% The Flaming Right by paul murphy

About Mr. Obama's birth certificate

(Written January 2009, revised May 2011)

The unending Obama campaign in one guise or another has offered two different, final, complete, and authentic birth certificates for him. The first one, a Certification of Live Birth [COLB] nominally issued by the State of Hawaii surfaced on far left advocacy site The Daily Kos during the 2008 democratic primaries - right after the Clinton campaign pointed out that Mr. Obama is not a "natural born citizen" (born under American jurisdiction to two American parents) and so is not eligible for the Office of the Presidency under Clause 5, Section 1, Article II, of the constitution.

Mr. Obama's media supporters responded to the COLB by triumphantly announcing it as the final, definitive, and only legally possible proof of Mr. Obama's complete legitimacy. In reality, however, proof of American birth to a British father might give him the right to claim dual American and British citizenship at birth if the supreme court ever formally prefers Brennan's infamous Plyler v. Doe footnote over the plain language specifications of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (1948, 52, and 58), but has little relevance in the context of the constitution's requirement that the president be a natural born citizen.

A number of leading democrats, led by Philip Berg, responded to the COLB by creating a virtual cottage industry of forgery claims and lawsuits - most of which buried the natural born citizen issue and none of which had any chance in court, but which cumulatively allowed the Obama campaign, its usual major media echoes, and their journolist fellow travelers, to sneer at "birthers" as racist, republican, and moronic while spiking all of the more substantive concerns raised by those questioning Mr. Obama's bona fides.

After about two years of claims and counterclaims about the COLB led Donald Trump to challenge the Obama press on the story, the White House released what the campaign described as a hand delivered, scanner produced, digital image of a long form birth certificate also legally issued and certified by the State of Hawaii - which Mr. Obama's media supporters then heralded as the final, definitive, and only legally allowable proof of Mr. Obama's complete legitimacy.

However, when examined by others this image turned out to contain numerous digital artifacts proving that it could not have been produced by scanning an original document - something that marks it, in the eyes of many, as an obvious forgery.

If, however, the long form image is a forgery then the COLB must also be and, if so, the obvious question is why the State of Hawaii has not formally repudiated both. Conversely, if both were issued in good faith by the State of Hawaii, we need to ask why both have so many characteristics associated with forgeries.

A hypothesis that fits the facts we have is that the Hawaiian birth story and its supporting documentation is part of a double fake-out: with the documentation produced in good faith by the State of Hawaii but used by Mr. Obama to cover a fraud on his supporters, and by his supporters to distract attention from the fact that Mr. Obama does not meet the natural born citizen requirement for eligibility.

While we don't know if Mr. Obama's supporters intended the COLB and birth certificate image as red herrings drawing attention away from his constitutional ineligibility as the son of a British citizen, both have certainly had that effect: triggering enough lawsuits and claims of forgery to allow the Obama media to bury, if not outright tar and feather, anyone raising any Obama identity issue in floods of mockery and contempt focused on the allegation that he was born in Kenya - an allegation most birthers reject as possible but unlikely.

The second component of this hypothesis, that Hawaii did issue both the COLB and the long form image requires an explanation - because, obviously the latter is clearly not what the White House said it was: a scanner produced representation of an original document.

That explanation is a "two-fer": explaining both how the image was created and why the Hawaiian bureaucracy is so defensive about it. It starts back in the mid nineties when people selling support for Microsoft software on the IBM PC were trying to build so called "client-server" document management applications around Microsoft's SQL-Server/NT - at the time actually a re-licensed Sybase product incorporating image storage ideas developed nearly twenty years earlier by Stonebraker and his colleagues at UCB.

That technology addresses what was then the high cost of computer storage by allowing software developers to break long forms like those used to register births into "text" (which uses little storage) and "image" (which requires a lot of storage) pieces whose contents could be stored and retrieved separately for re-assembly into a copy of the original document. This minimizes cost because:

  1. only the information collected on the form, not its white space and pre-printed text, need be stored;

  2. only one copy of images common to many documents (e.g.: the same physician's signature would appear on many documents) need be stored; and,

  3. only one copy of text appearing on many documents (e.g. the same hospital name would appear on many documents) need be stored and any updates made there would automatically apply to all documents retrieved.

With the data stored on the "server" part of the system, document retrieval and reconstruction would be handled on the "client" PC - basically software on the PC would ask the database server for the pieces and then assemble them as an on-screen image for the user to review. In the 90s printing those images required further custom software, but by the time 2003/XP came out Microsoft's Windows products could handle Adobe's PostScript software and nearly all surviving vendors dropped their own code in favor of using this.

What's important about this is that an image produced by this type of application naturally has many of the artifacts found in the image released by the White House - from PostScript wrappers and mismatched edges, to anachronistic fonts and updated nomenclature, what the White House offered generally fits with images produced using this technology.

Oddly enough, however, the supposition that both the COLB and the long form image were issued in good faith by the State of Hawaii has two head spinning consequences making it worse for Mr. Obama than the simple claim that both are flat out forgeries. Why? because the claim that they're simple forgeries isn't credible unless Hawaii repudiates them - but if we assume that both were issued by the State, then it's easy to show that the long form image isn't legally valid and reasonable to suggest that the source documents Hawaii relied on during computerization were forgeries.

The validity issue is that legal usage of facsimile records produced by a film or digital records management system requires legislative authorization and Hawaii's legislation covers the technology producing the COLB, but not that apparently used to produce Mr. Obama's long form certificate.

Specifically, the covering legislation most often cited, Act 177, Session laws of Hawaii, authorizes the use of an electronic record in place of the original (or a microfilm of the original) but requires that electronic record to "accurately reflect the information in the original thereof in all details" - and, because this requirement is typical, most early adopters, world-wide, have long since abandoned Microsoft's early client-server document management technology as unable to meet legal standards for accurate reproduction of the original documents.

Modern software uses full document images largely because actual, unmodified, high-resolution, long form birth certificate images produced by scanning originals meet legal standards - something the White house released image, despite their claims about its provenance, clearly does not. Obvious differences include, for example: the fonts used; the spatial relationships between components; the use of an updated hospital name; the physician's signature (because real signatures change over time, but the single exemplar used to minimize storage requirements does not); the use of an updated racial group label ("African" in place of "Negro" or "Negroid") - and each of these differences from the original, both individually and collectively, invalidates the reproduction as a birth certificate under Hawaiian law.

The forgery issue arises because the image as offered by the campaign presents problems that are not obvious consequences of Hawaii's business processes and technology. Two very different examples:

  1. The composite image includes a small bitmap representing the mother's signature with some white space below it - and while this is exactly what you'd expect from a document management application built using mid 90s Windows tools, you would not expect the bottom of the mother's signature within that white space to be straight and flat to a resolution of 1/240th of an inch.

    No human can write that precisely - but the 240 dots per inch resolution is the signature of a mid to late eighties IBM copy printer and the line is exactly what you'd expect to see if someone used a piece of tape to mask part of some source document in order to photo-copy a signature into place on another.

  2. Both the COLB and the long form image carry an identification number affixed during records processing using a mechanical stamp that automatically increments by one when used. The well authenticated long form certificates for the Nordyke twins, born at Kapiolani the Saturday after Mr. Obama's claimed Friday birth, were processed three days after Mr. Obama's - but stamped with lower registration numbers.

    Since the bureau of vital statistics normally put registration numbers on the documents immediately on receipt it should not be possible for a certificate processed on August 8th to have a higher number than two processed on August 11th.

There may be innocent explanations for these kinds of problems, but in most cases, the simplest explanation is that the Obama documents digitized as part of Hawaii's conversion to the electronic system were themselves forged.

Put it all together and you get the darkest, most paranoid, conspiracy theory yet: one in which Hawaiian birth documentation is forged by or for Mr. Obama sometime in the late 1980s or early 90s; his campaign drags out the Kenyan birth theory as a red herring to distract from his obvious ineligibility as the son of a British citizen; the Hawaiian bureaucracy supports the fraud to avoid triggering hundreds of lawsuits arising from inappropriate use of a failed technology; and, somewhere there's a Dr. Evil just waiting to pull the rug out from under birthers, and thus bury all the more substantive issues under an avalanche of contemptuous media dismissal, merely by having senior Hawaiian officials prove that the state did in fact issue the birth certification cited by his campaign.

Paul Murphy, a Canadian, wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.