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The circus is back in town

Photo of Donald Trump with clown noseThe carnival barker is back with more nonsense about Barack Obama.

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s continued refusal to disclose tax records that could shed light on his claims that his business career makes him fit to become President, Donald Trump suggests that Obama trade his college admission (and other) records for the Romney tax returns. That’s silly in my estimation, but political maneuvering is not what I comment on here. What does warrant comment is his wild assertion:

You know, Obama spent over $4 million in legal fees to keep these things quiet

In fact, Obama hasn’t spent anything I can find to keep any document quiet1. In the few lawsuits Obama has defended, there were issues beyond release of records and releasing records could not have resolved anything. Most lawsuits were quickly resolved with a simple motion to dismiss and the $4 million number is absurd. Further, the release of Obama’s long form birth certificate in 2011 should dispel any idea that his releasing records satisfies anyone and would stem the flood of frivolous allegations made in the form of a lawsuit.

1One might count one motion to quash a subpoena while a motion to dismiss was pending, but in that case Obama’s attorney Frederic Woocher was acting pro bono (no fee).


First, let me share an email I received just recently from someone I know personally, as part of a discussion on Dr. Fukino’s recent revelation that the Obama hospital birth certificate was signed by a doctor:

I’ll state now as I have throughout the last 2+ years, there is most likely some reason why Obama hasn’t released his “long form” version.  It may have nothing to do with the place of his birth.  It may be that there is something personally “embarrassing” (which in my book means nothing), or something that might be politically embarrassing – for example, something that will point in a different direction [than] the official O narrative (as outlined in his books).

I have no idea and don’t pretend to know.  However, I do know this.  A man does not hide that which doesn’t need to be hidden.

The person who wrote this would have said before, that there was a possibility of family fraud in the birth registration. For him, that possibility is now pretty much off the table, but given that Obama has “spent millions” keeping his origins sealed, there must be something.

This view is what I am calling “neo-birtherism”, the belief that even if Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, there must be something wrong in the story of his origins, even if they don’t know what it is. I’m going to apply this “neo-birther” label to Sarah Palin, who embraced neo-birtherism in a Fox News interview praising Donald Trump for his self-proclaimed efforts to get to the bottom of the issue in Hawaii.

Fundamentalist birthers will continue to hold to their dogma that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, Hawaiian officials are lying and the birth certificate is a forgery. However, that seems to be an increasingly fringe view in light of all of the evidence now available to the public.

Palin buttresses birther base

While admitting that she believes Barack Obama was born in Hawaii (and presumably that the sun rises in the east), Sarah Palinn nevertheless supports Donald Trump’s claimed investigation in Hawaii. There must be something wrong or else Obama wouldn’t have spent $2 million to keep whatever it is hidden. She praises Trump for getting involved and hopes that he, with his significant resources, will “get to the bottom of it.” She said this in a Fox News interview:

The loopy Fox News interviewer lent credibility to the totally debunked $2 million myth by saying that she had heard it.


Obama’s legal fees

An argument in the form of a question

Central to the birther position is a question that is some variation of:

If Obama has nothing to hide, when why has he spent $81 Berjillion1 dollars on legal fees to seal his records?”

This question actually hides two assumptions:

  1. Obama has spent $81 Berjillion1 dollars on legal fees
  2. Obama is using lawyers to seal his records

Usually, since the argument is made in the form of a question, no one actually justifies the underlying claims in the question. Let’s look at them.

Obama has spent $81 Berjillion dollars on legal fees

Where does this number come from? I’ve seen two arguments. The first involves the fact that the same legal firm, Perkins Coie, represented both President Obama and his Presidential Campaign. Federal Election Commission filings reveal millions of dollars in legal fees spent by the Campaign. If one had the total of all the legal expenses and subtracted all the other campaign legal expenses, what would be left should be what was spent by the Campaign defending Obama eligibility lawsuits. However, since the “all other” number is not known, the answer is just a wild guess. Another approach is to assume that all other campaign legal expenses ended the moment Obama was elected and that every legal expense since them is for defending Obama eligibility lawsuits. However, one need only glance at the FEC page to see hundreds of campaign filings made since November of 2008 and add that to the cost of FEC post-election audits. To top that off, no one has shown (to my knowledge) that any Campaign dollars went to defend Obama eligibility lawsuits. Continue Reading →

Trust, but verify

Dr. Conspiracy

The inspiration for this article came from, of all places, a fortune cookie at lunch today. It said, “Trust, but verify. — Ronald Reagan.” I’ve run across this saying from Conservatives from time to time and on occasion, from “birthers”. I thought it might be interesting to apply it to the birther controversy by describing my own experience trying to trust, but verify.

The most basic weapon in any birther’s arsenal is the belief that Barack Obama’s maternal step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, said on tape that she was present when Obama was born in Kenya. While it doesn’t appear on the recording, “hospital in Mombasa” is often added to the story. My first step was to try to verify that the audio recording was itself authentic and over time it became clear that it was; however, in my search to verify its authenticity, I came across the fact that it was incomplete. When I heard the complete tape, it became obvious that the earlier comment by Sarah Obama was simply misunderstood. She states quite plainly (through her translator) later on that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. The complete audio recording and the transcript are in my article: Sarah Obama Speaks!

Continue Reading →

Birther math (part 8) Complex Numbers

The numbers we deal with most often are the natural numbers: 1, 2, 3…. When it comes to money, we need fractions, what we call “rational numbers”. There are special numbers like pi, too. What all of these numbers have in common is that they are “real numbers.” You can order them in a row by size and you can do math with them. Some can be really large (like the US deficit) and some can be really small (like the percentage of Obama eligibility cases won by plaintiffs), but they are all real numbers.

In math there are some questions that cannot be answered by real numbers, like what number squared equals minus 1. For that, mathematicians created a special “imaginary number” and represented it with the symbol i. You can multiply real numbers by imaginary numbers, and you can add them too. When you add a real number and an imaginary number, the result is a complex number and it is written like “6 + 7i” where 6 is the real part and 7 is the imaginary part.

Here’s where birther math comes in. Continue Reading →