Bill Maher takes on the birthers

August 1, 2009 | By | 51 Replies More

Bill Maher takes on the birthers , and he doesn’t tread lightly.

[There was once a video available, but it was taken down by Youtube due to copyright violations.  If anyone can find a video available at Maher’s own site, please let me know.]


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Category: Humor, hypocrisy, ignorance, Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (51)

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  1. Ben says:

    More about Mark's hobby:

    We make no claim, in signing this declaration, to know exactly what happened, who wrote the works, nor even that Mr. Shakspere definitely did not. Individual signatories will have their personal views about the author; but all we claim here is that there is "room for doubt," and other reasonable scenarios are possible. If writers and thinkers of the stature of Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and all the rest of the outstanding people named above, have expressed doubt that Mr. William Shakspere of Stratford wrote the works attributed to him, why is it even necessary to say that there is room for doubt? There clearly is doubt, as a matter of empirical fact — reasonable doubt, expressed by very credible people. Reasonable people may differ about whether a preponderance of the evidence supports Mr. Shakspere, but it is simply not credible for anyone to claim, in 2007, that there is no room for doubt about the author.

  2. Ben,

    Not my hobby, I have no interest beyond what I've already stated. There is always "reason for doubt" but when you get into offering alternatives, it gets a bit harder to swallow.

    for instance, during the same period (and some time before and after) it was common for artists to take on apprentices who learned to paint in the style of the master. The paintings produced by these apprentices were often signed by the master, even though not painted by him. It was assumed they were done under his guidance, part of the program, and therefore the credit accrued to the master.

    But we know of these apprentices only if they went on to become masters themselves. The others, who didn't make, are more often than not lost to history, unremarked. Their traces are difficult to discern and experts are still uncovering them. But we know they were apprenticed to a master.

    These prominent names offered in lieu of Willy would be impossible to obscure.

    But doubt? Sure. We don't really know who Homer was. It's plausible (though not likely) that Tolstoy's wife wrote some of his later work—she was the only one who could decipher his handwriting.

    But we know Chekov didn't write it. Or Czar Alexander. Just as an example.

    For what it's worth, I suspect a lot of this has to do with the newness of the English theater at the time and the whole notion of celebrity among playwrights. There may well have been better writers than Willy whose entire oeuvre went up in flames in 1666, whose plays simply didn't get performed anymore for whatever reason. It didn't occur to people to record the lives of *writers* back then. We don't know a hell of a lot about Marlowe, either, except for the work he apparently did as a spy for Elizabeth. If he'd been nothing but a playwright we'd be having the same debate about him.

    It's a nonissue for me. I frankly don't have a problem with the notion that a "commoner" could do what he did. You cited Mark Twain—Sam Clemens did not have a particularly auspicious background, nothing that would have suggested the brilliance of his pen.

  3. Stacy Kennedy says:

    Mark@ "I frankly don’t have a problem with the notion that a “commoner” could do what he did"

    Neither do I, but classism does seem to be the rationale behind most of the doubts.

    Which just makes me love Shakespeare all the more, somehow.

    Ben, unfortunately I don't have a copy of Bryson's book, but do look it up. It's entertaining and concise, as well as informative.

    In his chapter on the authorship question he basically gives a history of the doubters and their claims. When you see their arguments all laid out, they turn out to be quite flimsy, often based on tortured interpretations of the evidence (ie, Ben Jonson–who knew the man!–made criticisms of some of Shakespeare's work–but according to anti-Stratfordians Ben really MEANT his words to mean that he suspected S DIDN'T write said work.)

    Saying that someone else could have written the plays is kind of like saying Obama could have been born in Kenya and the birth certificate from Hawaii is fake and the officials involved are engaged in a well-orchestrated cover-up.

    Is it possible? Sure, anything's possible. Is there any good reason to think so, or credible evidence to suggest such a thing? No.

    The more parsimonious hypotheses in both cases (Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays; Obama was born in Hawaii)are good solid ones.

  4. Ben says:

    Thanks for the link Stacy. The idea that shakespeare's works are not all written by one man sounded quite appetizing to me, but alas, I have not read more than a handful of his plays, nor studied the issue at hand. I don't have enough information to form a solid opinion either way, perhaps I was just stirring up trouble.

    For a brief moment I think I've had a peek into the world of faith!

    I wasn't interested in pursuing the evidence you offered. I was comfortable with my ignorance. By doubting Shakespeare, I automatically placed myself as somebody who has interest in fine arts and has read the classics. (akin to how vocal believers automatically place themselves among the Righteous).

    If shakespeare didnt write all those plays (or if thomas edison didnt invent all those gadets himself), it lowers the bar a bit for the rest of humanity. Makes me feel a tad bit better about my lacking body of literature (inventions).

  5. Ben says:

    That said, (here we go again…) I still think it is a *few shades* more plausible that a number of authors penned the works of shakespeare than it is that Barack Obama is not American (or… that God/unicorns exists). That was my only beef with mark's comment. Now I'm off to read the classics. 🙂

  6. Karl says:

    It appears no actual paper in the Hawaian archives that deals directly with any type of a long form birth certificate for President Obama exists, or if it does exist it can't be tracked down.

    What is present is some kind of documentation

    Pressure was mounting on Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie today amid increasing confusion over whether President Obama was born there.

    Abercrombie said on Tuesday that an investigation had unearthed papers proving Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.

    He told Honolulu's Star-Advertiser: 'It actually exists in the archives, written down,' he said.

    But it became apparent that what had been discovered was an unspecified listing or notation of Obama's birth that someone had made in the state archives and not a birth certificate.

    And in the same interview Abercrombie suggested that a long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health.

    Read more:

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: The question is how stringent the proof would need to be if you someone you supported was trying to prove where he/she was born. I'm wondering whether you are satisfied applying that same standard when it comes to Obama, in whose case there is a state record clearly indicating where and when he was born. Obama's record would stand up in any court other than the Court of Karl.

  7. Karl,

    This is petty nonsense. I repeat, if there were any real doubt about this, you can bet with just about absolute certainty that Hillary would have been all over it. The lengths of conspiracy one would have to go to establish that she would not beggars the imagination. She wanted the nomination so bad she nearly split the Democratic Party. No way she would have let something this juicy go untried.

  8. Karl says:

    The degree of proof required for a matter is normally directly related to the lines of removing reasonable doubt.

    Any one is permitted reasonable doubt, but when someone states there is conclusive evidence that removes reasonable doubts, but then that evidence is withheld, one has to wonder if the evidence is really what they say it is.

    Its like a person that believes in miracles and the supernatural saying, "I can't convince you because I believe the evidence is there but can't make you accept it, you'll have to wait a while for God to prove it to you as well."

  9. This isn't a matter of reasonable doubt. He relied on evidence any other American may rely on and a small group of bigoted assholes declared that insufficient. If one of our cherished national ideals is that "anyone may rise to become president" then the notion that proof which would not be required of "anyone" must be presented to make good on that ideal is a violation of our presumed principles. To require of him what is not required of any other candidate is antithetical to who we are. Because he basically said that what is good enough for any other citizen is good enough for him and further than that is no one's business has been turned into a cause celebre by those who had no right to demand from him what no one else would demand from, say, John McCain (who was actually not born in the United States proper). The issue becomes why he won't hand over more than anyone else is asked to hand over and the reason is quite plain and it's odious. It's the ultimate "when did you stop beating your wife" game. Start down that path and it never ends, because the next step would be assertions that the requested documents were forged, and then you step upon the path of the absolutely unprovable. Stop it. Get another hobby. This is beneath us all.

  10. Karl says:

    If you think Hillary and/or those associated with her campaign didn't try you are naive. Philip Berg was her campaigns attempt to root out the truth, but he hit brick wall after brick wall asking for a simple piece of paper that Barack described in his book "Dreams of My Father" as near and dear to his heart.

    Berg's was/is a Democrat who openly stated his preference for Hillary during the primary season. His attempts to obtain a copy the original vital record started in the late spring of 2008 as Obama pulled ahead of Hillary in the primaries. His legal antics got into full swing during the summer of 08 which was before the DNC convention. He took the only legal course he could try once he realized that the amount of information being kept from the public was beyond reason (something was being hidden on purpose) and creating reasonable doubt as to what could be believed.

  11. Karl! Splash water on your face. It's a non issue. The current House Majority Leader, Rep. Cantor, says he believes Obama is an American citizen and it's time to move on. I am not naive, but you are coming near to exhibiting genuine conspiracy theory paranoia.

    This is an exercise in UNreasonable doubt and I can only assume it's because you either enjoy this or are bothered by Mr. Obama's race.

    Are you as bothered by the 2000 election? That has ample evidentiary support of being fraud. In the interest of the country, Gore didn't pursue it. Take a cue.

  12. Karl says:

    I agree that Cantor should not pursue this as it would detract from the real work needed on the economy and jobs.

    What ever comes of this will only matter when it comes to getting Obama back onto the ballot in those states that will refuse to put him on it without seeing what actual written documentation is in the archives in Hawaii. These states do have that right.

    In 2012 the DNC will not be able to convince several Secretaries of States to let his name be considered for validation unless an actual type wrtitten or hand written vital record is produced.

    Of course this entire matter could be settled by producing the vital record, or by the Congress taking action upon Obama as they did for McCane.

    The DNC did not vet the birth Certificate matter, and unbeknownst to most people Hawaii wouldn't/couldn't verify it either for the DNC, but Nancy Pelosi made sure it got approved.

  13. The question in 2012 will then be, who is in on the conspiracy when your predictions prove false?

    If people started saying to you, sir, you are not your parents child and we will not believe it until you prove it beyond all doubt—some of your DNA please.

    You have a perfect right to tell them to fuck off and still be regarded by all reasonable people as your parents' child. This is one of those instances. The generally accepted record, used by tens of millions of Americans, which you and the birthers claim is insufficient, is all he should be required to give. If for all the years he lived, worked, and served here did not produce a valid reason to consider him not a citizen to be acted upon by the appropriate agency before or during his senate campaign, then this, for all intents and purposes, is a bullshit issue and tries the patience of reasonable people. He has the same right you do to tell the birthers to fuck off and continue to live as he has always lived, as an American citizen.

    Pardon the language, but this is beyond the pale.

  14. Karl says:

    My prediction has nothing to do with directly finding out who his parents are. It has to do with whether or not he actually meets the critera for the office he holds.

    The manner by which he has chosen to operate as a public official, by concealing his normally public documents is the common ploy lawyers who want to prevent damaging material, lies (or mistatements) from coming under actual scrutiny for as long as possible.

    Eventually someone with the actual authority to prevent this from happening again will force the issue and we will see the materials that have been wisked away from public consideration.

    His claim was that he would make his presidency the most open and transparent in history.

    However, how he got to the presidency is a different story.

    Sure is a shame we didn't DNA analysis back in the days of Jesus, that would have been a real eye opener.

  15. One final observation, Karl. While I know the reality often falls short of this, the ideal in this country is innocent till proven otherwise. He has been accepted his whole life as an American citizen. Those with an axe to grind have made the charge that he's not. It's his privilege AS A CITIZEN to respond or not, but the onus is on his accusers, not him, and if all they can do is come up with their inability to make their case as evidence, then this is categorical nonsense and fundamentally anti American.

  16. Karl says:


    You are confusing presumption of innocence with the assumption/distortion of actual facts.

    The facts are Hawaii has stipulated according to their customary ways that Obama was born in Hawaii.

    Unfortunately the customary ways of Hawaii even made Sun Yat-Sen "born in Hawaii."

    See the following:

  17. Karl

    No, I'm not. Someone made an accusation. Until someone can back it up with actual evidence and not ingeniously construed allegation, the presumption is that Obama is what he says he is. If the customary method in Hawaii is good enough for every other Hawaiian it's good enough in this instance. Or maybe they were ALL born somewhere else? No, that would be ridiculous. And so is this.

    'Nuff from me on this. I think this is typical conspiracy theory nonsense. It's bullshit. Look what the swift boaters did to John Kerry, despite the record and other testimony.

  18. Dan Klarmann says:

    DNA fingerprints in the age of Jesus might have kept all those children from being identified as virgin births, or found floating in baskets, or all the other ways that extramarital children have been explained to too-new or long-absent husbands.

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