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WND trots out another birther “document expert”

Maybe I should keep that headline in a file so I wouldn’t have to keep typing it over and over.

The latest in the string of birthers at WorldNetDaily pretending to be document experts is Tom Harrison, someone whose “credentials” indicate no experience with the technical internals of graphic formats or document forensics. His expertise is claimed in graphic design and other non-graphic computer-related topics.

What struck me personally about Mr. Harrison’s report was this:

Grabbed and moved around as objects, the two groups of dots can be placed at the top of the document, giving the appearance of a large butterfly chasing a smaller butterfly, as seen in Exhibit 14.

Do you see any butterflies? I have just been reading Michael Shermer’s book The Believing Brain, where he talks about people who believe weird things, and in particular how the brains of conspiracy theorists are wired to see patterns that aren’t there. Here’s anecdotal evidence that Harrison could be suffering from a wide-open pattern recognition mechanism and an underperforming error discriminator. Usually we don’t get this kind of insight into particular birthers.

One of the hallmarks indicating that the Obama certificate was not constructed by adding text onto security paper background is that the layer under the text doesn’t show the security paper background; it’s white. If I physically print on a patterned background, the background is still there under the type. If, however, I scan that document and then remove the text from the image, there’s nothing under the type, and this is what we see with the Obama long form. It appears as if the document was scanned and PDF optimization separated the black and white text from the colored background, and what we see is that under the text there’s nothing, just white space.

What Harrison says, in a very round about way, is that it’s not just white space under the text, that the following is impossible:

two opaque colors cover each other, something that cannot be the result of a scanned piece of paper, where there can only be one color at any one pixel position.

Well, you say, isn’t that right? If you scan something into one big bitmap and then break it into layers, won’t you indeed only have one thing in one layer and not something different at the same place in other layers?

That might be true if all the layers were bitmaps, but the colored background layer (the green basket weave design) is not a bitmap, but a lossy compressed image. The background layer in the Obama long form is a relatively low resolution image and when one zooms in, the software approximates and smooths the edges, making it appear that some color is underneath the text. Mr. Harrison proves that he’s no expert when it comes to internal graphic formats, but just a birther with an opinion.

I left this comment at WorldNetDaily:

WorldNetDaily could make this all go away.

All they have to do is hire a real document examiner accredited by The American Board of Forensic Document Examiners or the American Society of Questioned Document Experts to look at the Obama long form and give an opinion.

If they said the form was fishy, the birthers would have the ammunition to move forward, and if they said it was OK, then we could all get on with our lives knowing that Barack Obama was proven Hawaiian born.

But no, WND and all of the birthers run away as fast as they can from their only chance to win. WND trots out these self-appointed experts, who by their own admission and the quality of their analysis know next to nothing about what they are talking about. All they do is stir the pot, blow smoke and distract the discussion.

Where’s the document expert?

In all fairness, WorldNetDaily did contact someone who might be considered an expert, as least someone who has testified in court on technology issues, although not precisely in the area we’re dealing with. This expert is Ivan Zatkovich of eComp Consultants. For some reason, WorldNetDaily wrote about Zatkovich’s report, but they did not release the actual report (unlike what they did for their various crank experts). What Zatkovich reportedly said, once you strip all the spin, is that he found nothing inconsistent with manual enhancement of the document to improve readability.

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28 Responses to WND trots out another birther “document expert”

  1. avatar
    Majority Will July 27, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    “Do you see any butterflies?”

    No, but birthers mesmerized by such b.s. does remind me of fly larvae.

  2. avatar
    J.Potter July 27, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    “No scanner has X-ray vision”

    Hard to argue with logic like that. At least they are down to 1 new “expert” a month. That torrid 1/week pace just couldn’t be sustained.

  3. avatar
    J.Potter July 27, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I hear a lively calliope whenever I read these “expert” rantings. “Step right up, folks! Come one, come all!”

  4. avatar
    Sef July 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Majority Will:
    “Do you see any butterflies?”

    No, but birthers mesmerized by such b.s. does remind me of fly larvae.

    Maybe he’s thinking of the Chaos Theory story about a butterfly in China creating a storm in the US. Maybe he thinks his butterfly will create a storm which will bring down the “uppity black man in our White House”.

  5. avatar
    john July 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    WND will use a document expert for the real thing when and if Hawaii will ever make it available. For now, WND relies on computer experts since the the document is an electronic image and not a piece of paper. Sorry Doc, no die. The electronic document is a forgery and it has been proven again and again and again. No one has come forward to state electronic copy is authentic. Hawaii claims it is authentic but Hawaii is as suspect as Obama and will not release the original document for forensic examination citing now nonexistent privacy law as far Obama’s BC goes.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    John once again displays his ignorance. There are certified document examiners who deal with electronic documents, not just paper documents. WND relies on birthers who know about drawing and web design. They give technical opinions in areas where they have no qualifications.

    The document hasn’t been proven a forgery; far from it. It is well attested, and you lie when you say that no one supports it. At least four experts (who are not birthers) have looked at it and said they see no problems. Only birthers are able to see the supposed flaws.

    Hawaii is “suspect” only in your own mind. Two Hawaiian administrations, one Republican and one Democrat, agree that Obama was born in Hawaii.

    You’re a liar and a fraud (and probably a troll).

    john: WND will use a document expert for the real thing when and if Hawaii will ever make it available. For now, WND relies on computer experts since the the document is an electronic image and not a piece of paper. Sorry Doc, no die. The electronic document is a forgery and it has been proven again and again and again. No one has come forward to state electronic copy is authentic. Hawaii claims it is authentic but Hawaii is as suspect as Obama and will not release the original document for forensic examination citing now nonexistent privacy law as far Obama’s BC goes.

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    I think the birthers apply their confirmation bias to WND document “expert” credentials, as they do to other evidence. They want to see that the person is an expert so things like “30 years experience” and “graphic design” turn into 30 years experience examining questioned images.

    When someone comes along like Krawetz, who actually has experience with exposing faked images, and says the long form shows no signs of fakery, the birthers pretend he doesn’t exist.

    Because I spent almost my whole professional career in technical management, I learned how to read a resume for what it really said, and not to jump to conclusions about credentials.

    J.Potter: I hear a lively calliope whenever I read these “expert” rantings. “Step right up, folks! Come one, come all!”

  8. avatar
    J.Potter July 27, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Absolutely, Doc, and to expand in this particular case, I was struck by the opening in which his technical experience is listed, how everything was lumped together, as going back to 1980, rather than broken out to detail the depth of each skill claimed. He has worked on web projects since 1980? Talk about cutting edge! And this one is really all over the place. Software designer with 30 years of experience in graphic design? Design had nothing to do with software 30 years ago. It was a manual craft until computers began encroaching around 1988 or so. Also, graphic design is a very different discipline than graphics in general. He has a “background” in math, physics, and comp sci, graduated from Dartmouth, but no degrees or dates are cited.

    I took a ballet lesson once. I has ballet background?

    And my favorite: He has used Adobe Illustrator since 1989. (!!!) Good lord the birther priests are completely infatuated with Illustrator. That line is its own paragraph, it’s that important. “Used” in what capacity? And still no explainer on what relation Illustrator has to the origin of the PDF in question. Which there won’t be. Because there isn’t one.

    Another striking feature of this series is how each of these articles seems to follow a template. Canned headline, subhead, open with a rhetorical tease of some sort, present a resume, the expert-of-the-week’s particular twist, close with rehash of accumulated WND PDF talking points which includes explicit or implied endorsement of expert-of-the-week. Surely this will eventually bore even the birthers to sleep?

    One can hope.

    Doesn’t Corsi have better things to do, like finish editing his sequels to WTBC?

    Or will those be compilations of this crap?

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I think the birthers apply their confirmation bias to WND document “expert” credentials, as they do to other evidence. They want to see that the person is an expert so things like “30 years experience” and “graphic design” turn into 30 years experience examining questioned images.

    When someone comes along like Krawetz, who actually has experience with exposing faked images, and says the long form shows no signs of fakery, the birthers pretend he doesn’t exist.

    Because I spent almost my whole professional career in technical management, I learned how to read a resume for what it really said, and not to jump to conclusions about credentials.

  9. avatar
    bob July 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    At least four experts (who are not birthers) have looked at it and said they see no problems.

    May I suggest that articles about these “experts” contain links to these four real experts, so regular readers and new visitors can compare and contrast for themselves?

  10. avatar
    Rickey July 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    And of course WND has never been able to cite a single recognized Constitutional scholar who supports the supposed “two-citizen parent requirement.” Who needs credentials and evidence?

  11. avatar
    G July 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    No surprise there at all. Of course, his image there shows that he also fits the stereotypical birther age demographic too. Just another old, white guy having trouble dealing with the world as it is today…

    Loren: To the surprise of no one, Tom Harrison is a pre-existing Birther:http://twitter.com/#!/ts4tomhSpecifically:http://twitter.com/#!/ts4tomh/status/13159129199681538http://twitter.com/#!/ts4tomh/status/72743387538788352http://twitter.com/#!/ts4tomh/status/86477066148651008http://twitter.com/#!/ts4tomh/status/89897673938845696

  12. avatar
    sactosintolerant July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    To be as fair as I can be to birthers, I think Illustrator and Photoshop expertise seems on a very surface level to be relevant. The PDF appears to be an image on your screen. Having played around with PDF optimization though, I think Illustrator and Photoshop expertise is worse than irrelevant, it’s harmful since the expectation that an optimized PDF exhibits the same characteristics as an Illustrator and Photoshop image file is wrong.

    I AM still amazed that he didn’t verify his one-color-per pixel claim on another optimized PDF… heck, PDF the COLB JPG, optimize it, and take a look! I guess if you assume the behavior of multilayered Illustrator and Photoshop images apply to optimized PDFs, you don’t feel the need to verify.

  13. avatar
    J.Potter July 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Sure, it appears to be relevant, they’re used to create images. It’s the shameless exploitation of ignorance that is the evil of WND. They don’t seek to educate their audience by providing good information, but rather brainwash them by putting on a semblance of an explanation. Knowing is half the battle, and WND seeks to control what the sheep know. Innoculating them against good information by making them think they already know what they’re talking about!

    Pretty sick, Chubbs.

    sactosintolerant:
    To be as fair as I can be to birthers, I think Illustrator and Photoshop expertise seems on a very surface level to be relevant. The PDF appears to be an image on your screen. Having played around with PDF optimization though, I think Illustrator and Photoshop expertise is worse than irrelevant, it’s harmful since the expectation that an optimized PDF exhibits the same characteristics as an Illustrator and Photoshop image file is wrong.

    I AM still amazed that he didn’t verify his one-color-per pixel claim on another optimized PDF… heck, PDF the COLB JPG, optimize it, and take a look! I guess if you assume the behavior of multilayered Illustrator and Photoshop images apply to optimized PDFs, you don’t feel the need to verify.

  14. avatar
    Daniel July 27, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    sactosintolerant: Illustrator and Photoshop expertise seems on a very surface level to be relevant.

    Kind of like when both a trash collector and a civil engineer have experience in waste disposal…. but there’s only one of them I’d want designing my city’s sewage disposal system.

  15. avatar
    Jorge July 27, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    I’ve never used Adobe Illustrator, but that doesn’t matter since the original document should be the focus not all the bovine offal blown up everyone’s rectum by Wld nutter daily.

    Can I type FOGBLOW??? and get that special BJ offer from the “Teabaggers” just for Fogbow members… I guess when you are that old, you can just take out your teeth, pop in a couple of Altoids® and get to work. I hear that Dean will be offering a “Snorkeling Special for September”.

  16. avatar
    PaulG July 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Daniel: Kind of like when both a trash collector and a civil engineer have experience in waste disposal…. but there’s only one of them I’d want designing my city’s sewage disposal system.

    I agree, although the trash collector’s input is as welcome as everybody else’s, once the system is working.

  17. avatar
    Sef July 27, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Jorge:
    I’ve never used Adobe Illustrator, but that doesn’t matter since the original document should be the focus not all the bovine offal blown up everyone’s rectum by Wld nutter daily.

    Can I type FOGBLOW??? and get that special BJ offer from the “Teabaggers” just for Fogbow members… I guess when you are that old, you can just take out your teeth, pop in a couple of Altoids® and get to work. I hear that Dean will be offering a “Snorkeling Special for September”.

    In addition to irony meters I’m going to have to stock up on brain bleach. My supply is running low, especially after that comment.

  18. avatar
    Sef July 27, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    PaulG: I agree, although the trash collector’s input is as welcome as everybody else’s, once the system is working.

    Here’s where customer requirements vs supplier specs come into play. Only one of them gets to define the supplier specs.

  19. avatar
    sactosintolerant July 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Is it just me or are all the white dots on the PDF on the lighter part of the security paper (i.e., not on the dark green bars)?

  20. avatar
    AnotherBird July 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    All these experts. Anyone who suggest a document is fake by looking at a picture of it is either a genius or silly. Reading the arguments from these experts, the only conclusion that I can come to is that they are silly. The butterfly effect is just a catchy term to make something seem more important than it really is.

    When someone is looking at a copy of a copy trying to suggest it is fake, they are just being silly. I wish these ‘experts’ would put away there toy chemistry set.

    Experts actually look at the actual document before determining it is fake, unless it is a really sloppy LDS like job.

  21. avatar
    BatGuano July 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    sactosintolerant:
    To be as fair as I can be to birthers, I think Illustrator and Photoshop expertise seems on a very surface level to be relevant. The PDF appears to be an image on your screen. Having played around with PDF optimization though, I think Illustrator and Photoshop expertise is worse than irrelevant,….

    agreed, and i say this as a graphic artist who works almost exclusively in illustrator. just because you’ve driven a car doesn’t make you an expert in auto mechanics.

    the part that i find odd is why anyone claiming to be an expert who had any working of knowledge of illustrator would claim the forgery was done in illustrator. the program is designed for layout, not photo manipulation.

  22. avatar
    PaulG July 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    Sef: Here’s where customer requirements vs supplier specs come into play. Only one of them gets to define the supplier specs.

    Certainly sewers are nothing you want to rush into. Please, don’t make me start using smilies.

  23. avatar
    J.Potter July 27, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    Well, the same day the PDF was released, a lot of people all over the place opened it. PDF is native to Illustrator, and no doubt many people have Illustrator open their PDFs by default. People happened to open it in Illustrator, noted the existence of overlapping objects (unfortunately everyone termed them “layers”), and the assumptions ran wild from there.

    The earliest blog entry I have seen is from ~2:30pm the date of the release (first comment is at 2:55pm).
    http://bryankeithnixon.com/?p=103&cpage=1#comments

    By 9pm the “BC PDF HAS LAYERS” meme was EVERYWHERE in the online birther / winger worlds.

    WND’s was somewhat late to the party; their earliest(?) post from 4/28 is quite interesting:
    http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=292673

    Note it isn’t by Corsi, it quotes Nathan Goulding, and contains more real, useful information than any of Corsi weekly expert pieces, which have IMO grown dumber and more deperate over time, as layers of assumption pile up.

    BatGuano: agreed, and i say this as a graphic artist who works almost exclusively in illustrator. just because you’ve driven a car doesn’t make you an expert in auto mechanics.

    the part that i find odd is why anyone claiming to be an expert who had any working of knowledge of illustrator would claim the forgery was done in illustrator. the program is designed for layout, not photo manipulation.

  24. avatar
    Obsolete July 27, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    So yet again, the birthers cannot find an “expert” to declare Obama’s LFBC PDF a “forgery” who wasn’t already a birther.

    The fact that birthers don’t see anything wrong with this speaks volumes of them and their bias.

  25. avatar
    sactosintolerant July 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    J.Potter:
    unfortunately everyone termed them “layers”

    I totally disagree. The fact that even the Photoshop and Illustrator “experts” call them layers always amuses me and says a lot about how much expertise they really have. The irony that these experts call them layers while birthers would throw a fit it you called the COLB a birth certificate is too delicious even if few people get it.

  26. avatar
    J. Potter August 1, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    Whoops, forgot to mention the best thing about Harrison’s contribution to birther PDF madness. His white dot butterfly is indeed there … it’s highlights on the raised seal birthers love to insist isn’t on the LFBC PDF! What a fail.If the background wasn’t such a low-quality / low-res image, the seal would be more obvious. I’ve been pointing it out to birthers since late May. They haven’t appreciated it. In a piece of classic WND misdirection, it’s not a circlular seal, it’s a “butterfly”!

    If you haven’t noticed it yet, the top of the seal is centered at the “21.” in box 21, and reaches about halfway to the “April 25, 2011” date stamp at bottom.

  27. avatar
    thisoldhippie August 1, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    I got “called out” on Orly’s site regarding her experts. I think she thinks I’m an attorney!

    http://www.orlytaitzesq.com/?p=24306