Federal judge dismissed the challenge to Obama’s birth certificate

October 26, 2008

As expected, a federal judge in Philadelphia late Friday dismissed a challenge to the campaign of Barack Obama to produce yet another copy of his birth certificate. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick ruled that the plaintiff, screwball attorney Philip J. Berg, lacked standing to sue.

Appearing to take his inspiration from the Monty Python character, the Black Knight, Berg promised to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the U.S.

Among reputable media, only the Philadelphia Daily News took note of the dismissal early on:

Obama and the Democratic National Committee had asked Surrick to dismiss Berg’s complaint in a court filing on Sept. 24.

They said that Berg’s claims were “ridiculous” and “patently false,” that Berg had “no standing” to challenge the qualifications of a candidate for president because he had not shown the requisite harm to himself.

Surrick agreed.

In a 34-page memorandum and opinion, the judge said Berg’s allegations of harm were “too vague and too attenuated” to confer standing on him or any other voters.

Surrick ruled that Berg’s attempts to use certain laws to gain standing to pursue his claim that Obama was not a natural-born citizen were “frivolous and not worthy of discussion.”

The judge also said the harm Berg alleged did “not constitute an injury in fact” and Berg’s arguments to the contrary “ventured into the unreasonable.”

For example, Berg had claimed that Obama’s nomination deprived citizens of voting for Sen. Hillary Clinton in November. (Berg backed Clinton in the primaries.)

Berg could not be reached for comment last night.

Obama was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961, and the campaign posted a document issued by Hawaii on its Web site, fight thesmears.com, confirming his birth there.

Berg said in court papers that the image was a forgery.

The nonpartisan Web site FactCheck.org examined the original document and said it was legitimate.

Further, a birth announcement in the Aug. 13, 1961, Honolulu Advertiser listed Obama’s birth there on Aug. 4.

Dozens of bloggers bought new rolls of aluminum foil to make protective hats, and questioned the dismissal, or jumped to other equally unwarranted conclusions. Near total insanity.

Resources:

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Update, 10-27-2008:  Here’s an example of how lunatic this issue is, and how bizarre are the arguments.  This blog argues that Judge Surrick had the decision dictated to him from someone else in the Obama camp — the same lunatic argument creationists made against the decision of Judge Jones in the Dover, Pennsylvania, “intelligent design” trial.  Could it be that all lunatics are creationists?  Or is it just that lunatics all stumble into the same lunatic arguments?


History, naked again

October 26, 2008

Happy to have noticed that Uncovered History is back in operation. 

Recent Gems:

  • “360th Anniversary of the Peace of Westphalia” – never heard of it?  You’d better read this, then, yes?
  • “Warsaw 1920, a quality read” – What?  Your world history text didn’t mention Poland’s abortive attempt to liberate the Ukraine from the USSR in 1920, nor Lenin’s invasion of Poland and march on Berlin, nor the heroic stand at the Vistula described here as one of the most important military victories in history?  You’e better read this post, too, and maybe buy the book.
  • “The coming anarchy – Kaplan’s piece and the blog” — Robert Kaplan’s article in the 1994 The Atlantic described the woes of Africa.  14 years later, it’s still a good read and full of insight.  I wasn’t thinking of using that in world history in 1994 . . . I wasn’t thinking of teaching in 2008 in 1994.  Eoin Purcell’s reminders and pointers prove useful and informative once again.

Dating carbon, for the shy and inexperienced

October 26, 2008

A sure sign of scientific naiveté, especially among those of the creationist religion, is the raft of pseudo complaints about dating the ages of objects, especially fossils, through the use of radioisotopes.

First, creationists will complain that dating things with radiocarbon is impossible.  They aren’t sure why they think that, but it just makes sense to them that radioactivity in stones can’t be used to tell time, and don’t confuse them with any information about how their watches on their wrists are driven by electric currents sent through quartz crystals, and for God’s sake do not confuse them with any references to quantum theory and the workings of the cell phones most of them use to tell time since they evolved to lose the ability to read analog watches anyway (evolution always is to the detriment of the creature they believe, and try to demonstrate).

Then, without any hint that they understand or even see the irony, creationists complain that scientists lie when they say isotope dating puts the age of the Earth and the Moon at about 4.5 billion years, because, they observer, carbon dating is only good to about 50,000 years in most circumstances, and certainly no more than 100,000 years.  Don’t confuse them by telling them that dating of rocks almost always involves an isotope of an element other than carbon, like uranium.

As if to prove their science untrainability, from time to time a creationist will send a sample of something to a lab, asking that it be dated.  When the lab returns a date of several million years for the stuff dated, the creationists crow that they had crushed a brick, or in some other way provided a tainted sample, and they’ve “proven” that carbon dating doesn’t work.

Aardvarchaeology offers a quick primer on carbon dating, “Think before you carbon date.” Bookmark the site.  It’s a good rebuttal for whatever pseudo science claims creationists make about carbon dating.

Real scientists have to do real work.  Radiocarbon dating, or any isotope dating, is usually pretty expensive as a general rule.  It’s not something to be done lightly.  In addition to the expense, to get the dating done correctly, there is a lot of preparation to be done.  Martin Rundkvist details the process, from a live project of his. If you read his piece carefully, you note that he’s giving a primer in dendrochronology, too, the science of dating by tree rings.  

Real science is always more interesting than creationists can imagine.  Go see how it works.  Great stuff


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