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Confirmation v. Prediction

This following quotation is from a long article that I decided not to publish about figuring out Falcon’s identity at Birther Report:

There are two approaches to discovery: One is the conspiracist method, where one starts at a point and looks for connections and confirmation. Anything remotely related adds to the confirmation pile. This is what led me astray twice. Coincidences and anomalies are the way the world works, and often mean nothing. The other is a more scientific method that starts with a hypothesis, makes predictions, and by experiment tests those predictions.

Birthers start with the initial opinion that something is wrong with Barack Obama and that they only need to figure out what it is. Loren Collins, in his book Bullspotting, develops the idea of anomalies in conspiracist thinking, introducing the topic by saying:

A primary feature of virtually every form of creative misinformation, from denialism to conspiracism to pseudo-scholarship, is anomaly hunting.

… Instead of stumbling across anomalies in the pursuit of positive evidence and then attempting to explain them, denialists, conspiracists, and pseudo-scholars seek out anomalies directly. Having been confronted with a consensus view that they wish to undermine , they gather up anomalies and then attempt to use the collective weight of those individual unanswered questions as part of their argument that the consensus view is wrong.

Collins, Loren (2012-10-30). Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation. Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.

(For example, birthers, using anomalies, arrived at the conclusion that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery, while a scientific approach leads to the conclusion that it’s a normal scan of a paper document done by a Xerox machine and rotated by Preview on a Mac.)

In the same way that anomalies are sought by birthers, so are connections. Sometimes birthers do bad math to calculate the probability of their anomalies (see my article, “Miscalculating the odds”), although I haven’t yet seen them do this with connections.

Birthers theories are full of crazy connections, for example connecting President Obama’s social-security number from a series usually assigned to Connecticut residents, to the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, to an abandoned psychiatric hospital near Sandy Hook where presumably patients with Connecticut social-security numbers were treated. (See “Was Sandy Hook Used to Bury Obama’s SSN Records?” by “Barry Soetoro, Esq” at the Memory Hole blog.)  And what’s this Subud thing?

A birther at Orly’s site once “connected” me to something called the “Davidson Media Group” that, as I recall, owns a group of multicultural radio stations and has an address in a town where an erroneous public record says that I live, but that I never did. I then got “connected” to three individuals who were on the board of directors of Davidson Media Group, including one person who was previously at Citigroup. So now Citigroup is backing me and the blog. I’d never even heard of Davidson Media Group, but Orly’s commenter generalized on this “connection” concluding: My point is, that those accusing Obama are commen folk, like Orly, those defending him have big money behind them… [ellipsis, spelling, and grammar errors in the original].

I don’t want to single out birthers for criticism because we all have a tendency to notice connections; however, some of us, either by innate talent or methodology, are better at weeding out things that don’t make sense. I’ve certainly taken the connections route to try to answer a question about who an anonymous person online really is. I might ask the question, how likely is it for two people who post pictures from the same Photobucket account to be the same person, or how likely is it for two people using the screen name “Patriot1776” at different forums to be the same person?  As often as not, that approach leads to the wrong answer. Emil Karlsson writes about the statistical fallacy of trying to assign a probability to things that have already happened at the Debunking Denialism blog in his article, “The Top Five Most Annoying Statistical Fallacies.” He gives this example:

Imagine the silliness in getting a particular bridge hand, then exclaim that you could not possibly have gotten that particular hand that you just got since the probability is astronomically low.

The more scientific approach is to state a hypothesis that makes predictions, and then make observations that have the chance of confirming or disproving it. And very importantly, don’t ignore those disproving observations1! I’m reading a delightful book right now titled “The Mapmaker’s Wife” in which the testing of a scientific prediction, the bulging of the Earth predicted by Newton’s theories in the 18th century, is a major subtopic. They measured a degree of latitude at the equator (in what is now Ecuador) and compared it to a similar measurement in France. It’s a fascinating narrative comparing good and bad science.

I’m not going to write about the scientific method here because that’s been done often and more ably than I could. Interested readers could visit the library or read the Wikipedia article.2

1The issue of deciding when to label something as “bad data” is difficult. The confirmation of Falcon’s name was overwhelming except for one item: Falcon said more than once that his grandfather died in 2002, but the grandfather of the person I identified died in 2001. I concluded that in face of so much solid confirmation, Falcon had just gotten the year wrong.

2I would have liked to illustrate the scientific method by the hypothesis made for the Falcon identification, but to do so in any detail would be to give hints about his identity, which I don’t intend to do. Let me just say that the hypothesis predicted that a certain document could be found, and that when it was, it would say two very specific things. The document was found, and it said what was predicted.

Donofrio’s early views on “natural born citizen”

I’m not breaking any new ground here because I am sure others have noticed this before me; however, I think it should be mentioned because those people who believe that only persons born in the United States to two US citizen parents claim that this view is not novel.

A commenter at Birther Report named “BornTexas” said recently that objections to Obama’s eligibility based on his non-citizen father were made before Barack Obama was nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate in 2008.


I challenged that assertion, and now 4 weeks later there has still been no response.1 It certainly seems that if there were any widespread belief in the two-citizen-parent theory, that someone would have raised the objection the moment Obama announced as a candidate.

In my reply to BornTexas, I noted that Leo C. Donofrio had written on his blog, NaturalBornCitizen, about the two-citizen-parent theory in December of 2008, the month the blog started.

When Donofrio wrote of it on December 19, 2008, he talked about Minor v. Happersett, and said that the Court “punted the issue.” Donofrio wrote:

For the purposes of Minor and Wong Kim Ark, the Supreme Court didn’t need to reach the “natural born citizen” issue as neither person was running for President, so they rightfully punted by limiting their holdings to the issue of  whether each person was a “citizen”….

Those “doubts” mentioned in Minor needed to be discussed and adjudicated by the current supreme court.

Shortly after, as we know, Donofrio was to assert that the Minor decision definitively defined natural born citizen, and even developed a conspiracy theory surround the first US President with a non-citizen father, Chester A. Arthur.

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Smith not being extradited to Kenya

Atlanta attorney Loren Collins, who had offered to represent Lucas Smith in what Smith claimed was an imminent extradition from the Dominican Republic (where Smith is residing at present) to Kenya, has good news for Smith.

I had previously contacted the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic who checked with Dominican  authorities to learn that there was no pending extradition and published that response in my article “Smith safe!” Now Collins has contacted the DR Supreme Court (who handles extradition cases) to confirm that there is no extradition proceeding.

Collins gave Smith the good news at Smith’s, “Was Obama Born in Kenya” blog. Collins sums it up:

Regardless, no extradition is definitely good news. It means you don’t have to worry about getting sent to Kenya, it means there’s never been any need for my legal help, and it means that Bruce gets his $5,800 back. It was good that he was willing to help out a friend, but luckily we found out that that wasn’t necessary after all. It would’ve been a real shame if someone had abused his generosity. I’m glad I could help out.

Smith benefits from the paucity of birther material to publish, and gets an article here for something that’s just an unimportant novelty.

Anti-birther attorney represents birther?


imageIt appeared in a comment on this blog: Lucas Daniel Smith says that Loren Collins has offered to represent him pro bono in Smith’s defense against extradition from the Dominican Republic to Kenya. I find this a delicious story, full of twists and irony; however, I didn’t want to write an article about it until I had confirmation, and now I have. Collins confirmed to me in an email today that he made the offer of representing Smith, and further that his offer is sincere. (Loren is a straight-up guy as I have known him, and I wouldn’t have expected anything but sincerity from him.)

At this point Smith hasn’t accepted the offer, but said that he would decide by Monday. Since Collins isn’t yet representing Smith, he has no special access to documentation and records; we’re all in the same boat as to our capability of judging whether there is any real Kenyan extradition proceeding in the first place. I wrote about that question in my article: “Why did Bruce Steadman give Lucas Daniel Smith $5,800?

The initial irony would be Smith saying that he rejected representation because he couldn’t trust Collins, and that’s likely as far as it will go.


Lucas Smith, among his plethora of new articles, says he accepts Collin’s offer. I didn’t see that coming (I hasten to add that there’s no written agreement between Collins and Smith yet). It raises new interesting questions like how attorney-client privilege works in a case like this, and would Collins would be muzzled even if he found out that the extradition was a hoax, which I still believe it is? On the positive side, Smith is saying that Bruce Steadman will receive copies of all their correspondence which is important because if there is any victim here, it’s Steadman.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Just when you think there’s nothing new under the birther sun, they come up with something.

Update 2:

Smith has posted a draft agreement (which appears rather silly in its inclusion of irrelevancies) that he wrote for Collins’ representation of him. It appears that Smith has been cribbing legal advice here and/or at the Fogbow, based on the final sentence:

This transmission [all email communications] to a third party, i.e., BRUCE STEADMAN, shall not defeat the privilege according Attorney-Client communication.

Well good luck with that.

Update 3:

Obama Conspiracy Theories has learned from the United States Embassy in Santo Domingo that Smith is not facing extradition. I guess that means that the Collins offer was for naught. It was all a hoax on the part of Smith.

Sometimes a Zullo is just a Zullo

and other dubious quotations

The title to this article has been lurking for some time looking for a story. I’ve written so much about Cold Case Posse Commander Mike Zullo lately (and the unlicensed practice of psychiatry is against this site’s rules) that I really didn’t want another Zullo article, so this isn’t about him, but it does relate to the oft-cited quotation attributed to Sigmund Freud, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” (and not a phallic symbol).

My researches on that quotation lead me to an interesting web site called Quote Investigator published by Dr. Garson O’Toole. The site is a massive collection of research on quotations and I would now put it at the top of my list for quote attribution checking. I’ll keep you in suspense no longer: O’Toole has been unable to verify the cigar quote as an authentic saying of Freud.

Another quotation of special interest to me is one that it widely cited in books and articles, attributed to George Orwell:

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

While the sentiment might be a good summary for Orwell’s book 1984, the quotation is not from there, nor has it been found anywhere else in Orwell’s writings, despite several peoples’ efforts to find it, reports Quote Investigator. The reason that it is interest to me, of course, is that it appears in the #2 spot on the masthead of Orly Taitz’ web site.


I find it remarkable that all three of the quotations Taitz has at the top of her blog are fake attributions. I concluded that the other two were fake in my article last year, “Apocryphal quotes on Taitz web site,” where I noted Loren Collins’ research on the faux Gandhi quote in his book Bullspotting. I don’t think that it is just a coincidence that Taitz is batting zero both for quotes on her web site, and for her anti-Obama lawsuits. A basic disregard for fact checking underlies them both.

The Many Lies of Joseph Farah

by Loren Collins

I retired my blog, Barackryphal, at the end of 2013 because I was burnt out on Birtherism. After five years, it’s simply become a rehashing of the same tropes, and there’s little new to address.

However, after WorldNetDaily all but gave up on its Birther interests in the fall of 2012, WND President Joseph Farah has recently raised its spectre again, and in doing so yet again demonstrated some abject dishonesty that I felt compelled to address. Others have called him out for his supposed hypocrisy over his reactions to Barack Obama and Ted Cruz.

But I’m not here to call him a hypocrite. I’m here to document that he’s a liar. To wit, in his column of April 23, 2011, Joseph Farah wrote:

“WND never reported that Obama had spent $2 million hiding his birth certificate.”

Whereas five months earlier, on December 9, 2010, Farah said:

“Obama has spent at least $2 million fighting efforts to release his birth certificate.”

And that’s just Farah himself; he claimed that WND had never reported this, when in fact WND reporters had said this dozens of times.

On February 19, 2011, Joseph Farah wrote:

“I don’t know any thinking, rational person who questions the existence of Obama’s birth certificate.”

But what did Farah himself say two years earlier, on Chuck Crismier’s radio show on June 5, 2009?

“There’s a reason that Barack Obama will not show the American people his birth certificate. I believe he doesn’t have one.”

And who else questions the existence of Obama’s birth certificate? Why, none other than WND’s senior reporter, Jerome Corsi. Because Corsi had this to say on The Alex Jones Show on January 20, 2011, just one month before Farah claimed that no “thinking, rational person” would say such a thing:

“The key document that should be produced, if it exists and I don’t believe it does, is the long-form, hospital-generated Hawaiian birth certificate for Barack Obama.”

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