WND Double Dips the Wingnut Math

WND Double Dips the Wingnut Math October 2, 2012

The Worldnutdaily has not one but two articles pulling some awesome stats from their rectal area purporting to prove that President Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery. Professional lunatic Christopher Monckton does a column about it, but the WND then publishes a simultaneous article about that column. And you’re going to love this argument. He claims that the odds of the birth certificate being real are 1 in 62.5 quintillion. Here’s how he reaches that number:

Registrar’s signature-stamp all on one electronic layer, allowing it to be moved about in the data-file: 100:1 against. This is actually impossible, but it’s Be Nice to Soetoro Week. Registrar’s date-stamp ditto: 100:1 (again, in truth impossible).

Multiple 1-bit monochrome layers and one 8-bit color layer: 60:1. Experts twice found no such pattern in 600 file-optimization programs: I allow for 10 anomalous programs to exist.

Lavishly funded bureaucracy uses wonky typewriter: 10:1.

Human error: Certificate number out of sequence 25:1; incorrect birth date of father 40:1; use of “African” contrary to written form-filling rules and 20 years before the term came into common use 25:1; miscoded statistical data 25:1 (official government estimate).

White halo around letters 10:1; chromatic aberration absent 100:1 (actually impossible).

Other identity documents: Anomalously worded abstract on short-form birth certificate 100:1; two-digit year on selective service stamp against DoD written rules 100:1 (actually impossible: no two-digit example other than that of Kenya’s “son of the soil” is known); non-citizen of Connecticut holds CT Social Security Number 100:1…

But here’s where the math comes in. If each error is a genuine accident, the errors are independent events, so the probabilities of each error are multiplied together to determine the probability that all occurred in one document.

Thus the odds against all of these errors occurring in a single document except by design are 1 in 100 x 100 x 10 x 10 x 25 x 40 x 25 x 25 x 10 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100.

Accordingly, the probability that Mr. Obama’s birth narrative is in substance true is no better than 1 in 62,500,000,000,000,000,000, or 0.0000000000000000000016. That probability is what we mathematicians describe as “vanishingly different from zero.”

It’s kind of cute how he pulls these numbers out of thin air, then combines them all together as though they mean something. In reality, of course, all of those “errors” were debunked long ago by people who actually understand how scanning and PDF documents work. But pile all that bullshit in a box and wrap it up in paper with really big numbers on it and you’ve got a perfect birthday present for morons.

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  • we mathematicians

    Shall we now calculate the odds that he is a mathematician?

  • Monckton says “we mathematicians”? Ha! His degrees are in classics and journalism. (And he evidently didn’t learn the canons of journalism very well either.)

  • I concede. Zinc Avenger did it better.

  • matty1

    use of “African” contrary to written form-filling rules and 20 years before the term came into common use

    What? It may have been contrary to the rules but I’m pretty sure African was well established in the English language by 1961 and anyway how else would a man from East Africa describe himself?

  • Abby Normal

    Wow, 62,500,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 against! By a staggering coincidence, was also the telephone number of an Islington flat, where I once went to a very good party and met a very nice girl, whom I entirely failed to get off with.

    I’m going to need a really hot cup of tea.

  • Chiroptera

    Lavishly funded bureaucracy uses wonky typewriter: 10:1.

    A wonky key on a typewriter? This is the thing that surprises me the least. Good heavens, is this clown old enough to remember typewriters?

  • slc1

    Christopher Monckley

    I think that Mr. Brayton means Christopher Monckton, global warming denier, phoney member of the British House of Lords, and purveyor of a quack HIV cure.

  • snafu

    Wow, 62,500,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 against! By a staggering coincidence, was also the telephone number of an Islington flat, where I once went to a very good party and met a very nice girl, whom I entirely failed to get off with.

    I’m going to need a really hot cup of tea.


  • dingojack

    Abby – what’s that big, yellow thing in your garden?


  • Larry

    Using large, friendly letters, Abby Normal wins the internets for today!

  • Michael Heath

    Ed reports:

    Professional lunatic Christopher Monckley does a column about it . . .

    His surname is Monckton, not Monckley.

    To you and I he’s a lunatic, but to Republican members of Congress Mr. Monckton is a leading climate scientist so far advanced in his understanding of climate science physics, he’s advanced beyond the religion-like consensus understanding – just like Galileo, Newton, and Einstein. Therefore he’s a go-to expert for Congressional hearings when it comes to the state of climate science.

  • iknklast

    Of course, the one thing all these Kenya-born folks are forgetting: Obama’s mother. She was an American. If you are born to American parents on foreign soil, you are still an American. Just ask my brother-in-law, born in Germany but as American as apple pie, motherhood, and right wing fundagelicals. (But – he’s white, male, and middle-class, so who’s asking?)

  • Nepenthe


    That was what stood out to me. First, all typewriters are wonky. Second, a bureaucrat in a back office having malfunctioning equipment is totally unsurprising.

  • eric

    October in the election year and the birthers are still making noise. If you like Obama, you have to love this. They certainly aren’t hurting his chances in the campaign.

  • criticaldragon1177

    Ed Brayton,

    Birthers power owned again. Unfortunately, one downside to Obama being reelected is, that these people will not stop with this nonsense until he’s out of office. Anyway the more people like him focus on this, the less seriously rational people will take them.

  • The fact that the head of the Hawaii office that registers births has publicly certified that Obama’s birth certificate is real and exists makes any further examination of birther ideas obsolete. Why feed the trolls if they’ve already been cut off at the knees?

  • criticaldragon1177

    #16 RW Ahrens

    Because by “feeding the trolls” in this way, he’s only showing people how faulty their reasoning is. By you’re logic we should stop debunking creationists because pretty much everything they’ve said has already been debunked.

  • dingojack

    BIRFER: Come back! It’s only a flesh wound!


  • Johnny Vector

    And he’s still using the not-quite-the-seal-of-the-House-of-Lords, that the actual House of Lords told him to cease using. When are they going to haul him off to the Tower?

  • Having worked for a state health department, I couldn’t stop laughing at “lavishly funded”.

  • Chiroptera

    iknklast, #12: If you are born to American parents on foreign soil, you are still an American.

    Actually, it’s a little more complicated in Obama’s case; the key word here is parents.

    Only Obama’s mother was a citizen when he was born. If he were born in another country, according to the laws at the time of his birth, to be a citizen his mother had to have been a resident of the US for at least 10 years, at least 5 of which had to be after the age of 16. Since his mother wasn’t yet 21 when Obama was born, that last requirement could not have been met.

  • =8)-DX

    I estimate a quintillion : 1 for chance someone will give me a million dolars. *extends hand and waits expectantly.

  • slc1

    Re Chiroptera @ #21

    Mr. Chiroptera is seriously in error. The law in effect at the time of Obama’s birth required that, if he were born outside the jurisdiction of the USA, his mother had to be a citizen herself and resident for a period of 5 years subsequent to her 14th birthday. Since she was a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday on August 4, 1961, if that law was applied, he would not have been a natural born citizen.

    Subsequently, the law was changed to reduce the residence requirement to 2 years.

    Thus, if the birthers could ever come up with credible evidence that Obama was born outside US jurisdiction, they would have a case. However, it is not at all certain that the previous law should be applied. As I understand it, Obama’s lawyers could argue that the subsequent law should be applied because of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

    As I have stated previously, there is a precedent, albeit at the state level, for applying the subsequent law. This is the case of Michael Skakel being tried in superior court for a crime committed while still legally a juvenile. He was 15 at the time of the crime and the law in effect then said that an accused miscreant under the age of 16 could not be tried in superior court. Subsequently, the law was changed to lower the age to, I believe, 15. The trial judge then applied the subsequent law in trying Skakel in superior court, arguing that, since he was 43 years old at the time of the trial, it would be nonsensical to try him in a juvenile court.

  • Skip White

    Seriously, just give me the back of a paper placemat from a random diner, a red crayon, and I’ll give them the real birth certificate they’re looking for. I’ll just put “Barack Hussein Obama”, some Arabic-looking scribbles, and then “KENYA” in big capital letters, then some more Arabic-looking scribbles, and sign it in Russian with a drawing of a hammer and sickle.

  • bobmunck

    #24 Skip White:

    Better use three placemats; they’re going to want to look at the layers.

  • lofgren

    Here’s the thing:

    If you were a millionaire and one of the most powerful people on Earth, and you had years to plan this con, you wouldn’t do it by OCR scanning a birth certificate and editing the results. That’s the kind of forgery you get when you go to Kinkos at midnight and your deadline is 8 am the next day. How do I know this? Because I worked at Kinkos and I’ve done this dozens of times for customers who didn’t have access to their source files and needed to edit a document.

    If you’re Barack Obama, you:

    1) Find a typewriter manufactured sometime around the date in question, but not after. If you can’t track down a typewriter that’s just right, any similar one will do.

    2a) Using the typewriter, type up the info you want onto a blank birth certificate and scan it into Photoshop. NOT Illustrator.

    2b) Alternatively, find a birth certificate that needs as little editing as possible. This is one reason you want a typewriter that is as similar as possible to the one that was used. Each additional bit of editing will leave traces. You want to ensure that a document expert will have to look in exactly the right places in order to find evidence.

    The only reason you would do this is if the signatures cannot be extracted from the background due to the way that they appear on the background. Looking at the birth certificate, I can tell you that extracting these signatures is beyond my skill, so I would probably use this method. Barack Obama, presumably, could track down some other source for the necessary signatures, sources where the signatory signed a blank white page.

    3) Merge the layers using Photoshop.

    4) Perhaps most importantly: Print the document and scan it again. This breaks the digital link between the original and the forgery. A document expert could possibly identify some suspect areas, but ultimately the only thing he could say for sure is that there is a hard copy somewhere which was scanned.

    The result would look very similar to what we actually have.

    If the birthers were latching on to some esoteric detail, they might make me go “Huh. That bears investigating.” But if a guy who worked as a wage-slave at Kinkos for two years knows that your evidence amounts to less than bullshit before you’re even done talking, you’re going to have a really hard time pushing this theory.

  • slc1

    Re lofgren @ #26

    Of course, the other problem the birthers face is the announcement in both Honolulu papers of his birth. Since that information is supplied by the hospital, not the Obama family and the printed newspapers exist in the newspaper’s archives, this means that they, too, must be part of the conspiracy.

  • davem

    Lavishly funded bureaucracy uses wonky typewriter: 10:1.

    Damn! My own birth certificate was done on a wonky typewriter (was there any other sort in the 50s, especially if you had one or 2 carbon copies in it?). It must be a fake!

  • kantalope

    As to the forging up documents at Kinko’s – independent verification: happened all the time. The trick is to make a couple of generations of copies after the alterations – don’t want it to look too new…but don’t go overboard and make it look too scruffy either.

    anecdote #1: some guy worked 8+ hours (my whole shift plus was there before I got there and still there when I left) trying to forge up $5 off ice cream coupons???

    anecdote #2: some guy trying to forge up a nursing diploma…he asked me to help and I just held up my hands and said “no stinking way, man.”

    never once had someone try to fake up full size newspapers or Hawaii birth certificates.

  • Chiroptera

    slc1, #23: Mr. Chiroptera is seriously in error.

    From the US Dept of State:

    Birth Abroad to One Citizen and One Alien Parent in Wedlock

    A child born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under Section 301(g) of the INA provided the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for the time period required by the law applicable at the time of the child’s birth. (For birth on or after November 14, 1986, a period of five years physical presence, two after the age of fourteen, is required. For birth between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen, is required for physical presence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.) The U.S. citizen parent must be genetically related to the child to transmit U.S. citizenship.

    I said that at least 5 years of those 10 years of residency had to be after the age of 16; that should have been after the age of 14.

    The conclusion remains the same: if Obama had been born outside the US, then, if his birthday remains accurate, he would not have acauired citizenship automatically because his mother was a US citizen.

  • lofgren

    I once saw a woman trying to alter the date on her court summons.

    I was torn as to whether or not I should tell her that her alterations would be obvious and she would probably get in a lot more trouble than she did for not showing up.

    In the end I decided it was none of my business.

  • markhoofnagle

    If anyone wants to have some fun with him he came by my blog crying foul over this. He really doesn’t like it pointed out that he’s not an MP, never has been an MP, and his claims to the contrary are well debunked by parliament itself.