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WND trots out another birther “document expert”

Maybe I should keep that headline in a file so I wouldn’t have to keep typing it over and over.

The latest in the string of birthers at WorldNetDaily pretending to be document experts is Tom Harrison, someone whose “credentials” indicate no experience with the technical internals of graphic formats or document forensics. His expertise is claimed in graphic design and other non-graphic computer-related topics.

What struck me personally about Mr. Harrison’s report was this:

Grabbed and moved around as objects, the two groups of dots can be placed at the top of the document, giving the appearance of a large butterfly chasing a smaller butterfly, as seen in Exhibit 14.

Do you see any butterflies? I have just been reading Michael Shermer’s book The Believing Brain, where he talks about people who believe weird things, and in particular how the brains of conspiracy theorists are wired to see patterns that aren’t there. Here’s anecdotal evidence that Harrison could be suffering from a wide-open pattern recognition mechanism and an underperforming error discriminator. Usually we don’t get this kind of insight into particular birthers.

Continue Reading →

WND trots out yet another Adobe expert

Mara Zebest

Sigh. Here we go again. This time the expert is Mara Zebest and the expert qualification is stated as “author and technical editor for more than 100 books on Adobe and Microsoft software”. This expert appears to know her stuff — the problem is that the stuff she knows is the wrong stuff. As we’ll see in the following article, her claim depends on a false premise.

The WND headline:

Adobe book editor positive: Obama certificate is phony
‘Altered document is manufactured, or in everyday parlance – a forgery’

One notes that all the books attributed to Zebest were on Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator — nothing on Adobe Acrobat (the PDF product) or PDF’s in general. That is a problem because no Adobe software was used to make the Obama long form PDF.

The “full analysis” is what we’ll look at and here’s the Cliff Notes.

  1. She says that “scanned images have a consistent noise and/or grain.” This may be true for images, but not for documents. Document optimization separates the document into layers which are stored at different resolutions and quality, i.e., different noise and grain. Her ignorance of concepts like Adobe Adaptive Optimization1 (read the manual) invalidates her analysis in this section.
  2. She continues to show many examples of shifts from bitmaps to anti-aliased text, but this is normal, and what she shows is pretty obvious when one looks at the optimization layers the software made. See my article Layers and layers, and layers, Oh My! for the images. Restating the same fundamental error in various ways takes up the rest of her technical discussion.
  3. She states that she believed that the document was created in Adobe Photoshop, ignoring that the document properties say it was made by Mac OS X Quartz PDFContext, an inexcusable omission and mark of a sloppy analysis.

One of the marks of the crank conspiracy theorist is the willingness to go beyond their claimed expertise and become an expert on any and every thing. She pontificates on typewriters, and the word “African” the Certificate Number and the missing (but not really) seal.

Garbage in, garbage out

I will concede that the lady is an expert in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. However, as they say: “garbage in, garbage out.” The “garbage in” was the assumption that a genuine document would be a scanned image with no document optimization, and her “analysis” was an attempt to explain the document in light of that assumption. She further, and inexplicably, failed to note in the PDF document properties the actual software used to scan the document. The analysis is an attempt to explain the PDF characteristics based on a false premise, and because of that garbage comes out.

After writing this article, I found out that Zebest is a long-time anti-obama activist (since 2008). That explains the lack of objectivity. Some gems I found from her from 11/22/2008:

This archive radio show on why the media isn’t reporting on the lawsuits against Obama’s eligibility as POTUS. TexasDarlin is one of the callers in on the show and it’s an interesting discussion.


“Reposting link to audio tape… be patient… what you’ll hear from about 12 minutes in until the end will blow your socks off about Obama’s birthplace:” [WRIF interview with Kenyan ambassador]


Also… I’ll repost a FOX interview on the discussion about the insufficient punishment against the illegal use of government agencies to investigate Joe the Plumber.


Also… this video brought tears to my eyes. RUN! (away from Obama) [linked video no longer available]

1 from the Adobe Acrobat 9 manual:

Adaptive Divides each page into black-and-white, grayscale, and color regions and chooses a representation that preserves appearance while highly compressing each type of content. The recommended scanning resolutions are 300 dots per inch (dpi) for grayscale and RGB input, or 600 dpi for black-and-white input. 11/22/2008


Here’s the State Registrar’s stamp from Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate.

Click to view at full size (1098 x 153)

“TXE” is what it looks like; however, it may be instructive to look under the covers. It is widely reported that the long form PDF file we’re viewing is made up of layers, including a background layer and separate layers for various objects on the form identified during PDF optimization. The Onaka signature stamp is essentially a separate object (or layer). It’s instructive to look at that layer in more detail.

I used the Export feature of Adobe Acrobat to get the following actual sized image which is only 76 pixels per inch!

Exported Onaka signature layer

When one zooms in on this, we get a better idea of what information underlies the the pure black part of image:

Registrar stamp at 4X zoom

The right vertical stroke of the “H” is complete in the bitmap. Added to this image should be other non-purely-black smudges from the other layers.

So yes, it looks like an “X” but it isn’t. Why is it like this? Low resolution of the stamp is certainly important, and maybe the stamp is damaged due to wear, or a bit of lint accumulated in the middle. The real reason probably won’t come to light without a higher resolution scan or examples of other stamps from about now. I asked Barry for a better copy.


See my new article with startling revelations on TXE.

Reply to Douglas Vogt

Dr. Conspiracy

Douglas Vogt, president of a company that sells scanners and scanner software, published a letter claiming to have proved that Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate is a forgery, and for that matter that Barack Obama is a criminal. I wrote about it in my article” “Expert” claims: birth certificate fake.

I was mildly surprised when Mr. Vogt appeared and left the following comment here on the blog:

Dear Kevin, You called me a liar without even reading my report and then told your readers that I was “just a salesman.” I have 11 years in the typesetting business and 18 years selling scanners, designing document imaging software and installing such systems in city and county offices here in the Northwest. All the scanner manufacturers and distributors know be very well. I was consulted by the Justice Department regarding the Kodak purchase of Bell & Howell two years ago. Your only experience seem to be working as a bureaucrat in vital records for the State of South Carolina so you should know that what Obama presented to the public was only a PDF of a Certificate of Live Birth and not a birth certificate. There was no paper copy with a seal presented to the US Public therefore none to examine by anyone! My expanded 22-page report is downloadable here: I bet you cannot prove me wrong that the Obama COLB is a forgery. You also owe me an apology for unfairly calling me a liar and defaming my character and good name.

Our personal squabble is probably not of general interest, but since Mr. Vogt is the closest thing to an “expert” the birthers have, it’s worthwhile to look at what he says; however, I can prove Mr. Vogt “wrong” in his contention that the long form is a forgery quite simply: The State of Hawaii’s web site says: “On April 27, 2011 President Barack Obama posted a certified copy of his original Certificate of Live Birth.” QED. So there is no need for me to prove that Vogt is wrong, but I will explain why he is wrong.1 Continue Reading →

Be Sealed!

I commented here a few days back that the Obama long-form birth certificate from Hawaii just about had to have a raised seal, even though it’s not visible in the White House scanned copy. Recall that even in an extremely high-resolution scan of Obama’s earlier-released Certification of Live Birth, the seal was nearly invisible, and that the long form is a lower-resolution image.

The seal is confirmed. An NBC correspondent, Savannah Guthrie, who attended the White House release of the of the long form had the opportunity to view the real deal and said that she “felt the raised seal” (video and transcript).

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And here is a photograph taken by Guthrie showing the seal:

Obama birth certificate showing seal - Guturie - use Browser zoom

The big point for me in this is that it pretty much torpedoes the altered layers theory. The version in this photo is the one WITH THE SEAL on it, meaning this is what came from Hawaii (unless you think the White House faked the raised seal, and if you’re that far gone, you don’t belong here).

Thanks to y_p_w for the tip.