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Archive | August, 2013

Ted Cruz releases birth certificate

The Dallas Morning News reports that Senator Ted Cruz released his birth certificate. This is not a joke.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Senator Cruz is both an American and a Canadian citizen. I guess that makes him equally eligible to be President of the United States or Prime Minister of Canada1.

Update:

Senator Cruz, after initially denying that he was a Canadian citizen, has now said the he is renouncing his Canadian citizenship. President Obama was also born a dual citizen of the US and the UK; his UK citizenship automatically ended when he reached age 23.


1While there are no specific eligibility requirements for the Prime Minister of Canada, it is generally held that the qualifications for a Member of Parliament apply, and that is to be a Citizen of Canada of voting age (18). See the Wikipedia article for more details.

Sorting out Reggie Love

Please see update at the end of the article.

The latest big story among the birthers is a comment by Reggie Love, former body man to Barack Obama.

The American Thinker web site (see Ugly list at the bottom of the page) has an article based on a YouTube video, the original of which has been been removed, but copies remain (the birth certificate stuff starts at 7:45). The gist of the story is that Obama told Love about “finding” his birth certificate, saying that this version of the source of the long form birth certificate differs from the White House story of obtaining it from the Hawaii Department of Health two days before it was released.

That interpretation of events is obvious nonsense. In context, one cannot tell when the certificate was found in the Love story. The certificate that Obama’s attorney showed the White House Press Corps was dated April 25 of 2011 and obviously was not something he “found” among family papers, or could have found.

You can listen to the excerpted video linked above. Here’s a transcript I made (repeated words omitted):

Love: I remember when he found, he finally found his birth certificate.

Interviewer: It took a little too long.

Love: Well, hey, you come from — your parents don’t live together. They travel all over the world. Documents get lost. And so he wanted to just like have like an impromptu press conference, to just walk in to the press briefing room in the White House and just like put the birth certificate down on the podium. And everyone was like, “that’s a really bad idea.” But he was really gung-ho about doing it he because he was so irritated about it.

The American Thinker  surmises that this certificate Obama found is the same one released in April of 2011, and that a fake story of it being issued by the State of Hawaii was created to give it credibility. We have no information as when Obama told Love about finding the Certificate. Love’s remarks were made after the certificate’s release to the Press.

You will pardon me, but I have just been reading about JFK assassination conspiracy theories and about the “single bullet hypothesis” accepted by the Warren Commission. The American Thinker is putting forward a “single certificate hypothesis.”

There is a much more benign and plausible explanation of the statement of Reggie Love, the “two certificate hypothesis.” It goes this way: Obama indeed did find his birth certificate, possibly the very one he mentioned in his book Dreams from My Father (page 26), sometime after becoming President. So why not show this certificate rather than get a fresh one from the State of Hawaii. I can think of two reasonable alternatives:

1) The found certificate was not an official state certificate, but a souvenir from the hospital. Hospitals give out such things, but they are not official.

2) Obama’s attorney advised publishing a certificate with a chain of custody–issued by the State of Hawaii, personally delivered to Obama’s attorney, and hand carried  from Hawaii back to Washington. I like this second alternative because it explains why it was hand carried rather than sent by an express service.

Considering that the Hawaii Department of Health said specifically:

On April 27, 2011 President Barack Obama posted a certified copy of his original Certificate of Live Birth.

I find my simple explanation far more likely than The American Thinker version that requires a big conspiracy and lots of people in Hawaii and Washington telling lies. And of course it is also possible the Love just got some details wrong, assuming that the certificate had been found, when in fact it was not.

We may have to wait for the Obama Presidential Library to see this yet undisclosed certificate if it exists.

Update: New information published in the book Double Down: Game Change 2012, adds considerable further detail on the finding of the birth certificate. What the President found was a hospital souvenir booklet described:

a small, four-paneled paper booklet…. On the front was an ink drawing of Kapi’olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital, in Honolulu. On the back was a picture of a Hawaiian queen. On one inside page were his name, his mother’s name, and his date of birth; on the other were his infant footprints.

Samples

There has been some chatter about testing the Xerox WorkCentre 7655 to test whether it produces halos scanning a birth certificate. The problem testing with a printout of Obama’s PDF is that it already has halos (white outlines around the letters). Birthers seem to think that no paper document of Obama’s birth certificate exists, never mind that the entire White House Press corps saw it held up, and at least one felt it and took picture. They think that images of existing birth certificates had text cut out, and that these halos were where the prior text was removed. That’s an odd view, because it basically means that ALL the text had to be removed, even the preprinted items on the form.

A forger wouldn’t do all that extra work to create something that looks odd. Let me present an unbiased opinion—my own. You see, back in August of 2009, almost 2 years before Obama released his long form birth certificate in a PDF file, halos and all, on the Internet, I made a reconstruction of what I thought the long form would look like, should it ever be released. That file appears below (click to enlarge):

Do you see any halos? Of course not. I just laid text onto the background. I wasn’t trying to make a forgery and there are all manner of technical faults in my sample document. If I were actually making a forgery, I would get a sample of the basket weave paper, print my fake certificate on it, and scan it back. That is not only the easiest way, but the most similar to an authentic one. (Also note the perfect spacing of the typewriter fonts I added—none of that silly “kerning” that the birthers think is a forgery.) If there ever were an inept forger, I’m that one. But even my essay intended to fool no one doesn’t have the genuine anomalies of a worn typewriter and extreme mixed raster content compression.

To assist testing halo creation with Xerox, I’ve attempted to create a “better” sample certificate. What I did was to make some safety paper by tiling blank areas from the high-resolution scan of Obama’s computer-generated Certification of Live Birth (I didn’t try to line them up) and then using the Associated Press photocopy of the long form, with the blue background changed to white. So if you want to test, just print out the first, the background, and then the second, the form and text. Voila, you have your own long form birth certificate copy, with no halos whatever.

Halos are evidence in favor of MRC compression and against a human forger.

Framing the question

image

I’ve been involved in the Sisyphean quest to talk sense into birthers for about 5 years now. Trying to understand why it hasn’t worked has led me into psychology, political science, neurophysiology, history, sociology, the law, and all sorts of interesting and quirky side studies. Sometimes I frame the question like a theodicy: “If God is omnipotent and just, then why are there birthers?”

Today, instead of mowing grass, I spent the day framing a house for the local Habitat for Humanity, assisted by my trusty Kobalt framing hammer like the one pictured on the right. Even thought the forecast was for 90% rain, it didn’t rain and we had a very good day, the coolest of the summer. Driving home from today’s build, I thought about some emails exchanges I’ve had with birthers, some of whom have a lot of confidence in Mike Zullo. Thinking about those exchanges has helped me to frame the question. In the past I’ve broken down motivations for birthers in a lot of categories, but now I want to focus on just three:

  1. Independents
  2. Cons
  3. Suckers

Independents

The general studies I’ve done about conspiracy theories has best equipped me to deal with this category. Take someone like Paul Irey, or Mara Zebest. These are partisans from the birther movement. They overstepped their expertise, assisted by the Dunning-Kruger effect, and came up with theories about Obama’s birth certificate, theories that I feel rather confidently are sincere, but wrong. The conspiracist literature is replete with such lone researchers who filter evidence in odd ways and come up with things they find significant, and that others do not. Conspiracy theorists have their following—subscribers to their mimeographed newsletter in times past, and many more today on the Internet where anyone can publish to a worldwide audience for free.

Cons

Jim wrote a fine article on confidence schemes and I won’t repeat his description of how scams work. In the classic sense, a con is an attempt to get money from someone by abusing their trust. As I use the term here, I refer to an attempt to get someone’s belief in President Obama’s ineligibility to be President by abusing their trust. I simply don’t know enough to say whether the motivation is money or not.

Much of what we see on the Internet in the way of birther web sites is not, in my opinion, a con. Even someone like Orly Taitz who asks for money quite a bit on her web site does not strike me as a con. Why do I think that? First of all, she has access to a good livelihood as a licensed dentist with a practice in California. I find it improbable that her birtherism is any financial advantage. More importantly for the point I’m trying to make with this article, Orly Taitz doesn’t use trickery to mislead her fans. She says things that are nonsense sometimes, but she doesn’t use the tricks that Jim described.

Jim asked the question: “Is Mike Zullo running a scam on the birthers?” I don’t know enough to answer that question as to a financial scam, but I have no doubt that he is running a confidence scheme as far as the ideas he is selling. To me, it is transparent. The guy does all he can to drum up publicity, holding press conferences streamed live over the Internet, holding a seminar, and regularly appearing on every local radio show he can, but when pressed to deliver, he says that he has to keep keeping his convincing evidence tightly under wraps because it would be inappropriate to talk about it because of an ongoing investigation. Zullo allows inflated titles to be used for him. Most importantly, he cleverly crafts statements in such a way that unsuspecting listeners will be misled, even when he does not literally tell a lie.  Let me give a small example: time and time again birthers will say to me that Verna K. Lee confirmed the list of race codes that Zullo presented in his second press conference. Zullo never said that, but they were led by the context of the presentation to believe that all the information in that part of the presentation was from her. In fact, the only thing Zullo actually attributed to Lee was that records were double checked and didn’t have mistakes in them.

Since the beginning, Zullo has promised that something will result from his Cold Case Posse investigation, but he hasn’t delivered. The results remain only a promise, and a pretty stale one by now.

I don’t think Zullo is the only con game in town. The Daily Pen blog comes to mind first to which I would add Joel Gilbert. I also think that there are sincere birthers who still use confidence tricks to persuade: I think the guy who blogs under the pseudonym P. A. Madison is one, along with Sam Sewell and Mario Apuzzo. I would include the folks at Obama Release Your Records in that group.

Suckers

Now we finally get to one email exchange I had in which was said “Mike Zullo is a good guy.” Lots of people would have said “Bernie Madoff is a good guy.” It is the nature of a confidence man to inspire confidence. I say to a birther, Zullo lied—I can prove it. It makes no difference to them: “I don’t know the whole story”; “he would never lie”; “it was an official police investigation.” I even heard the argument that Zullo couldn’t admit that he used a fake race code table in his presentation because it would give his opponents ammunition to hurt his credibility! Just as you can tell a con by the language he uses, you can tell a sucker by what they say, the lengths of rationalization to which they will go to maintain faith in the con man.

With Madoff, there was a decisive dénouement. He couldn’t repay the money invested with him. He went to jail. I don’t see such a scenario with birther cons, because I can’t envision a decisive event that would topple the sucker’s confidence in them. Obviously, Obama won’t be removed from office for ineligibility, and he’s not going to be convicted of election fraud. So in that sense, the birther cons will not be able to repay the belief and/or money invested with them. But barring some revelation of criminal activity, and I don’t see that happening, birther cons can just say that the Obama Administration was too powerful, and that corrupt officials prevented their success.  The suckers will keep believing.

Crude forgery

It seems that every time I think about it, I realize yet another reason why birther beliefs that Obama’s published long form birth certificate is a computer-generated forgery are ludicrous. This one just came to mind.

Fact 1: Anti-birthers have been able to scan a facsimile of Obama’s birth certificate and to create a PDF file with a simple work flow that has a remarkable resemblance to the White House PDF file. Not only does it look like it, numerous obscure details buried in the binary code match up: Scaling, alignment, separation, color spaces and even comments all match.

Fact 2: Birthers claim that Obama’s PDF file is a crude forgery, created by Adobe Photoshop. Only, birthers have never produced a PDF document even remotely matching the Obama PDF with Photoshop. They can make one that looks similar (after all, they need only make a copy of Obama’s or assemble one from its parts), but they have never come close to replicating the alignment, replicate the scaling, the layer separation, color spaces or comments in any software process. If the forger of Obama’s certificate is inept, how more inept are the birthers who can’t make one like it?

Obvious conclusion: The birthers lose. The certificate’s legit.

Cold Case Posse: The clock is ticking

It was June 24, 2013 when NBC published his article, “The Proof – Forgery done by Xerox Workcentre 7655.” A week shy of two months later, there has been no response to this bombshell from Mike Zullo and his tax-exempt Cold Case Posse. Garrett Papit, the faux image expert responsible for one of the Posse’s discredited reports, says that soon they will respond.

The only response we will see from the Cold Case Posse, if any, is some new fantastical objection to the President’s documentation that conveniently ignores their long string of discredited prior claims.

In order to highlight this tawdry behavior on the part of Zullo and his play-cops, I am adding new feature to the blog, a countdown timer of how long it has been without a response from the Cold Case Posse to the revelation that all the so-called evidence of forgery on the President’s birth certificate is just the normal artifacts of a Xerox 7655 Workcentre machine and Mac Preview.

[countup date=2013/06/24-22:11:00][dhmstimer][/countup]