The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Citizen Obama

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 20, 2009

On Tuesday, January 20th, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, the first African-American to ever attain that high office. Whether you voted for Obama or not, I think one thing all can agree on is that will be a historic day, to say the least.

President Obama

However, true to form, there are woo-meisters out there who insist upon pushing all manner of silliness in regards to President Obama. Specifically, I am referring to various conspiracy theories claiming that Obama is not a United States citizen and therefore not eligible to hold high office. There is a further implication that his presidency is an attempt by a foreign nation to install a real-life Manchurian candidate into the White House in an attempt to gain control over our government.

The primary examples of this stupidity are the claims pushed by Philip J. Berg (who also happens to be a “9/11 Truther”) and Robert L. Schulz, the founder of the We the People Foundation for Constitutional Education (a rabidly anti-tax organization).

Berg filed a lawsuit last August in federal court alleging that Obama was born actually in Mombasa, Kenya and that the “Certification of Live Birth” on Obama’s website is a forgery – the case was dismissed as being “frivolous and not worthy of discussion.” In December, he even petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for an injunction to prevent the seating of the Electoral College – his request was denied without comment.

For some more loony examples of similar litigation filed in U.S. courts challenging the legitimacy of Obama’s citizenship, click here.

Now let’s talk about Schulz and his claims – many of which are listed on his website. Here are some examples:

Despite the overbroad and erroneous claims of many news sources, Hawaii officials have NOT confirmed that Obama was born in Hawaii. Read the 10/31/08 official Hawaii Dept. of Health press release. Again, at NO time do state officials confirm that Obama was actually born in Hawaii.

Compounding the question surrounding Obama’s citizenship status is a subsequent statement of Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo (see Chicago Tribune, 10-31-08). Citing Hawaii state privacy laws, and guidance from the state attorney general, she said she, “was not permitted to confirm the authenticity of the certificate released by the Obama campaign.”

Among Berg’s arguments is that if Obama was born in Kenya, U.S. Immigration law in effect in 1961 barred Obama from U.S. citizenship at birth because his father was a Kenyan citizen and his mother, although a U.S. citizen, was not a resident of the U.S. for at least FIVE years following her 14th birthday. Obama’s mother was only 18 at the time of Obama’s birth, and thereby barred – by U.S. Immigration law – from passing U.S. citizenship to her child Obama — even though she was a U.S. citizen. See page 6 of the legal brief.

Read the Donofrio Supreme Court appeal: Mr. Donofrio’s arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court. (right-click to download). Donofrio’s primary legal argument is that Obama could never be a constitutional “natural born” citizen simply because his father was a legal citizen of another nation, i.e. a foreign national of Kenya, regardless of place of birth. See page 16 of the brief.

Schulz decided to bypass the courts and take his case directly to the American people. In early December, he took out ads in the Chicago Tribune – called “An Open Letter to Barack Obama” – directly challenging Obama’s citizenship and the legitimacy of his upcoming presidency. Ironically, on Dec. 3rd (the day the second round of the ad was run) the Chicago Tribune ran a story systematically demolishing every single claim made in the ad.

So, apparently, these CTists are claiming that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen because he wasn’t born in Hawaii (he was – see here for evidence of that fact) and even if he was born on U.S. soil he still isn’t a citizen due to their convoluted interpretation of the law. Thus, they are attempting to set up an argument where they win, no matter what – thus preserving their conspiracy-driven worldview.

These CTists have been rebuffed in their lunacy by independent non-partisan groups such as FactCheck.org, the press, the U.S. government, and the courts. Yet still they press on partly due to an extremist political faction and convinced with almost religious zeal that Obama’s ascendancy to the White House is part of a vast conspiracy – no matter what, to them everything is evidence of this conspiracy. As such, CTs such as this are not falsifiable, at least in the minds of the true believers.

Okay, so what? Why should we care about some goofwads running around making these claims? Well, I can give you a damned good reason why we should care – because there are some people out there who really do believe that President Obama is a Manchurian candidate, out to undermine the nation and should therefore be stopped. In fact, just this past weekend, a man was charged with threatening Obama’s life on a website. The man seems to have been a regular on a conspiracy website – Alien-Earth.org – and in his postings there stated that he would kill Obama “for the country’s own good.”

Hmmm… so, what do you think? Should we take these conspiracy theorists and their drivel seriously? Does the promotion of healthy skepticism & critical thinking in our society matter?

7 Responses to “Citizen Obama”

  1. Rich Martin said

    Each time one more paragraph of the Constitution is ridiculed, as it is in this article, you gotta wonder: is this the straw that will break its back.

  2. Frank Lee said

    For someone self-described as a “skeptic in the age of woo”, you seem to have drunk a lot of the Kool-aid yourself. As a science teacher, you’re probably aware of the term “ad-hominem argument”, which describes the rhetorical approach used in most of this article. Is it “scientific rigor” to selectively withhold facts, such as Philip J. Berg, having been a member of Pennsylvania’s Democratic State Committee and the former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania? Mr. Obama could have spent twenty dollars or so to have his “long-form” birth certificate released to the press. Why didn’t he? Instead he has spent an estimated $800K in legal fees fighting the discovery efforts of Obama skeptics. This could have been laid to rest last August!

    If every one of these people is, as you term it, stupid, lunatic, goof-wad, etc., then what really is the harm anyway? You mentioned one person who proposed assassinating Obama. (Not the brightest bulb in the pack if he’s posting it on a web site!) Are you proposing to limit freedom of speech for Obama skeptics because of this one sample out of millions? Sorry to break it to you, but Presidents face this risk all the time: GW Bush was almost assassinated in Georgia, Reagan was shot by Hinckley. There are probably many more attempts that have been nipped in the bud.

    It’s possible that Obama will be a good, or even great President. What the Obama skeptics are looking for is some of that openness and transparency which was promised during the campaign.

    Is that too much to ask?

    • mattusmaximus said

      Frank Lee wrote:

      It’s possible that Obama will be a good, or even great President. What the Obama skeptics are looking for is some of that openness and transparency which was promised during the campaign.

      Is that too much to ask?

      Well, the openness and transparency about Obama’s citizenship was actually addressed by the non-partisan group FactCheck.org last summer. Here’s the link: http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html

      I have no problem with people asking questions – people should ask questions in an open & democratic society such as ours. I think dissent will serve a valuable role in the next few years, especially with one party controlling both Congress & the White House. However, to make implications of a vast conspiracy concerning President Obama’s citizenship while flying in the face of the facts is just dumb.

      Lastly, at no point have I ever said that freedom of speech should be curtailed. As a matter of fact, though I disagree with woo-meisters such as Berg and Schulz, I would be more than willing to support their right to free speech should anyone attempt to take it from them. To imply that simply because I criticize conspiracy theorists that I think they should be silenced is nothing more than making a straw-man argument. I am arguing that skeptics of goofy CTs such as this bogus “Obama isn’t a citizen” garbage should exercise their own free speech and take the CTists to task.

  3. The Intellectual Redneck said…

    detailed instructions on how to get an original vault copy of a Hawaii birth certificate. Of course Obama is President. He would not need to do anything but have someone pick up the phone. This is just to show you anyone can easily do it. Obama supporters spread so much untruth.😦

    ‘When requesting a certified copy of your birth certificate from the Vital
    Records Section of DOH, let the clerk know you are requesting it “For
    DHHL Purposes,” and that you need a copy of the original Certificate of
    Live Birth and not the computer-generated Certification. If mailing in your
    request form, please fill in “For DHHL Purposes” in the “Reason for
    Requesting a Certified Copy” section. (See example on page 6.)’

    http://hawaii.gov/dhhl/applicants/Loaa%20Ka%20Aina%20Hoopulapula.pdf

    They even show a sample copy of the vault record for those so blinded by Obama they thought that document was a myth.

    http://bloggingredneck.blogspot.com/

    • mattusmaximus said

      The Intellectual Redneck said:

      detailed instructions on how to get an original vault copy of a Hawaii birth certificate. Of course Obama is President. He would not need to do anything but have someone pick up the phone. This is just to show you anyone can easily do it. Obama supporters spread so much untruth.😦

      I’m not sure what any of this means, but it seems – in typical conspiracy theorist fashion – to imply that Obama had people “in the government” who were assisting him in any would be deception. No evidence is presented, merely the allusion to a secretive and wider conspiracy.

      I should point out that most of “them” in the government were under the governance of a Republican White House up until this morning. So to suggest that somehow George W. Bush is also in on this conspiracy – in addition to the press and the Supreme Court – is hilarious.

      Besides, who said I was an Obama supporter? I’ve also taken 9/11-Truthers to task on this blog – does that automatically mean that I’m a George W. Bush supporter?

      ‘When requesting a certified copy of your birth certificate from the Vital Records Section of DOH, let the clerk know you are requesting it “For DHHL Purposes,” and that you need a copy of the original Certificate of Live Birth and not the computer-generated Certification. If mailing in your request form, please fill in “For DHHL Purposes” in the “Reason for Requesting a Certified Copy” section. (See example on page 6.)’

      http://hawaii.gov/dhhl/applicants/Loaa%20Ka%20Aina%20Hoopulapula.pdf

      They even show a sample copy of the vault record for those so blinded by Obama they thought that document was a myth.

      The folks over at PolitiFact.com (another independent organization) have already addressed these claims of the conspiracy-mongers. I think they sum it up quite well at this link: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/jun/27/obamas-birth-certificate-part-ii/

      At PolitiFact.com, we’re all about original sources. We don’t take anyone at their word or take the reporting of other media organizations as proof. We go to the heart of the story, the source of the truth — original, corroborating documents.

      When the official documents were questioned, we went looking for more answers. We circled back to the Department of Health, had a newsroom colleague bring in her own Hawaii birth certificate to see if it looks the same (it’s identical). But every answer triggered more questions.

      And soon enough, after going to every length possible to confirm the birth certificate’s authenticity, you start asking, what is reasonable here?

      Because if this document is forged, then they all are.

      If this document is forged, a U.S. senator and his presidential campaign have perpetrated a vast, long-term fraud. They have done it with conspiring officials at the Hawaii Department of Health, the Cook County (Ill.) Bureau of Vital Statistics, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois and many other government agencies.

      So in order for the CTists to keep their arguments alive, their only option is to imply that the conspiracy is larger than they had ever feared before. Sounds like a familiar refrain…

  4. […] Citizen Obama « The Skeptical Teacher […]

  5. […] by mattusmaximus on May 10, 2009 I’ve written before about the Birther Movement, which is basically a group of right-wing ideologues who are convinced there is a conspiracy to […]

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