Conspiracies, Lies, and Justiagate

I have never believed in conspiracies -- at least, not in the vast kind that Hillary felt the right wing deployed against her philandering husband.  More often, it seems the cover-up of truth, not the circulation of manufactured untruths, lies at the root of such conspiratorial ideas.

Nor do I believe in the kinds of conspiracies seen in movies, with a "spooky dude" in a tower plotting a global takeover while ordering minions to carry out his evil intentions.  Though I sometimes get carried away, especially after listening to Glenn Beck, my imagination does have its bounds.

But I do believe in the remarkable potential of a seemingly unguided force, either good or evil, consisting of great numbers of individuals doing what alone may appear insignificant -- yet, when combined with the work of others moving in the same direction, all this work put together has the potential to become something very powerful.  The history of our great nation is a testament to the notion of the formidable forces of good.

We learned of a force of evil, the Communist spy apparatus of the mid-twentieth century, in Whittaker Chambers' timeless masterpiece, Witness.  The global Communist conspiracy that Chambers described consisted of thousands of faithful worker bees, busily occupied with their own small tasks, often without specific guidance or awareness of what their fellow agents were doing or who those comrades were.

When the House Committee on Un-American Activities attempted to root out the Communist movement, allegations against a suspect, examined singly, often appeared trivial and irrational -- indeed, cause for alarm -- unless the accused occupied the upper tiers of our government, as was the case with Chambers' friend, Alger Hiss, who worked in the State Department.  But taken together, all of the Communists comprised a powerful force to be reckoned with, a task made more difficult in a nation dedicated to the notions of personal liberty and freedom of speech.

Occupy Wall Street serves as an example of another kind of force -- a mob.  A lone bongo-drummer in the middle of Zuccotti Park couldn't accomplish much, but put a few thousand like him together, chanting slogans, and the work has begun.  The drummer, likely lacking a clear understanding of the movement's ultimate objective, has been inspired to direct his noise-making in unison with a much larger vehicle, rolling onward toward his fuzzy picture of a transformed America.

Bearing these concepts in mind, I've been puzzled when others refer to the "birthers" as believing in a conspiracy, while plots of planting birth announcements in local newspapers or the cover-up of a teenage girl's 1961 trip to Kenya did seem a little over the top.  When Tim Adams, a former Hawaii elections clerk, came forward and asserted that he and others in his office knew in 2008 that Obama had no birth certificate, I wondered: is it possible that others in Hawaii were also aware of this information, yet somehow resolved to keep it secret?  Recall also Governor Abercrombie's failed attempts to produce the certificate.  Was he "in" on it, too?

Finally this past spring, on the heels of Donald Trump's noisy demands and with a flourish befitting the finale of a dramatic three-year-long performance, the president presented a copy of what was purported to be his original long-form certificate.  Immediately, multiple experts dissected the "layered" digital image, and arguments continue to circulate the internet as to its authenticity.

I must admit that I do find the "birther" controversy fascinating, and I have kept up with the phenomenon since its inception.  A complete retelling of the whole thing, including the sometimes outlandish subplots (like Sheriff Arpaio's "Cold Case Posse"), combined with the history of the Constitution's qualification phrase and the technicalities of law, would make for a book thicker than War and Peace and likely completely unbelievable, even if labeled fiction.

Yet even if we assume that the released certificate is legitimate, something still doesn't feel quite right.  Do all of these sensational news tidbits seem just a little too contrived, making them and the timing of their release appear rather...conspiratorial?  Does a real conspiracy indeed exist, and if so, has it been clouded by all of the birth certificate hype?

While that famous document captivated the nation, quietly, yet slowly gaining prominence, another campaign emerged.  This one aimed to address Obama's eligibility -- focused not on proving a U.S. birth, but instead on the less sensational questions of whether presidential candidates should produce relevant documents as part of vetting, and whether dual citizenship at birth renders one ineligible under the "natural born" requirement of the Constitution's Article 2.

And really, don't Americans deserve a clear answer to those questions, since the president's primary job, as stated in his Oath of Office, is to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Constitution? 

I am witness to the fact that this eligibility movement has grown in popularity, confirmed by simply reviewing posted comments on articles remotely related to the subject of presidential qualifications or other citizenship topics, and "birther" poll results, even ones that focus only on beliefs of Obama's birthplace.  To the chagrin of politicians like Sen. Mike Lee, who urges Republicans to "steer clear of birtherism in 2012," and the bemusement of commentators like Chris Matthews, the birthers won't be "shamed into non-existence."

Attorneys such as Monte Kuligowski have noted that no procedures are in place to ensure compliance with the Constitution's eligibility requirements, and he continues to push for states to revise their election laws. As witnessed in the 2008 election, we can't rely on the media to fairly vet the candidates for us.

Attorney Leo Donofrio was the first to assert the claim that Obama's dual citizenship disqualified him and also had the first eligibility case, in a long line of others, rejected for a full hearing by the Supreme Court.  In his ongoing quest to prove that the founding fathers never intended to allow the commander-in-chief to have divided allegiance at birth, Donofrio recently uncovered a strange situation he calls "Justiagate," documented in an article by Dianna Cotter.

Cotter describes Justia as an "influential legal research website," and "since Google most often returns Justia.com's version of the case being searched for as the first or second hit, Justia's version of Supreme Court opinions are most influential in the blogosphere's forums and comments."  She detailed Donofrio's alarming discovery that at least 25 Supreme Court decisions on Justia's database had been subjected to some sort of tampering. 

It just so happens that all of the affected cases are relevant to the "natural born" citizen debate, all of the changes relate to the especially important decision of Minor v. Happersett (which contains a definition of "natural born citizen"), and all of the noted revisions occurred during the period from mid-2008 to when Donofrio's discoveries were published.

Were the anomalies simply innocent programming errors, as Justia's Tim Stanley asserts, or were they created intentionally, with or without direction from somewhere above?

And while "Justiagate" has been gaining in publicity in the blogosphere, preceded by the previous weeks' renewed and related interest in the laws granting birthright citizenship surrounding the al-Awlaki killing, new headlines are screaming -- and guess what about:

The birth certificate.

Again.  And again.  And again.

Conspiracy?

Pass the popcorn.

I have never believed in conspiracies -- at least, not in the vast kind that Hillary felt the right wing deployed against her philandering husband.  More often, it seems the cover-up of truth, not the circulation of manufactured untruths, lies at the root of such conspiratorial ideas.

Nor do I believe in the kinds of conspiracies seen in movies, with a "spooky dude" in a tower plotting a global takeover while ordering minions to carry out his evil intentions.  Though I sometimes get carried away, especially after listening to Glenn Beck, my imagination does have its bounds.

But I do believe in the remarkable potential of a seemingly unguided force, either good or evil, consisting of great numbers of individuals doing what alone may appear insignificant -- yet, when combined with the work of others moving in the same direction, all this work put together has the potential to become something very powerful.  The history of our great nation is a testament to the notion of the formidable forces of good.

We learned of a force of evil, the Communist spy apparatus of the mid-twentieth century, in Whittaker Chambers' timeless masterpiece, Witness.  The global Communist conspiracy that Chambers described consisted of thousands of faithful worker bees, busily occupied with their own small tasks, often without specific guidance or awareness of what their fellow agents were doing or who those comrades were.

When the House Committee on Un-American Activities attempted to root out the Communist movement, allegations against a suspect, examined singly, often appeared trivial and irrational -- indeed, cause for alarm -- unless the accused occupied the upper tiers of our government, as was the case with Chambers' friend, Alger Hiss, who worked in the State Department.  But taken together, all of the Communists comprised a powerful force to be reckoned with, a task made more difficult in a nation dedicated to the notions of personal liberty and freedom of speech.

Occupy Wall Street serves as an example of another kind of force -- a mob.  A lone bongo-drummer in the middle of Zuccotti Park couldn't accomplish much, but put a few thousand like him together, chanting slogans, and the work has begun.  The drummer, likely lacking a clear understanding of the movement's ultimate objective, has been inspired to direct his noise-making in unison with a much larger vehicle, rolling onward toward his fuzzy picture of a transformed America.

Bearing these concepts in mind, I've been puzzled when others refer to the "birthers" as believing in a conspiracy, while plots of planting birth announcements in local newspapers or the cover-up of a teenage girl's 1961 trip to Kenya did seem a little over the top.  When Tim Adams, a former Hawaii elections clerk, came forward and asserted that he and others in his office knew in 2008 that Obama had no birth certificate, I wondered: is it possible that others in Hawaii were also aware of this information, yet somehow resolved to keep it secret?  Recall also Governor Abercrombie's failed attempts to produce the certificate.  Was he "in" on it, too?

Finally this past spring, on the heels of Donald Trump's noisy demands and with a flourish befitting the finale of a dramatic three-year-long performance, the president presented a copy of what was purported to be his original long-form certificate.  Immediately, multiple experts dissected the "layered" digital image, and arguments continue to circulate the internet as to its authenticity.

I must admit that I do find the "birther" controversy fascinating, and I have kept up with the phenomenon since its inception.  A complete retelling of the whole thing, including the sometimes outlandish subplots (like Sheriff Arpaio's "Cold Case Posse"), combined with the history of the Constitution's qualification phrase and the technicalities of law, would make for a book thicker than War and Peace and likely completely unbelievable, even if labeled fiction.

Yet even if we assume that the released certificate is legitimate, something still doesn't feel quite right.  Do all of these sensational news tidbits seem just a little too contrived, making them and the timing of their release appear rather...conspiratorial?  Does a real conspiracy indeed exist, and if so, has it been clouded by all of the birth certificate hype?

While that famous document captivated the nation, quietly, yet slowly gaining prominence, another campaign emerged.  This one aimed to address Obama's eligibility -- focused not on proving a U.S. birth, but instead on the less sensational questions of whether presidential candidates should produce relevant documents as part of vetting, and whether dual citizenship at birth renders one ineligible under the "natural born" requirement of the Constitution's Article 2.

And really, don't Americans deserve a clear answer to those questions, since the president's primary job, as stated in his Oath of Office, is to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Constitution? 

I am witness to the fact that this eligibility movement has grown in popularity, confirmed by simply reviewing posted comments on articles remotely related to the subject of presidential qualifications or other citizenship topics, and "birther" poll results, even ones that focus only on beliefs of Obama's birthplace.  To the chagrin of politicians like Sen. Mike Lee, who urges Republicans to "steer clear of birtherism in 2012," and the bemusement of commentators like Chris Matthews, the birthers won't be "shamed into non-existence."

Attorneys such as Monte Kuligowski have noted that no procedures are in place to ensure compliance with the Constitution's eligibility requirements, and he continues to push for states to revise their election laws. As witnessed in the 2008 election, we can't rely on the media to fairly vet the candidates for us.

Attorney Leo Donofrio was the first to assert the claim that Obama's dual citizenship disqualified him and also had the first eligibility case, in a long line of others, rejected for a full hearing by the Supreme Court.  In his ongoing quest to prove that the founding fathers never intended to allow the commander-in-chief to have divided allegiance at birth, Donofrio recently uncovered a strange situation he calls "Justiagate," documented in an article by Dianna Cotter.

Cotter describes Justia as an "influential legal research website," and "since Google most often returns Justia.com's version of the case being searched for as the first or second hit, Justia's version of Supreme Court opinions are most influential in the blogosphere's forums and comments."  She detailed Donofrio's alarming discovery that at least 25 Supreme Court decisions on Justia's database had been subjected to some sort of tampering. 

It just so happens that all of the affected cases are relevant to the "natural born" citizen debate, all of the changes relate to the especially important decision of Minor v. Happersett (which contains a definition of "natural born citizen"), and all of the noted revisions occurred during the period from mid-2008 to when Donofrio's discoveries were published.

Were the anomalies simply innocent programming errors, as Justia's Tim Stanley asserts, or were they created intentionally, with or without direction from somewhere above?

And while "Justiagate" has been gaining in publicity in the blogosphere, preceded by the previous weeks' renewed and related interest in the laws granting birthright citizenship surrounding the al-Awlaki killing, new headlines are screaming -- and guess what about:

The birth certificate.

Again.  And again.  And again.

Conspiracy?

Pass the popcorn.