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April 28, 2011


Brendan's CNN.com piece says, "The hardcore are already shifting to new rationales for questioning Obama's right to hold office and deconstructing the PDF released by the White House for supposed evidence of forgery."

I'm not among the hardcore, but I noted here yesterday that the PDF released by the White House and purporting to be an image of the birth certificate is in fact a composite document, consisting of at least seven distinct elements, rather than a single image.

Forgery is one possible explanation for this anomaly. There may well be an innocent explanation for it as well. (I'm more inclined to believe there's an innocent explanation, because it's hard to imagine the White House would be so stupid as to fake the birth certificate.)

But let's be very clear: this is evidence tampering. It's in the very same category as a Photoshopped photograph or an audio recording with undisclosed splices. The White House should be barraged with demands for an explanation--from reporters, from media elites, from commentators like Brandan. Instead, we have a cone of silence in the elite media, and we have people like Brendan seeking to marginalize those who have the audacity to point out the undeniable fact of evidence-tampering.

Two paragraphs ago I said it would have been stupid for the White House to fake the birth certificate. But in light of the unwillingness of elite media and commentators to discuss the composite PDF, maybe that wouldn't have been so dumb after all. Future White Houses may well take note.

Rob your comment is the epitome of hardcore birther deniers who can not and never will be satisfied even if they talked to the attending doctor.

You are a deluded Obama hater and it's completely transparent.

You see, Brendan, this is the result when elites like you promote the myth that only a hardcore birther could believe the PDF released by the White House is a composited document. The evidence is undeniable. All one has to do is open the White House PDF in Adobe Illustrator or the open source Inkscape and see the layers or objects for oneself.

So instead of acknowledging that the PDF is a composited document and demanding an explanation from the White House, you and others treat this very legitimate question as moonbeamism. That's genuinely regrettable and simply misleads people like Locker.

You see, Bob, this is the result when bucket heads like you promote the myth that Obama isn't a citizen no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.

So instead of acknowledging the thousands of media articles and proof to the contrary you continue to spout your nonsense in order to promote your conspiracy theory inspired fear of our president.

That is genuinely regrettable as this article is ABOUT YOU but you still persist in engaging in this moronic behavior.

You lost, get over it.

Brendan asks, "Will Wednesday's release of Obama's long-form birth certificate put an end to the birther myth?"

IMHO that's too easy a question. Myths never entirely die. There are still plenty of people who believe in the Loch Ness Monster, dowsing rods, spoon-bending, fortune tellers, etc. Read any issue of the Skeptical Inquirer and you'll see that preposterous myths continue to flourish no matter how many facts there are to contradict them.

A more interesting question is to guess how much impact Obama's LFBC release will have. I'd guess that the percentage of birthers will go down substantially -- maybe be cut in half. My reason is that not that the LFBC is more reliable than the SFBC. It's because Obama decision not to release it was a talking point.

It'll be intresting to see how opinion polls change (or don't change) over the next couple of months.

It appears that while "Birthers" are deluded, those who hate "Birthers" are equally so!


BTW Brendan, in your article you say "Prominent Republicans may make fewer pro-birther statements", however I don't think you could point to many prominent Repubs (besides Trump) who were pro-birther.

You have documented some Republicans using the birther notions as joke fodder, but this is hardly solid evidence they were pandering to Birthers. Rather these seem more indicative of marginalizing birther opinion.

I don't want to call the notion a "myth", but it seems pretty weakly supported.

Additionally, it appears Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism is reporting on coverage of the birther issue in the past week:

..the following breakdown of birther stories as a percentage of total coverage for each cable news channel:

- Fox News: 0.4 percent

- MSNBC: 9.2 percent

- CNN: 5 percent


Hardly fits the profile of this being promoted primarily by the right-leaning media or politicians.

Here's an innocent explanation for the layering:

If you scan a doc with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) turned on, Adobe Acrobat is capable of taking a scanned doc and breaking it out into layers automatically. That’s what seems to have happened here. There are still one or two funky anomalies, like the text in box 17a getting split into two separate layers and the date in 20 getting its own, but OCR is an imperfect beast and stuff like that happens. The larger question seems to be settled on how the cert got broken out into layers: Adobe did it.

BTW adding to MartyB's point: While prominent Republicans didn't actually espouse the birther myth, prominent Dems did espouse the myth that Clarence Thomas isn't smart. E.g., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of Thomas:

I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don’t think that he’s done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.

Clarence Thomas is actually noted for the clarity of his written opinions. When asked, Reid was unable to identify any Thomas opinion that was poorly written or any aspect of Thomas's writing that was poor. Reid was not only perpetrating a myth but was apparently doing so on the basis of racism.

12 members of Congress sponsored a birther bill and other Republicans/conservatives have made statements indicating they believe there might be some merit to the claims or raising unsupported questions -- see e.g. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/12/palin-flirts-with-obama-birth.html. Many others have pandered in more subtle ways or refused to condemn those who believe in the myth.

I think refused to condemn is too high a standard.

IIRC few, if any, Democratic leaders condemned the myth that Clarence Thomas was an embarrassment to the Supreme Court whose opinions are poorly written.

A myth popular among Dems was that George W. Bush wasn't fairly elected. This belief was unambiguously false, since Bush won the original Florida vote count and won every recount. Furthermore, a study conducted by a group of media showed that Bush would have won the recount that the Supreme Court prevented. Yet, few, if any, Democratic leaders explicity condemned the "selected, not elected" myth.

IIRC most Dem leaders did not explicitly condemn the ugly and preposterous "9/11 truther" myth that President Bush was involved in the 9/11 attack or knew about it in advance.

If failing to condemn myths is a crime, then everyone is guilty.

Brendan -

I never heard about the "birther bill" you mention that was sponsered by 12 republicans congressmen. I'll hafta google that. I wonder how "prominent" any of these sponsers were?

Palin's statement on a radio show seems like kinda weak evidence that she supports birthers, which could have been just a slip of the toungue on live radio, as somtimes happens. AFAIK, she's never supported or espoused the birther notion at other times.

I would agree with David that _refused to condemn_ is too weak a basis to support a broad statement that you used in your peice tat implies many prominent Republicans supoorted birtherism.

HR 1503 - the "birther bill" - mentioned above - was to require Presidential candidates to produce the a birth certificate and other documentation.

I do recognize a few of the cosponsers, including one of my congreemen unfortunately - of this ill-advised bill. It does unfortunately lend a air of credibilty to the birther myth, even if sponsors intentions were to simply prevent future myths such as this, which is possible.

Wonderful thing - the internet. It can be used to spread good and bad info. :-)

The optimal solution to the natural-born citizen issue is to amend the Constitution to eliminate that requirement for president, replacing it with one that requires citizenship for ten or twenty years. There's no reason why Americans shouldn't be able to elect as president or vice president a Henry Kissinger or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Madeleine Albright or Elaine Chao or Mike Blumenthal or, for that matter, an Alexander Hamilton. (Or Alex Trebek.)

Such an amendment would also provide a natural opportunity to revise the Fourteenth Amendment's provision establishing birthright citizenship, if a consensus emerges that a different standard for citizenship is preferable.

Thanks for the research, MartyB.

IMHO calling HR 1503 a "birther bill" constitues spin. No doubt the bill was supported by birthers, but you don't have to be a birther to want each President to supply proof of where s/he was born. HR 1503 didn't express a birther opinion. It didn't allege that President Obama was born outside the US. The bill would have applied a certain standard to all Presidents.

A good analogy is the 22nd Amendment. No doubt the 22nd Amendment was supported by people who hated FDR. But, there were plenty of others who simply thought it was a good idea to limit a President's tem of office. When Harry Truman tarred all of the Amendment's supporters by calling them "Roosevelt-haters," I would say he was spinning.

See: http://www.aboriginalmoabitenation.com/PROPOSED_AMENDMENT_to_the_CONSTITUTION_OF_THE_UNITED_STATES.html

Rob - The "optimal solution" you describe can only lead to a world where all restaurants are Taco Bell.


I can see why people would be skeptical, but when you optimize scanning in Acrobat, images are automatically separated into layers. See how it works here:


In that video, the user had disabled OCR, so he had to enable it before scanning. So you may be wondering why a records clerk would enable OCR. The clerk would not have to enable OCR as long as Acrobat's default settings were left as installed.

I know that OCR has been enabled as the default setting since at least Acrobat8 in 2006. In the 2009 documentation for Acrobat 9 (tiny url below), Adobe explains that OCR is enabled by default for scanning. I don't know which edition Hawaii vital records has on the particular machine that did the scan from their electronic file, but layers coming from scanning is normal in the default settings. Unless the user changes the Acrobat defaults for scans, optimized character recognition is enabled and it produces layers.


It seems like a plausible explanation, Dr. X, and I'm happy to accept the bona fides of the document. Though you presume the scan was done by the State of Hawaii, I expect it was done by the White House. It's much more likely the President's representative was given a piece of paper (the birth certificate, copied by the State of Hawaii onto security paper and then certified by the registrar) than a disk with a PDF on it.

It is, however, a shame we have this plausible explanation coming from assorted folks on the Internet rather than, you know, the White House which did the scan. And I continue to be troubled by the lack of curiosity that was shown by the media about this matter and the lesson that may be drawn from that by future administrations, which may be emboldened to present Dan Rather-type evidence in the reasonable belief that media and commentators will belittle any skepticism about the authenticity of the evidence.

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