomplished nothing, they’ve just been “thrown a bone;” and resentment from the person who was denied an admission or a job just because they were not the right color.

Links:

CBS News: Transcript: Barack Obama’s Speech On Race

The American Spectator: Taking the Civil Rights Initiative

Blog Links:

All Things In Their Place: Obama’s Race Speech: Critically Acclaimed Flop, Or Ballot Box Office Gold?

Wolf Pangloss: The Speech Obama Didn’t Give

Whymrhymer’s P.O.V. can also be found at the Blogger News Network at the American Chronicle and now also at Blogcritics Magazine.

Religious Rock Stars and the Presidency

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Mark Edward Manning begins his latest article at Blogcritics Magazine with a question:

“I’m sorry, but is it just me, or does being associated with religion in an American election seem contentious to the point of stupidity?”

A very good question; and a perfect word to describe the state of religion in America and in American politics in particular: contentious. Unfortunately in today’s America that association is automatic.

There was supposed to have been a time when religion was a very personal thing — the widely circulated rumor was that if you “believed” and behaved according to those beliefs, you had a chance to save your soul to spend the eternity after this mortal existence in a paradise. On the other hand if you rejected religion or misused it there was the promise of ‘brimstone.’ By some standards, those must have been the good old days.

Now it seems that the quest for personal salvation is no longer a ‘top shelf’ concern; we are to be more concerned about the moral character of our politicians and the humanity of our foreign policy. Religion has hit the big time! “Ladies and gentlemen,” said the preacher to his flock, “religion has just left the building.”

BTW: Thanks, by the way to Jerry Falwell and all those other swell folks at the original Moral Majority for designing and installing V.1 of this religious retrofit.

The specific question Mr Manning is asking in his article is ‘what’s a politician to do?’ A combination of two factors has made the politician’s quest for office considerably more complex:

The first factor is, many religious leaders are now as visible and as media-aware as rock stars and most every one of them has a vision of a religion-centered government and a personal revelation of the sad fate of the world if that vision doesn’t reach fruition.

The second factor is the media. One of the first concerns of today’s media (at least this is the way it seems) is not a politician’s views on the important issues, it is who is supporting his or her candidacy and THEIR views on important issues. It is here that the religious “rock stars” enter the picture and here where the controversy starts.

Two well-known cases in point are Barack Obama and John McCain. Both are religious fellows, both Christians, and both have controversial preachers who have latched onto their presidential bandwagons. Obama is being nearly mortally wounded by his very controversial, long-term pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright who has, quite illogically, become the media doppelganger for Obama himself. Obama’s constant battle to disassociate himself from the Rev. Wright’s inflammatory rhetoric, while maintaining his personal friendship, has a wearing effect on his candidacy. In many minds he is guilty by association — not surprising! How many of us grew up hearing the slogan: “birds of a feather flock together” and how many of us still have a tendency to believe it.

John McCain has his own religious anchor around his neck and, while it has not been as well reported as Obama’s, it has still raised some eyebrows among the still powerful Christian Right. McCain’s friendly nemesis is a televangelist named John Hagee who has endorsed McCain and who, it is said, believes that the only good Catholic is one that has converted to Protestantism. McCain has managed to keep his distance from the controversial Hagee and the media has not found any reason to raise the issue to scandal status.

What make this whole situation interesting and a bit ironic is that every year, around the holidays, we hear cries from the Christian community that religion is being discriminated against by evil sectarian influences in our society; but then every fourth year religion seems to makes a dramatic comeback and is suddenly one of the most important factors in the selection of a president. If, by the way, you think I exaggerate on that last point, you might ask yourself why that nearly perfect Conservative, Mitt Romney, is not now the Republican standard bearer.

News Links:

Blogcritics Magazine: And the Yoke Shall Deliver You from Evil?

LA Times: The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was an early concern, Obama aide admits

Blog Links:

Political Night Train: What Did Obama Know About Jeremiah Wright, & When Did He Know It?

Dr. Jim West: John Hagee Takes the Smacking He Deserves

Whymrhymer’s P.O.V. can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at the American Chronicle.

The Blackness of Barack Obama

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When Geraldine Ferraro, the first ever female vice presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, told a California newspaper:

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position [as front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination], “and if he was a woman he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

She was either: a) not thinking at all, b) was speaking out of anger because she was on the team that is currently loosing (she was on Hillary Clinton’s campaign finance team), or c) she really believes that Barack Obama is succeeding because he is a black man running against a white woman.

I think “c” is probably the correct answer and, if it is, that certainly doesn’t speak very highly for Ms. Ferraro’s intelligence or for her objectivity.

Obama’s response to Ms. Ferraro’s mouthings was priceless (and accurate); according to a Rueters article (linked below):

When asked about Ferraro’s remarks, Obama said that being an ‘African American man named Barack Obama’ was not the quickest path to becoming U.S. president.

Barack Obama is where he is today, which is very close to becoming the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, because he is intelligent, an excellent speaker and possesses that nearly mystical quality of ‘charisma;’ in short, he is all the things Clinton is not.

Everywhere Barack Obama goes, he speaks in platitudes and slogans, refines and repeats the mindless Liberal drivel about our “damaged status in the world,” castigates President Bush for all sorts of supposed crimes against the American people and against humanity in general, and yet . . . yet he charms the pants off of his audiences. Does anyone think . . . or COULD anyone seriously think that this happens only because he is black?

As result of the uproar in the press and within the Democratic party over Geraldine Ferraro’s remark, Ferraro has tendered her resignation from Sen. Clinton’s campaign; just as, last week, a foreign policy adviser on Obama’s campaign staff was forced to resign for calling Clinton a “monster.”

My, aren’t we being nice — and that “we” includes Sen. McCain, who will be the Republican presidential standard bearer, and who has forbidden any member of his staff to be rude or to call the two Democrats any uncivil names. I wonder just how long all this niceness will last!

In the debates that will follow the two nominating conventions it’s almost a sure bet that the two candidates will be trading jabs and accusations, will be spouting exaggerated truths about themselves and each other and may even engage in some name calling; so for now, let’s enjoy the civility.

News Links:

Reuters: Geraldine Ferraro defends remarks about Obama

ABC News: Ferraro Steps Down From Clinton Campaign

Blog Links:

Bolson on: For Geraldine Ferraro: Obama’s popularity is a black and white issue.

Pennsylvania for Change: Clinton backer Geraldine Ferraro sparks new Obama race storm

Whymrhymer’s P.O.V. can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at the American Chronicle.

Is China Running Scared from the Power of the Religious Few

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The Times of India reports that the atheist government of China is set to “implement the regulations on religious affairs” in order to promote “social harmony.”

The statement that notified the world of this new Chinese government policy came from Jia Qinglin, the chairman of something called the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Here is his statement, as it was translated into English by the Times of India:

“We should fully follow the policy on freedom of religious belief, implement the regulations on religious affairs, and conduct thorough research on important and difficult issues related to religion.”

He then went on to justify this by saying that he felt that it is the government’s responsibility to “guide religious leaders and believers to improve their lives, and make full use of their positive role in promoting social harmony.”

There can be little doubt about what that means in plain, non-bureaucratic English (or Chinese); it means that the various non-atheist institutions in the country will either ‘toe the government line’ or they will be punished for promoting ‘social disharmony’.

Actually nothing has changed except the perceived legality of the government’s stranglehold on organized religion (or any other individuals or organizations that dare to publicly criticize or rebel against the Chinese government).

Statistically there are very few members of organized religions in China. Of the estimated 1.3 billion people in China there are, officially, only 100 million people who belong to Christian, Buddhist, Islamic or other religions. Like most things in China, that number of 100 million may be made up but it still paints a fairly accurate picture of the situation. In view of the small percentage of religious believers in China, this new edict regarding religion says something very important: the powerful, omnipotent Chinese government is as timid as a rabbit when faced with any potential religious activism against the government — especially with the Olympics coming to China.

News Links:

The Times of India: Religion for harmony

Religious Intelligence: China ‘can use religion to enhance social harmony’

Blog Links:

Vital Signs: Has Communist China Caught the Olympic Spirit?

Global Politics Online: China – Political Monitor

Whymrhymer’s P.O.V. can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at the American Chronicle.

Iraq: Ahmadinejad Poised for Victory

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The stink is in the air! The bitter stink of defeat! Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, can smell it in what he hopes is a victory for one of America’s Liberal candidates. Either one would be fine by him — Obama and Clinton are both poised to rapidly abandon Iraq and he, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is poised to move right in.

This weekend, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the first step. In a historic visit to Iraq, one that Ahmadinejad is portraying as a “brotherly” visit. He was met with a “red-carpet” welcome by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani; they kissed and listened to the Iraqi and the Iranian National Anthems played one after another. They then had a meeting, after which Ahmadinejad happily proclaimed:

“We had very good talks that were friendly and brotherly. … We have mutual understandings and views in all fields, and both sides plan to improve relations as much as possible.”

Apparently President Talabani can smell it to! The stink that emanates from America’s planned abandonment of Iraq — abandonment to terrorist tribes who will rapidly unseat any government that is not aligned with Iran and Seria and who will quickly undo the years of effort the United States invested in their freedom from terrorism and freedom from Islamic law. Ready to make the best of a bad situation, Talabani will happily allow Ahmadinejad to ‘pull his strings,’ make him dance to the Iranian National Anthem (soon to also be Iraq’s National Anthem) and set a place at his table for the Mullahs, the REAL leaders of Iran, who are waiting in the wings.

The big question is, do the majority of American’s care! If not they will place a vote for defeat in November by voting for the Democratic candidate; if they do care they will place a vote in the column of the only candidate who understands that withdrawing from Iraq will do far more than allow Iran to move in — it will turn the Iraq into an unapologetic terrorist training camp, it will set the stage for the next terrorist attack on American soil, it will put Israel on a war footing that will last only a short time until the “brothers” of Iran and Iraq launch a serious attack on Israel and draw the United States into a new war that promises to make the Iraq war look like a minor skirmish.

We in the United States face this choice in November. Are we up to it? Do we care?

News Links:

Christian Science Monitor: Ahmadinejad’s Iraq visit bolsters Iran’s influence

Bloomberg: Ahmadinejad Holds `Constructive’ Talks in Baghdad

Blog Links:

Moderate Observer: Iran leader’s Iraq visit eclipses US, Arab ties

The Foxhole: