(Forgive a lengthy recap of our story, but some folks may have walked into the movie late.)
A minority of the PUMA movement fixates on the tale of Techdude, the alleged courtroom-quality expert in image analysis who says that he can "prove" that Barack Obama's Certificate of Live Birth (COLB, for short) is phony. The dude insists that a forger used a real COLB -- issued to Obama's sister, no less -- as the basis for the fake. Moreover, the dude says that he can, with a little techno-magic, resurrect the original COLB information.
Previous articles published on this site (scroll down) and elsewhere
have proven pretty much beyond doubt that these claims are crap. No-one has replicated Techdude's work. (Yes, a couple of people have claimed
to do so, but they've offered no proof -- and they have published under nicknames, which means that the dude may be "verifying" himself.) No-one who uses Photoshop professionally considers Techdude's argument comprehensible. Although he has presented many jpg files to the public, none of them show the actual results of his work -- that is to say, none of them show Maya Sotero's name on the COLB.
The dude has promised to clear up all mysteries with a much-anticipated report. It has yet to appear.
He and his zombie followers attack the character of anyone who dares to express doubt. Many of the most vicious attacks were directed at yours truly.
No amount of ad hominem
argumentation can change facts: If a forger covers up type with a chunk of background pattern -- that, my friends, is it
. Those old pixels are gone forever. You can play with Photoshop or some other imaging app. You can use every damned toy in the Batcave. But you will not tease the original text back into legibility. You may
uncover evidence that a cut-n-paste job took place, but Photoshop won't give you a crowbar capable of prying up the concrete flooring to see what lies beneath.
In short, Techdude flummoxed the technically illiterate with pseudoscience and a hyper-macho 'tude. What really
wowed 'em was his claimed resume. Any critic of the dude's work would invariably have that resume waved in his or her face, as though that
But without a real name, what did a resume matter? Anyone who has seen the film Catch Me If You Can
knows that imposters can be very, very clever.
Eventually, simple googling revealed that Techdude's c.v. precisely matched that of one Adam Fink
, the owner and "chief investigator" of a firm in Missouri called Collectech
, a.k.a Missouri Forensics. Dr. Neal Krawetz
-- a genuine expert who operates under his real name -- originally accused Fink of being Techdude, an identification which could imperil Fink's ability to offer expert testimony in court. Later, Krawetz spoke to Fink by phone, and came away convinced that the two men are not
one and the same.
Trusting Krawetz' judgment, I wrote a post accusing Techdude of identity theft.(Here endeth the recap.)Here's the new stuff:
The chief promoter of Techdude's work -- a blogger operating under the name of Texas Darlin
-- has more or less admitted that, in her opinion, Fink is our dude.
A foreign journalist tells me that another devotee of the dude, Pamela Geller (a right-wing broadcaster who runs a pro-Israel site called Atlas Shrugged) also believes that Fink is the man, although Geller has not, to my knowledge, mentioned Fink in public. Geller continues
to accept the dude at his every dubious word.
I have little more to say about Geller -- beyond noting that, politically, she and I will always see eye to toe. (We share a mutual dislike of Obama, but that's about it.) We'll get to Texas Darlin' in a bit. Right now, let's deal with Fink.
I've called Fink and left a polite request for a brief interview, as per Texas Darlin's suggestion. No response. Suspicious behavior, that.
Even more suspicious: The dude, instead of issuing his report, has backed away from the controversy, citing threats
to his family:
My family is now being harassed and threatened. She [his wife] is absolutely terrified and is afraid to leave the house or even go to work. She is begging me to stop and I am going to listen to her. I cannot endanger my family any further.
Texas Darlin has responded with a tentative "No Sale"
All information that we have received from Techdude has been published. We have not seen the rest of his evidence. At present, he is unavailable. Should he not respond promptly, we will remove his statements and findings.
Good for her. That stance is a lot more responsible than Geller's stand-by-your man approach.
These alleged attacks on Techdude's wife seem awfully convenient. Now he has an excuse to go into hiding instead of facing the growing demand to back up his BS.
This isn't the first time he has claimed real-life harassment. A few weeks back -- well before
the controversy reached the flash point -- the dude asserted that his tires had been slashed, and that someone left a dead rabbit by his door. Obviously, he wants us to believe that the Obama forces are out to get him
. Using rabbits.
These melodramatic assertions force us to ask a few obvious questions.
1. If the Obots already know his address, then why continue to operate under a pseudonym? Under the circumstances, transparency would seem the safest course.
2. How did the bad guys find out the truth long before anyone else did?
3. If the bad guys already know Techdude's secret identity, why don't they publish it?
If the Penguin ever finds out that Bruce Wayne is Batman, he won't keep the news under his top hat. And he won't leave a bunny at the gate of Wayne Manor. (The Joker might, but he's wacky.)One Techdude, or two?
I would like to propose another possibility. Mind you, this is just
a possibility -- I do not have proof, and I remain very open to counter-arguments.
A reader whom I will call G has directed my attention to a series of comments on the neo-Nazi site Stormfront. (See, for example, here
.) Apparently, someone calling himself "Techdude" likes to hang out with the aficionados of Adolf.
Are the two Techdudes one and the same?
On Pamela Geller's site, the COLB-huntin' Techdude was asked this very question, and issued a denial
G (a scientist at the Universtiy of Wisconsin, and an Obama opponent) questions this denial. He has been studying up on the various techniques of discovering literary "fingerprints." Applying both common sense and computer analysis, he has noted a striking similarity between the writing styles of the two Techdudes
They share a very distinctive style of punctuation. There's a heavy use of dashes to set off comments or parse sentences. And there's a paucity of commas. There's also a fairly heavy use of parentheses. According to what I've recently read in the authorship identification literature, punctuation has turned out to be one of the most informative and reliable features.
Both Techdudes like to use ALL CAPS for emphasis. Both Techdudes like to use emoticons. Both use the phrase "3rd party" instead of the more common "third party."
I computed the mean word length (this is considered to be a somewhat informative feature for author identification) for writing samples from a large number of authors. The mean word lengths all tended to fall in a narrow range. The Texas Darlin 'Techdude' and the Stormfront 'Techdude' both have a lower than average word size, and are similar to each other - 4.61 characters for the TexasDarlin samples, and 4.63 characters for the Stormfront samples. The samples from other authors fell into the range of 4.76-5.64 characters (mean of 5.12, standard deviation of 0.27). So the two 'Techdude' samples fell outside the range of the other authors I sampled, and resembled each other.
Granted, this sort of analysis has limits. Similar arguments have been used to identify Christopher Marlowe as Shakespeare, and Marlowe did not
write the Shakespeare plays. I myself have a weakness for dashes and (on occasion) ALL CAPS, although I despise emoticons.
Anyone with any literary tendencies will develop an instinct for recognizing writing styles. If provided a large sample, you probably would not need a byline to spot the work of your favorite author. My gut tells me that the Stormfront Techdude and the Texas Darlin' Techdude may
be one and the same, despite the denial.
Intriguingly, the Stormfront author has supported the use of subterfuge to infiltrate non-racist sites. G says that the following is a quote from the Stormfront Techdude (alas, I don't have a URL):
'I think the best way to draw people to SF (as many do not even know what SF is) and not get banned is to pose as an extreme anti-racist. Act as if you're offended by everything even remotely racially aware, and tell the person that "with your attitude you should be posting with the racists on stormfront.org'.
Someone who thinks that way might consider himself very clever if he managed to fool vehemently pro-Israel blog-owners such as Pamela Geller and Larry Johnson.
Obviously, this argument gets us into a very tricky (and potentially actionable) area. So let's be clear: I am not
stating that Mr. Fink is a racist -- in fact, I will presume the opposite. Neither am I stating that Fink is the dude; I will presume the opposite.
I'm simply asking my readers to compare the writing styles and come to their own conclusions. Are G's suspicions silly or supportable?As for Texas Darlin':
I must admit that I became genuinely ticked off at her obstinacy. For a while, I was convinced that she was in on the con. The only alternative, frankly, was to presume that she possesses truly startling reserves of naivete.
Her recent post on No Quarter has largely quelled those suspicions. The producer of an upcoming PUMA documentary, who has spoken to Texas Darlin' on the telephone, assures me that the woman appears to be on the up-and-up -- although the lady from Texas adamantly refuses to divulge any information about herself. (Behind the scenes, when talking to each other, most bloggers tend to operate on a "real name" basis. That's a tendency
, not an invariability.)
Intriguing mysteries remain.Freeper or Hill-girl?
Texas Darlin' insists that she is a "pro-Hillary blogger and lifelong Democrat."
However, one Steve Diamond on No Quarter
I’ve known Texas Darlin’ for several years dating back to when she was posting on FreeRepublic and I can vouch for her credibility and trustworthiness.
The notoriously reactionary Free Republic site is not
friendly territory for Democrats or Clinton supporters.A mystery number.
John Dean, an occasional reader of this site and former contributor to No Quarter, loves to track down IP addresses. He thinks that he has Texas Darlin's number.
To be specific: 22.214.171.124
This is not private information. That IP number shows up in the header of a message sent by Texas Darlin' on April 2, 2008, at 10:27 PM, to a Yahoo Group -- email@example.com. It's one of several numbers on the "X-Recieved" list, which traces the path from a home computer to its destination. That number traces to a coastal town in California (I won't be more specific); in her Yahoo group message, Texas Darlin' reveals that she has moved from Texas to California.
The same number is listed here
as belonging to -- hold onto your hats! -- Larry Sinclair. As most of you know, Larry is the strange and unconvincing man who insists that he had gay sex with Barack Obama. I've poked fun at Larry in the past.
A caveat about the link given above: It goes to a bizarre and rather distasteful site called "The Mitch and Nan Show," which is apparently devoted to attacking Larry Sinclair. Frankly, Larry's enemies strike me as zealous and over-the-top and downright creepy.
Sort of like Larry himself.
Be that as it may, Texas Darlin' was not
on Mitch and Nan's radar. And an IP number is an IP number is an IP number.
Obviously, Larry is not
Texas Darlin'. The afore-mentioned producer assures me that Texas Darlin' is female. I understand that Larry does not live in California.
All of which leaves me very confused.
Could there be an innocent explanation for this numerical congruence? Very possibly. I'm hardly an expert at tracking IP addresses, and I'd appreciate correction by someone who is
an expert. Texas Darlin' deserves the benefit of the doubt.
I probably should not mention this next bit in public. But...in for a penny, in for a pound.
Texas Darlin' has apparently referred to herself by the nickname "Gigi," among other psuedonyms. (I presume that "Gigi" is not her real name.) Back in 2002, a Gigi from Texas posted comments at -- you guessed it -- Stormfront
Coincidence? Very probably. (If nothing else, the Stormfront Gigi proves that some
"leetle girls" do not
grow up "in ze most delightful way.")Bottom line:
Let me stress again that Texas Darlin' deserves the benefit of every possible doubt. I feel certain that someone out there will offer a reasonable explanation for the IP coincidence.
I must register a harsher judgment of Techdude. He may or may not be Mr. Fink. But he is certainly a
Now zoom back for the larger picture. This COLB controversy illustrates a problem besetting the PUMA movement: The prattlings of fringe-dwellers threaten to overwhelm the more reasonable arguments against Barack Obama.
Like it or not, PUMAs must confront the "strange bedfellows" phenonemon. Many Dems dislike Obama. Most reactionaries also dislike Obama. Often, the two groups dislike Obama for reasons which cannot be reconciled
For example, Republicans routinely call Obama a "socialist" -- an inane charge. By contrast, I consider Obama's main economic advisers, especially Austan Goolsbee, far too libertarian
A long time ago, I learned that hard-core conservatives tend to love, love, love
weird conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. They go in for strange tales about flying saucers, Rife microscopes, Tesla death rays, the Philadelphia Experiment, the Illuminati, Satanic Ritual Abuse and god knows what else. Naturally, in this election cycle, such people are drawn toward "out there" theories-of-Obama involving gay sex or fake documents or secret trips to Kenya.
You won't find any of that crap on a site like the Confluence. The writings of Riverdaughter and Katiebird are witty, sophisticated and well-reasoned. But the broader anti-Obama movement does contain some very strange individuals peddling some very strange memes.
I hate to say it, but those oddballs are gaining a voice on Larry Johnson's No Quarter. Although I still visit his site often, some of his material makes me cringe
. Many of his readers are just as oafish as the Kossacks.
The PUMA movement represents a split within the Democratic party. The movement itself may split. Our very name shouts disunity.PS:
Looks like Techdude won't take me up on my "hidden Shakespeare quote" challenge. Let's see if you can guess the play (though not the line) based on this clue:Twain - Tchaikovsky - Shaw - Voltaire - Brecht - Bresson
It's the nastiest line Willie ever wrote. A solution will arrive soon.