The photograph at the right has been altered, but it represents something I actually saw, but didn’t have a camera to record: a long row of black birds sitting on a wire with one white bird at the end. When I saw that I was reminded of a discussion in philosophy class about proving a negative. The question was “does examining black crows shed any light on the question of whether or not there are any white crows?”1
One sees the examination of black crows in many fringe arguments, such as ones that say that the Egyptian Pyramids could not have been built without the help of space aliens because examination of some suggested construction techniques (black crows) can’t explain how they were built.
We see the examination of black crows in the Cold Case Posse report of a thousand experiments unsuccessfully trying to scan a birth certificate that results in a PDF file like that from the White House. (I don’t necessarily believe the 1,000 experiment story, but that’s beside the point.)
The first birther crow counters examined scanning software and concluded that no such software created layers, so no white crow (an authentic Obama scanned birth certificate) existed. Ivan Zatkovich (a real expert witness and not a birther) counting crows said that “[w]hen a paper document is scanned on a scanner and saved as a PDF file it normally contains only a single layer of graphical information” and concluded that the layers (of different resolutions) indicated one of the following must be the case:
1. Someone was changing the content of both the text and the stamps.
2. Someone was systematically enhancing the black text layers for legibility, and then enhancing the stamp overlays separately for legibility.
Of course everybody today acknowledges today that Zatkovich’s conclusion is spurious, since several PDF scanning and creation software packages normally create layers of different resolutions (e.g. Adobe Acrobat) through a process Adobe calls “adaptive optimization.”
More vigorous crow counting examined the “halo” effect surrounding the text on the PDF. They counted software that created halos and finding none concluded that no white crow existed. Zatkovich also made this mistake:
The PDF document was then modified in some fashion (e.g. layers, white halo).
Zatkovich concluded, however, that what he saw was consistent with modification to increase readability, not necessarily modification to deceive. Still he never found that what he saw could be an automatic optimization process in standard software. Currently, Garrett Papit repeats the halo argument in his report for the Cold Case Posse:
Optimization does not randomly add a white halo or white space beneath the text
However, he only counted black crows, and failed to find the white crow (for example this from a paper on MRC compression):
Since the selector plane is binary and the edge transitions are smooth, it is not possible to contain all the Foreground in one plane and all the Background in another. The effect in images is that of a “halo” around the text in the FG/BG planes…
A large number of other black crows have been counted by birthers and John Woodman in his book, Is Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate a Fraud? deals with these misguided efforts.
Garrett Papit for his part continues to count black crows (software that doesn’t create multiple 1-bit layers). Is there any doubt that it is just a matter of time before this one falls like the rest2? After all, we have pictures of white crows already! [Update: The software was eventually discovered, it was the firmware in a Xerox WorkCentre 7655 that the White House owns.]
1The answer is, by the way, that there are white (albino) crows.
2One problem is that high-end PDF software to scan and convert documents to PDF format can be rather pricy, one example over $1,200. A birther may rightly argue that I haven’t proved that the Obama certificate is legitimate. I respond that the proof is in the State of Hawaii’s verification of the documents entire content (click on the BC image for that verification). This article just documents a series of debunked claims from birthers about the long form and their continued retreat from prior positions. If I had to choose between a massive conspiracy involving the White House, the State of Hawaii an who knows who else placed against the incompetence of birther volunteer document wonks, it should be obvious what I and any rational person would choose.