The birthers (and to a lesser extent the anti-birthers) approach the Cold Case Posse’s claims that Barack Obama’s Selective Service System is a forgery at a disadvantage. The difficulty is that they are introduced to the topic along with a set of “facts,” a pre-packaged way of interpreting those facts, exhibits with lines and arrows suggesting how to look at them, and a conclusion. No one who looks at the Cold Case Posse report has the opportunity to see the evidence with a fresh viewpoint without a pre-manufactured context.
The purpose of this article is not to refute the Cold Case Posse’s report, but to give folks the tools to look at the evidence independently with perhaps a fresh viewpoint.
I collect postage stamps, some on envelopes. As a result, I have a number of old covers (that’s what stamp collectors call them) from the 1980’s and a few of them are hand-canceled. So let me share what I have. But first, let’s look at an exhibit from the Cold Case Posse report, their Exhibit G. The mark on the left is Obama’s registration and the one on the right is a from some other form.
Cold Case Posse Exhibit G
You notice that some lines have been added to show that the placement of the “80” on Obama’s form is too far to the right compared to the “authentic one.” But look again. the “authentic one” isn’t centered. The CCP is prejudicing you to believe that a badly-centered date is normal. Below is one from my collection centered the way it obviously should be. See how the “8” is perfectly centered under the day digit, just like the Obama registration stamp. The CCP, on the other hand, clearly has the “8” not centered—far to the left of where it belongs. Does this mean that the CCP “authentic image” is a fake? By their standards, I guess it is. In fact the date slugs are mechanically inserted into the stamp and don’t have to be perfectly centered.
Properly-centered year slug
Oh, and did you notice that Exhibit G shows a straight-on photo of the “authentic stamp” but shoots the Obama cancellation from an angle? Here’s a perfect circle superimposed on the image. The slight bulge intensifies the effect of the “80” being down and to the right.
In a straight-on shot, rotated to horizontal, the “80” looks 100% normal to me.
OK, next Cold Case Posse “fact.” The forger had to make a date stamp from a “2008” stamp (inverting the “08”) because one can’t buy a real “1980” date stamp. Check out this next picture:
That’s a rubber stamp made from letters I had in my desk drawer. Pretty close without even looking for something better. Of course, I would have to take a knife and shave off some to get the numbers closer together, but that wouldn’t be a problem for someone with the resources to hack into the Selective Service System computer and plant a fake registration and image.
Now let’s look at things from another angle: rotate the Cold Case Posse exhibit upside down.
Details from Cold Case Posse Exhibit G, rotated
Is an upside down “8” the same as a right-side up one? Not really. Notice that the “8” on the sample (left) is clearly top-heavy. While the eye is trained to see both loops the same, when it’s inverted, the difference jumps out. You’ll have to judge for yourself if the Obama “8” is really inverted. I don’t think it is. While this image is on screen, ask yourself the question, why is it not OK for the Obama stamp to have the “19” missing, but it’s OK for the “genuine” one to have the “O” in Honolulu missing?
Now let’s ask the question of whether poor inking can explain the missing year on the Obama registration. Take a look at a scan of a cancellation from my collection:
Black and white scan
These images are all done with the default settings. The image of the Obama registration is a B&W image, probably from a government imaging system that only does black and white.
Here’s another with bits missing, which is even more surprising because this is philatelic mail that usually gets stamped with care:
Bits missing – cover from American Philatelic Society
Now here’s a curious cancel from New York. I have 8 of these on several envelopes from the same post office. Do you see a year? I don’t see one on any of them.
Consistent missing year from New York
And finally, take a look at this one just to appreciate that the real world is messy.
The real world is messy
I hope what the reader will appreciate from these brief samples is that postal hand cancels commonly have parts missing. Black and white imaging can lose things that aren’t dark. Lines added to images can mislead the eye. Rubber date stamp numbers can be bought out of a catalog (I even found genuine USPS ones on eBay).
When someone presents pre-digested evidence, one has to step back and ask if there are other ways of looking at things.