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Wikipedia was in the forefront of the battle over the Smith birth certificate

I was over at Birther Report last night to see if anyone had picked up on my April Fool’s Takedown, and I came across a comment by RS1 under an article about the new Lucas Smith Oppenheim birth certificate:

Roadburner101 – please note also the british DD/MM/YYYY date format used this time as opposed to the american MM/DD/YYYY date format he used last time – this also means one or the other is fake, so which is it lucas?

Wrong dingbat, OBot Road Rash. We were onto your change “the Kenyan date format” operations way back when. A Dr. CONspiracy BS Ops.

I, and a few others caught OBots in the BS act back in the day. Post from FR. Like this one:
– – – – – – – – –

” “That document is a fraud. The dates on it are American style month/day/year, most other countries including the UK format dates day/month/year.” [ <– OBot propaganda BS]

[The truth –>] “Without commenting on authenticity of the CPGH BC, I personally researched the Wiki date format by country page in Sept of 2009 and found that Kenya was one of only three countries, IIRC, employing both the European and US style date formats. When I put this information up on the web, the Wiki page was immediately hacked by an Obot named Mystylplx who flagrantly tried to expunge Kenya as showing dual use. A war ensued for months with folks trying to restore the original data and Obots hacking it to cover for Barry without regard to the truth of the original page.

I just checked the page and the dual date format for Kenya has been restored for the moment. Obots never succeeded in removing the color on the global map showing Kenya as a dual format country, which it still show.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_format_by_count…
93 posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 9:37:04 PM by Seizethecarp”

– – – – – – – – – – –
This CON-job - “Mystylpxl” – - remember this poster OBot bonehead? You DUmbass OBots trying to pull a lying fast one on everyone again.

The essential claim in all of that is that anti-birthers altered the Wikipedia to hide the fact that Kenya uses both the US and British date formatting systems. Did they?

In January of 2011 the Date Formats by Country article was split off from the main Date Formats article. And indeed, when one looks at the Wikipedia history for that main article, as it appeared on February 15, 2009, one finds:

imageThe reference link [74] goes to http://www.communication.go.ke/, a link no longer valid, but that may be familiar to long-time readers here, since that web site is one promoted by Lucas Smith himself as an example of official use of the US date format in Kenya. You can see what it once looked like in my 2011 article, “Date formats in Kenya.” That reference is not a source by Wikipedia standards, because it doesn’t actually say what Kenyan date formats are, only uses them (and apparently in a broken manner). To say that Kenya officially uses US date formatting from this source would be a conclusion of “original research” not allowed on the Wikipedia. I say all of that to conclude that the US date format item in the Wikipedia article was faulty since February of 2009, being unsourced, and as such any Wikipedia editor could have legitimately removed it.

That said, can we blame the original Wikipedia MDY format entry for Kenya on Smith or one of his supporters?

No. Here’s the Wikipedia page from October 28, 2008, where the US date format entry originated. The entry is sourced from a Microsoft page that has since been moved; however, I found the current version, and indeed, it has m/d/yyyy formatting for “Kiswahili (Kenya).” Kiswahili became an official national language in Kenya in 2010. (Of course the Smith Obama certificate is not written in Kiswahili.)

image

At the time the editing wars occurred, the Microsoft link had gone bad, along with any hint that the MDY format related to Kiswahili. This whole controversy appears to be just a mistake, exacerbated by web reference pages whose links went bad, and politicized by the birther/anti-birther conflict.

I’ve fixed the Wikipedia.

Klayman to take another run at Esquire appeal

Joseph Farah (et al.) sued Esquire Magazine over a spoof article Esquire published online that Farah claims destroyed the salability of the book, Where’s the Birth Certificate? by Jerome Corsi. Farah lost when his case was dismissed under the DC Anti-SLAPP law  (and for other reasons). You can read about the case from my various articles on it.

The real issue in the appeal was not whether Esquire Magazine defamed Farah, but whether the case should have been dismissed rather than tried. Plaintiffs have decided to try again, requesting that the case be heard by the full circuit court, en banc.

A hearing of a case by the full circuit is discretionary (requiring a majority of the judges not recused in favor), not a right, and in the District of Columbia, certain principles apply. Hoping for a better result is not grounds for a hearing by the full circuit. Here are the sorts of things the DC Circuit considers en banc:

  1. resolving an apparent conflict  in the prior decisions of panels of the court;
  2. rejecting a prior statement of law which, although arguably dictum, warrants express rejection to avoid future confusion;
  3. overruling an old or obsolete decision which, although still technically valid as precedent, has plainly been rendered obsolete by subsequent legislation or other developments; and
  4. overruling a more recent precedent which, due to an intervening Supreme Court decision, or the combined weight of authority from other circuits, a panel  is convinced is clearly an incorrect statement of current law.

Klayman’s argument is that this case is of “exceptional importance” dealing as it does with  limits on the protection of satirical speech. He does not make any argument that existing precedent is insufficient, conflicting or outdated. Klayman’s essential argument is that the decision was wrong for various reasons, already rejected by the Circuit Court panel who denied his appeal.

I won’t get into the Lanham Act angle—interested readers can read the briefs. What I do want to mention is that part of an Anti-SLAPP dismissal involves an assessment of the likelihood that a plaintiff could prevail at trial, and I certainly consider it doubtful that Farah and Corsi could show that they were actually damaged by the Esquire article (beyond its satirical purpose that they be laughed at). Klayman argues that the Esquire article is libel per se (and damages need not be proven) because it accuses Farah and Corsi of a crime, citing Raboya v. Shrybman & Associates1; however, Klayman never explains exactly what the crime is when someone writes a book with “factual inaccuracies” (the actual words that Esquire satirically puts into Farah’s mouth). If “commercially defrauding the American Public” means putting “factual inaccuracies” in a book, then this is a crime that Farah and Corsi are arguably guilty of many times, along with a host of other authors.

From my layman’s viewpoint, the issues are clear cut and the DC Circuit will not endorse a hearing en banc. Sometimes there is a published written order with explanation when petitions for hearing en banc are decided.

The word "Doomed " in dripping font


1This is a curious case to cite in that the defendant successfully had the libel per se count dismissed. The Court took a strict view of what constituted a crime. If anything, this decision seems to hurt Klayman’s case.

Birther COINTELPRO

If you’re not familiar with COINTELPRO, a program of the Federal Government back in the 1960’s, it might be well worth your time to read up on it. The Wikipedia says:

COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.

Remarkably, the program begun in 1956 remained secret until 1971 when a group calling itself  The Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI burgled an FBI office and got evidence of the program that it leaked to the Press. CONINTELPRO, among other things,  planted covert agents in targeted organizations to mislead them to do things that would discredit the organization, and the planted ideas of distrust between organizations. The four main tactics of COINTELPRO were:

  1. Infiltration
  2. Psychological warfare
  3. Legal harassment
  4. Illegal force

Putting hard facts aside, and folding up Occam’s Razor, let’s see if we can use this tale to understand the birther movement.

Certainly one of the things that has drawn me to study the birther movement is my desire to make sense of the world around me. Birthers fall under the extreme fringe of behavior I don’t understand. One way to make sense of bizarre behavior is to consider it an act, a false display, and there are several reasons a person might do that, to defraud others, for performance art, or for the purposes of discrediting a movement.

Could it be that those birthers who make up the most bizarre alternate histories for the President, are agent provocateurs set in the birther movement to make the “true believers” look even more crazy? Could many of the nuisance lawsuits, those dismissed before the ink dried, have been filed just to run up the numbers of failed litigation? One of the tools of the historical COINTELPRO was to seed distrust among the leadership or organizations. How many birther “cat fights” have we seen? Was Orly Taitz seduced to make her less popular with the religious right, a significant faction in birtherism, or is that story a clever lie? Is the homoerotic1 and excretory fetish commentary on birther web sites really a ploy to keep decent people away? Are the incompetent law enforcement activities of the Cold Case Posse intentionally designed to keep legitimate law enforcement at a distance? Have the total crank birther image analysts put themselves forward so as to immunize the public against any report by a real expert, or to so befoul the subject that no legitimate expert will enter the discussion—which indeed seems to be the case?

Is writing, designed to increase the level of paranoia about the government infiltration of the birther movement, also part of a government COINTELPRO operation?


1This is not to say that homoerotic commentary is any more or less appropriate than heteroerotic commentary—just that the former is what I find on birther web sites.

Taitz and Kidd: a reversal of fortune

I followed a link from commenter Rickey to a post on The Fogbow about Devvy Kidd written by mimi in 2009. mimi quotes the Wikipedia article on Devvy Kidd and then adds an aside that Orly Taitz doesn’t even rate a Wikipedia entry.

Things have changed. Kidd’s Wikipedia article has been deleted for “lack of notability,” while Orly Taitz now has a long article. Imagine the humiliation, upstaged by Orly Taitz.

No original research!

imageAt first glance, the Wikipedia has two rules that seem counterintuitive: “no original research” and  “no primary sources.” Why wouldn’t the Wikipedia want people doing original research and using primary sources? The answer goes to reliability and bias. There is a presumption that mainstream news articles, textbooks and other published sources have gone through some sort of review before they appear. A Wikipedia editor’s research doesn’t have the extra assurance of such review, nor are Wikipedia editors necessarily experts. The prohibition of primary sources prevents raw data that is subject to interpretation from appearing in the Wikipedia without some expertise and fact checking. (The Wikipedia articles go into much more detail.)

The exception to the prohibition of primary sources is:

A primary source may only be used on Wikipedia to make straightforward, descriptive statements of facts that can be verified by any educated person with access to the source but without further, specialized knowledge.

The reason I bring up the topic is that the folks who argue that Barack Obama is not eligible to the Presidency because his father was not a US national make essentially an argument based on primary research and original sources. Constitutional Law is a specialized discipline, and except for “straightforward, descriptive statements of facts” non-specialists are not well-qualified to make legal arguments from primary sources.

Judge Bent in Vermont, commenting in his decision of Paige v. Obama about such arguments from attorney Mario Apuzzo said:

Mr. Apuzzo argues that originalist thinking as to the meaning of the phrase "natural born citizen" was consistent with an intent on the part of the authors of the constitution to adopt a jus sanguinis citizenship model rather than the jus soli model of the English common law…. While Mr. Apuzzo mightily attempts to distinguish the conclusion of the United States Supreme Court in Wing Kim Ark, that English common law was adopted as to which model of citizenship was intended by the original framers, this court concludes that his arguments are, in the face of such a decision, academic only.

The Court in essence rejected an argument from primary sources in favor of precedent. The Court deferred to the expertise of the Supreme Court, rather than reading newspaper articles from 1787, historical cases about shipping disputes, or legal essays from Switzerland.

When it comes to deciding, in area where I am not an expert and where we are not dealing with “straightforward, descriptive statements of facts,” I prefer to rely on secondary sources—in this cases judges and published law review articles. As a matter of academic interest, I have made originalist arguments, for example:

I think they are good articles and well-argued, but I am not so arrogant as to rely on my own original research, as extensive as it is, to stake out a position and back it with my reputation (as small as that is). I look to authorities who know more than I do.

Let me hasten to add that the same flaw of unqualified and biased original research that leads to idiosyncratic legal views on Presidential eligibility (and on many other unrelated topics), also leads to claims that Obama’s documents are forgeries, that he was born abroad, that he is a Muslim, that he is using mass hypnosis to fool people and all the rest of the crazy theories we talk about on this web site. Original research is the essence of all conspiracy theories.

Read more on this site:

Circular reporting

According to the Wikipedia:

In source criticism, circular reporting or false confirmation is a situation where a piece of information appears to come from multiple independent sources, but in fact is coming from only one source. In most cases, the problem happens mistakenly through sloppy intelligence gathering practices, but in a few cases, the situation was believed to have been intentionally caused by the original source.

Chart showing circular reporting or divergent and convergent reporting

An attorney, who comments here occasionally, remarked that the recent article in Mother Jones that linked to me was an example of “circular reporting.”

Here’s a circle: I wrote an article titled, “Mother Jones: The Obama Conspiracy-o-rama.” It, of course, references Mother Jones; the article is “Chart: Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory Ever” that has a link to my own page, “The Debunker’s Guide to Obama Conspiracy Theories.” One of the items in “The Debunker’s Guide” is a link to an article of mine titled “Obama’s legal fees” and one of the sources for that article was Mother Jones.1

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