One of my least favorite sayings is “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” That’s about the same thing as saying “all allegations are at least partly true.” What I say is “where there’s smoke, there may be someone blowing smoke.” The smoke/fire fallacy is central to Birther math that says that if you add up enough allegations, regardless of their value, you get some level of proof. Put another way, they say that if you add zero enough times, you get something greater than zero.
In this article, I apply the mathematical definition of zero to a A Catalog of Evidence – Concerned Americans Have Good Reason to Doubt that Putative President Obama Was Born in Hawaii by attorney Mario Apuzzo. The Catalog (as of today, June 26, 2010) contains 35 items.When the original items are too long, I will not copy them here, but provide only a summary or indicate the omitted section with ellipses. The reader can (and is urged to) get the full text from link above. Quotes indicate text from the Catalog.
(1) “Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, told Bishop McRae, who was in the United States, during a telephonic interview on October 12, 2008, while she was in her home located in Alego-Kogello, Kenya, that was full of security police and people and family who were celebrating then-Senator Obama’s success story, that she was present to witness Obama’s birth in Kenya, not the United States…“
This story is certainly ground central for the birther explosion. In the recording, Sarah Obama does say she that she was present when he was born. She doesn’t say where she was present, nor precisely who “he” is (it could mean Obama father or son). However, she clearly corrects Bishop McRae when he jumps to the conclusion that Barack Obama II was born in Africa. The translator Ogombe says on the recording: “Sir, she says he was born in Hawaii.” Links to the recording and English transcript are available in an article here. The only reason anyone believes this indicates Obama was born in Africa is that the recording was cut off before the clarification in most early published copies, and folks like Mario Apuzzo try to spin the full version to say something it does not.
(2) The Kenyan newspaper, Daily Nation, reported that at an event in May 2010, honoring Obama’s step-grandmother, who is known there as ‘Momma Sarah,’ she commented that, ‘Even the US President passed through my hands.'”
Here is the citation to where it was said. Barack Obama did visit Africa as a young adult and met his step-grandmother. I looked around for other uses of this phrase “passed through my hands” and found this reference from an African clergyman:
Bishop Kolini’s retirement is inline with the denomination constitution that mandates the bishops to retire at 65.
“I think I have done my part and it is time for me to pass on the mantle I am an old man who needs to grow old a happy man because those that passed through my hands are now responsible people, I now have a reason to thank God for the gift of the ministry he imparted in my life” Kolini said.
Robert Mugabe uses the phrase for university students:
In my small way, starting in 1976, I made up my mind to educate one Zimbabwean child a year at Lander University. As I speak, fifty-eight Zimbabweans have passed through my hands. I will say to my grandchildren, dream and also implement your dream; here a little, there a little: it will add up.
In the dozens of examples I looked at, not one referred to the birth of a child. One might find one, but it would be unusual.
(3) The Kenyan Ambassador to the United States, Peter N.R.O. Ogego, confirmed on November 6, 2008, during a radio interview with Detroit radio talk-show hosts Mike Clark, Trudi Daniels, and Marc Fellhauer on WRIF’s “Mike In the Morning,” that “President-Elect Obama” was born in Kenya and that his birth place was already a “well-known” attraction;
This is clearly a misinterpretation, since the “well-known attraction” is the village of Kogello, not the Coast Hospital in Mombasa. The Ambassador’s assistant, the next day, said that the Ambassador was misunderstood, and that the Ambassador had no way of knowing where Obama was born. This theme will re-occur I suspect. The testimony of someone who has no reason to know something carries no weight.
(4) Ms. Odhiambo a Member of the Kenyan Parliament said in session and recorded in the official record of the Kenyan National Assembly on 5 Nov 2008 on page 3275 that Obama was a son of the soil of their country;
Of course “son of the soil” is a metaphorical term, and again Ms. Odhiambo has no reason to know where Barack Obama was born, so her testimony, even if it were something specific, carries no weight. One African commenter on this blog said:
I should add the the term ‘son of the soil’ means we have ADOPTED u as one of our own mostly u have brought Honor & , so everywhere in Africa Obama is a son of the soil. Bill Clinton is also regarded as a son in many parts of Africa
(5) Several African newspapers said in 2004 that Obama was born in Kenya. Also see this more recent one in Ghana. Africa’s press knows what the American media refuses to investigate. There have also been other reports in the media that Obama was born in Kenya. A good list of these reports may be found at where actual screen shots of the stories may be viewed;
Again, none of these newspapers provides any reason that they have such information or any reason to know, and so their testimony is worthless. Some have even printed retractions. And particularly why would a newspaper in Ghana know anything evidentiary about where Obama was born? Compare:
A major sign of hope is embodied in Obama’s personal background as a product of at least three civilisations (American, African and Islam), with a wider multiculturalism in Indonesia, when he was a child, and in Hawaii, where he was born and spent much of his childhood.
Ali A Mazuri
The Standard newspaper (Nairobi, Kenya)
Do we see a pattern emerging? Stay tuned for Part 2.