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Mike Zullo: Birther misleader

I want to focus on two statements, one made by Mike Zullo before the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer’s convention June 1, 2013, and one by Mark Gillar in an interview with Mike Volin the following December. I make the comparison to show that birthers who hear what Mike Zullo says can be misled. Here’s Zullo’s statement:

In 1961, the term used to describe black people on a birth certificate was “negro.”  In order to document this we obtained the 1960 vital statistics instruction manual containing the instructions for coding race on a birth certificate that where followed by every health department in the United States, including the Hawaiian Health Department. As you can see, if the parents race was reported as “colored,” “black,” “brown,” or “Afro-American” the Department of Health Services was required to consider the parents a “negro.” For those of you who may be wondering why the 1960 manual was consulted instead of the 1961 manual, it’s because the 1961 manual wasn’t published until 10 days after Barack Obama’s birth…

Anyone who is familiar with birthers knows that it is widely held among them that the Father’s Race (African) on the Obama certificate is not an allowable entry, and therefore the only reasonable purpose for Zullo’s statement would be to confirm that view. Upon careful examination, Zullo doesn’t say that the race reported by the parent is restricted or changed, but only considered “negro” (in context “considered” refers to the application of a set of rules for determining the race of the child). Zullo also does not say who does the considering—it is key operators at the National Center for Health Statistics who enter data from microfilm records from the states). Zullo also does not say that the 1960 manual was used to code Obama’s data, only notes its publication date. Since 1961 data was keyed in 1962, the August 1961 manual is the applicable document for all 1961 data. A careless listener might also think that the Zullo statement was applicable to the Obama certificate, even though the race “African” wasn’t a listed category. Finally Zullo may leave the impression that what he cited from the 1960 manual was not in the 1961 manual, but it is.

Now what happens when a birther hears the Zullo statement? Here is Mark Gillar’s impression:

It’s about law. In 1961 when Obama was born, the 1961 vital statistics coding manual had not come out. They were still using, even in August, they were still using the 1960 vital statistics manual, and what that manual clear states is that if someone represents themself as “African American,” which was abbreviated A. A., if they represented themself as “black,” if they represented themself as “colored,” the clerk at the department of health was still supposed to list them as a negro. And that’s what the 1960 book has. I can give that to you guys. I actually got them to turn that over to me.

Zullo’s “Department of Health Services,” an ambiguous term probably indicating the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal successor agency to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare that issued the 1960 manual becomes in Gillar’s mind “Department of Health,” which would be appropriate for the Hawaii Department of Health or other local health department. In Gillar’s mind, “considered as” (for statistical purposes) became “list them as.” The fact that Gillar makes the statement at all suggests that he also failed to notice that “African” wasn’t on the list in the instructions.

In the infamous tableau of false and misleading statements that was the second Cold Case Posse press conference, perhaps the highlight was the account of Jerome Corsi’s interview with Verna K. Lee, a registrar at the Hawaii Department of Health in 1961, the person who signed Obama’s birth certificate. Zullo attributed very little to Lee beyond the assertion that entries on Hawaiian birth certificates were double checked,  yet I have read birthers say that basically everything in that press conference related to race coding came from Lee, including the fake 1961 race code chart.

Here is what Zullo actually said:

These codings we learned through our investigation, and then locating the mysterious U.K. Lee, which has plagued this thing for four years, where people were wondering who this is, we located Verna Lee. Verna Lee is 95 years old, amazingly sharp. We spoke with her and she confirms to us what I’m going to share with you now.

You can’t have a document coded like other documents double-checked and have a code that says 9, “not stated” and have a piece of information sitting in the box. That just can’t happen. Verna Lee confirmed that for us.

See how easily one could fall into the false impression that Zullo was saying that Lee had confirmed a specific 1961 code and that she had confirmed everything that followed. Does “what I’m going to share with you now” refer to the next paragraph or more? It’s ambiguous. In fact birther listeners widely believe that it was Zullo who interviewed Lee over the phone rather than Jerome Corsi; that is after all what one expects the lead investigator to do.

The human mind expects that points in an argument are relevant and logically consistent, and it will fill in some obvious gaps. I do this myself. In the case of Mike Zullo, filling in those obvious omissions is a mistake because sometimes the obvious relevance and logical connection one would fill in isn’t true.

See also:

Note: I have found it curious that neither Zullo nor Gillar has been willing to provide the title of this 1960 manual. I think I know why.


Why the silence from the Cold Case Posse?

There could be some big announcements in the case soon and forthcoming.

— Carl Gallups
Facebook January 2013

Sheriff Arpaio & Mike Zullo Are Saying Investigation Press Conference Forthcoming

— Carl Gallups
— Freedom Friday February 2015

My habit is to goad the birthers by explaining the Posse’s years of silence, saying “they have nothing.” That’s true in the sense that it is unlikely that the Cold Case Posse, with no manpower to speak of, no resources, and no expertise, would scoop everyone else in the country in uncovering some infamous crime related to Obama’s presidency. My reason might apply to a real law enforcement investigation where standards of evidence apply, but what does that have to do with the Cold Case Posse?

Mike Zullo, fronted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, presented a raft of issues in his first two press conferences. The standards of evidence didn’t come into play in the selection of that material–arguments and evidence that utterly fell apart under scrutiny. Looking behind the curtain, we found conspiracy theorist author Jerome Corsi feeding much of the bogus evidence. We still don’t know how the fake race code table from the Daily Pen Blog made it to the Posse, but we know Corsi had a hand in getting a bogus confirmation of it. Even with Corsi apparently out of the birth certificate business, there must still be many birther sleuths with their own pet theories being sent to Mike Zullo. I cannot believe that the absence of a third press conference can be attributed to a lack of material. As we know, birthers believe anything, and Zullo is easily fooled. I suppose it is possible that Mike Zullo is too busy pursuing other ways of making a living, to assemble a presentation with the appropriate official-sounding trappings.

In my mind, a strong contender for an explanation is to avoid embarrassing questions. Since the 2nd press conference, two mini scandals arose: Zullo’s acceptance of $10,000 for his personal use from a birther who was also supplying material to the Posse’s investigation, and the disclosure that Arpaio had paid over $100,000 to a con man for evidence supposedly related to the Justice Department (I think this was the source of the universe-shattering revelation that fizzled). If a press conference were held, hard questions about these would certainly be appropriate.

While I think it unlikely, it is conceivable that members of Arpaio’s staff, some of whom are serious professionals, have counseled the Sheriff about the poor quality of the Cold Case Posse work product and that Arpaio has required that any new material be vetted by real detectives. That would effectively screen out anything birther.

It might be that yet another press conference, followed by no indictment, would highlight for the birthers the futility of the entire exercise.

One final possibility is that the difficult situation Arpaio faces with a federal judge scrutinizing his department, and threatening contempt of court against Arpaio, might have convinced him that now is the time to keep his head down and not make bogus accusations against the President.

Whatever the underlying reasons, I think that the most reasonable explanation for the silence is that Joe Arpaio considers it not to his political advantage that a press conference be held.

(I’m assuming that no press conference is actually forthcoming. If it really were forthcoming, then the appropriate thing would be to announce the press conference and give a date.)

The full Gallups quote from 2013 is:

PPS has been in direct contact with the Sheriff Arpaio investigation. We have just again been assured by Lt. Mike Zullo lead investigator that the investigation and potential angles of prosecution are still going full steam ahead. Just because it’s not in the news right now does not mean they are not feverishly working on the matter. There could be some big announcements in the case soon and forthcoming.


Did Zullo lie again trying to cover up lie?

I’ve beaten the fake race code issue to death here on the blog with articles like:

I’ve proven that the Race Codes that Zullo presented as 1961 codes were not really 1961 codes, and they weren’t used in Hawaii.

I want to revisit the cover-up and perhaps give a little insight into Mike Zullo’s essential dishonesty when representing his investigation to the birthers. So first, let’s go back to that 2nd official press conference in 2012 with Sheriff Arpaio Mike Zullo. Here is a screen shot from the video presented by Mike Zullo, referring to a “1961 vital statistics instruction manual”.

The video showed a one-page screen shot from a 1968 manual available on the Internet, instead of the real 1961 manual they claimed to have, but which was not readily available at that time. The screen shot itself came by way of a birther blog. The source of the manual could be determined by matching marks and dust spots on the image.

It appears that all Zullo had was a screen shot, that he could not verify, from some birther source. Subsequently, Zullo tried various diversions to get out of the dilemma, such as the smoke screen of a 1960 manual (the race codes are the same for 1960-91).

Now let’s fast forward to 2014. Zullo continues to be embarrassed by this fake race code table from the video, evidenced by him trying to recover from the event. Zullo tells a story that might have a grain of truth in it. Here’s the story as told by Zullo to Carl Gallups on October 4, 2014:

Zullo: “And for two feverish days Jerry Corsi sent his associate who this woman stayed in the lobby of the CDC for eight hours a day for two days trying to get the answer to this question. On the third day, it was about two and a half hours I believe before the press conference was going to go, at that point in time the “9” code issue was not going to be in it. As fate would have it, Attorney Larry Klayman happened to be in Phoenix so he stopped in wanted to say hello to the sheriff. Larry Klayman, Larry Klayman’s associate, Sheriff Arpaio, myself and Jerry Corsi were all in the conference room when the phone rang from the woman from the CDC. And I have her information, who she is and she’s not a clerk. She’s a highly educated individual. Jerry put her on speaker phone. I remember Jerry sitting there with his fingers crossed. And she confirmed for us that what we were saying and requesting, what the number 9 meant was in fact what it was. He asked her to repeat it. ‘Are you saying this 9 in this box yada-yada-yada means X?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’”

Basically Zullo admits not having a manual but rather some other source of information that had to be verified. If he had a manual, then there would have been no need for verification (and if he had a manual he would have known the screen shot was a fake). Zullo lied about the source of his information, trying to make it seem more official than it was. This is the key lie of Mike Zullo and the Cold Case Posse—representing that they are competent and that they are conducting a real law-enforcement-style investigation, when they are neither.

Let’s assume that everything in Zullo’s 2nd story is true. What does it tell us? Some unnamed “Corsi associate” (“Corsi associate” could basically be anybody who contacted Corsi) called Mike Zullo and put someone on the phone who said something that Zullo took for confirmation. Zullo had no way of knowing that the person he heard on the phone was from the CDC, and the wording of the statement suggests that Zullo didn’t even know her name.

But even if it really was someone from the CDC, Mike Zullo never tells us what she really said! Look it again:

And she confirmed for us that what we were saying and requesting, what the number 9 meant was in fact what it was. He asked her to repeat it. ‘Are you saying this 9 in this box yada-yada-yada means X?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’”

Yada-yada-yada? Didn’t our crack investigator take any notes?

“African” proves birth certificate authentic

Birthers think that Obama’s birth certificate is an obvious forgery. Some of them knew it even before they looked at it. They claim that it was hurried and sloppy, but I argue that it is not.

A hurried, naive or sloppy forger would have done minimal research and selected the value “Negro” for the race of Barack Obama, Sr. The naive and sloppy birthers certainly selected that value and declared it must be the only valid entry.

A specialist in vital statistics like me would have known that this was wrong. Parental races are supplied by the parents, not assigned by the Department of Health. However, someone like me would not have known that in 1962, Kenya, the native country of Obama Sr., used “African” as a standard racial category in its census. Of course, “African” first appeared on Obama’s “short form” in 2008 and was much criticized at that time. That is a hugely obscure fact found in an academic archive (commenter TollandRCR at The Fogbow is the first I know to have reported it in July of 2009). The correct selection of “African” is simply beyond what a hurried, naive or sloppy forger could have done (either in 2008 or 2011).

The second point against the birther forgery theory is the penciled race code next to “African.” A hurried, naive or sloppy forger would have had big trouble getting those codes right. They probably would have assumed (incorrectly) that they were federal codes, but the 1961 federal code sheet was not on the Internet. I had to get it through FOIA and that took some months. The crank crack investigators of the Cold Case Posse couldn’t get that code sheet, and had to make up one that was wrong. But what a forger would be hard pressed to have known was that the codes were actually unique to the State of Hawaii, not federal codes. Indeed, it was not until quite recently that I was able to obtain from the State Library in Hawaii the 1961 Statistical Supplement to the Department of Health Annual Report that lists the code categories. Who could have guessed that Hawaii didn’t even have a race code for negro, and had to use code “9” for “other race” for Obama’s father? It took 3 years to figure out the correct race code to go with “African” using obscure sources not available on the Internet. A hurried, naive or sloppy forger simply could not have gotten it right.

The deeper we dig in any direction, whether into the file format and compression, or into the contextual data on the form, Obama’s birth certificate is recognized as more and more exactly what it should be.

The OID and I

This article is off topic and likely not of general interest.

I was commenting over at Birther Report, explaining why Zullo’s race codes were fake, not federal codes nor Hawaiian codes. I showed from an example certificate that code “3” stood for the race “part-Hawaiian” on a 1961 Hawaiian birth certificate. One of the rather dim bulbs that comment there argued based on the same certificate:

[A] 3 is also placed by the "steamship" company, what kind of race is steam ship company. Looks more like people making things up as they go on this piece of forged paper.

That comment stuck me as pretty dumb, but then I had to realize that I am somewhat of coding wonk. Maybe some people think that the same number represents the same thing no matter what the context. Codes are meaningful only in the context of a code set, like a set of race codes, or occupation codes, or diagnosis codes.

Continue Reading →

As the Birther Turns

[This article first appeared as a comment from me at Birther Report.]

For those who haven’t been following the story, Vogt’s now unsealed affidavit highlights all sorts of problems for birthers.

First, here is the Johanna Ah’Nee birth certificate for those who haven’t seen it. This came through Orly Taitz.

Notice that block 9, the Race of the Father is “Hawn-Caucasian-Chinese” with a penciled code of “3”. Block 14, the Race of the Mother is “Hawn-Caucasian-Korean” also coded “3”.

Birther Miki Booth vouches for the authenticity of this certificate [Jerome Corsi called it “authentic” too], but what does it do to the birthers? First Mike Zullo’s 1960/61 Race code table has code “3” meaning American “Indian,” which is not the same as “Hawn-Caucasian-Chinese.” Zullo also emphatically stated that the race codes on the forms were double-checked and error free. So either Zullo presented fake codes or the Ah’Nee certificate is a fake. There is no other alternative. (For reference, the real meaning for Code 3 in Hawaii was “Part Hawaiian.”)

The second problem is that birthers, since the beginning of time, have claimed that only ] a short list of values could appear on a birth certificate for Race, and certainly “Hawn-Caucasian-Korean” was NOT on that list. So birthers have been deeply mistaken about how race is recorded on birth certificates, or this certificate is a fake.

However, Miki Booth is firmly with Team Arpaio and represents that Zullo thinks the certificate is genuine.

On the other hand, Doug Vogt has this certificate numbering scheme he dreamed up to prove Obama’s certificate number is wrong. But again the Ah’Nee certificate totally contradicts the Vogt numbering scheme, and BOTH of them contradict the numbering scheme in Mike Zullo’s affidavit. Vogt of course, says that every certificate that contradicts his numbering scheme must be a forgery (if the evidence doesn’t fit the theory, discard it). This certificate dismantles ALL of the birther certificate numbering claims because Ah-Nee was born towards the end of the month, but has a certificate numbered way below Obama’s (and below the Nordyke’s).

Even those on [Birther Report] who like to make fun of the registrar’s signature on the Obama certificate, calling it “ukelele” are brought to heel by this certificate with the same signature.

So basically you have one story from Zullo, one story from Vogt and one story from Booth. No more than one of them can be true.

Booth is telling the truth. Zullo and Vogt just make stuff up.

Vogt has turned on Booth in a big way. What will Zullo do to cover up his fake evidence?

Stay tuned for the next episode of “As the Birther Turns.”