The one thing I hate more than misinformation is long-winded misinformation, something I was referred to this morning at The Daily Pen, authored by Penbrook Johannson. The article is Vital Records Indicate Obama Not Born in Hawaii Hospital (Part 1) and it’s a revival of the old “Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud because his certificate number is out of chronological order with the Nordyke twins” only this time with a lot more words.
I’ve dealt with this crank before in my article: Pen spills ink, makes mess. Given that we already have the birth certificate of Barack Obama indicating he was born at Kapi’olani hospital, a certificate prominently referenced by the State Department of Health on their web site, we can confidently say that anyone who comes with a complicated weaving of things to conclude otherwise is in all probability wrong. That’s the case here.
This Daily Pen article, which is indicated as “part 1 of 3”) is already painfully long. Mr. Johannson has the trappings of real research in his article, locating the 1961 Vital Statistics of the US – Volume 1: Natality (which we’ve mentioned here on several occasions). For extra credit he found the coding manuals (although not the manual for 1961 which the Department of Health and Human Services has told me no longer exists in their files) and even the Inman FOIA response. However, no amount of research is going to yield valid results if one misrepresents the research, and that’s what Johannson does. While the article is huge, mistakes are easy to locate.
Here’s the first error (emphasis mine):
In Hawaii in 1961, birth registration records were collected by the State of Hawaii’s Department of Health each week for births registered throughout the five regional offices between the previous Sunday at Midnight through Saturday at 11:59 p.m. Records from the five reporting counties were grouped in order by their geographic reference code into the seven groups shown above. Then the state of Hawaii’s Vital Statistics Registrar assigned birth registration numbers based, first, on regional occurrence with secondary consideration for chronological occurrence, as so stated in the 1961 Vital Statistics of the U.S. Report in Section 5, pg. 5-8.
I can only speculate why Johannson’s paragraph doesn’t hyperlink to the 1961 Vital Statistics of the U. S. (VSUS) document anywhere in his long report, a report that links to all sorts of other official sources, and which contains images from the 1961 document. One possible explanation is that he didn’t want anyone to actually read it. That makes sense because it doesn’t support the paragraph excerpted preceding. Here’s what it actually says in Section 5, Pg. 5-8 (and this is on PDF page 232 for your convenience):
With few exceptions, records are numbered in the State offices of vital statistics as they are received from the local offices.
It’s not clear to me exactly what Johannson means by “chronological occurrence” but in vital records jargon “occurrence” refers to the birth event, not registration. If you read the entire VSUS paragraph, what it says, and I loosely paraphrase, “in all but a few states, records are numbered as they are received, and they are usually received in batches from local offices (that correspond to geographical regions), so just looking at the even-numbered certificates doesn’t introduce systematic bias into the sampling.”
We already know from the State of Hawaii that they were one of the “few exceptions” states, that they numbered certificates at the end of their registration process, not when the records were received, and statistical analysis further suggests that they were numbered monthly. In fact, 1961 was the first year that Hawaii’s data appeared in the NCHS Natality statistics, further distancing their processes from that of other states.
Johannson tries to take the general descriptive statement from VSUS and turn it into a strict processing rule, as in:
This means that as birth registration requests arrived at states’ main Department of Health offices, registrars had to first account them in order of receipt from regional office locations around the state.
But that’s not what VSUS says. There was no requirement imposed by NCHS, only a description of the process was in most states. He continues on this fantasy theme by saying:
In order to avoid this statistical inaccuracy, states adopted regional birth numbering which assigned an equal percentage of even numbers within all birth regions, not just cities and densely populated areas. This allowed rural and urban births to be accounted accurately regardless of their chronological occurrence.
Again, VSUS didn’t say states adopted numbering schemes for this purpose.
Now it gets really weird as Johannson says:
The 1961 Vital Statistics Report of the United States reveals in Section 5-5 that birth statistics are classified by the mother’s usual place of residence. This means that, in Hawaii in 1961, if the mother of a child resided in Region 4 (in Honolulu County but outside of the Incorporated area of the City of Honolulu), but came into the City of Honolulu (Region 3) to have the child at one of the urban hospitals, the vital statistics for that baby were recorded by the Department of health as occurring in Region 4, not Region 3. However, if the father was a resident alien, foreign student or undocumented immigrant, the mother’s usual place of residence was considered the place of occurrence, regardless of the birth location.
The problems with the preceding paragraph are manifold. The first issue is contextual. The section referenced (5-5 on PDF page 229) regards a table of of state-level data derived from “checkbox item for usual residence.” It’s not where the birth occurred, or where the birth was registered, but what was checked on the box. This is a minor point that doesn’t affect the argument.
What follows does affect the argument. Here’s the real VSUS text (emphasis mine):
Place of residence in birth statistics refers to the geographic area which constituted the mother’s usual place of residence at the time of birth. …
… For nonresident aliens, the place of residence is considered to be the same as the place of occurrence. …
The word “father” appears nowhere in that section (nor does “resident alien, foreign student or undocumented immigrant”). Johannson says “resident alien” but the document says “nonresident alien” and the other two classes are not mentioned at all. All the document says is that a non-resident alien mother does not have a usual place of residence in the United States (duh!), so they use the place of birth instead.
At this point my BS tolerance is exceeded, and I stop the analysis.