Taitz is pinning her hopes on the California case, this one on behalf of a slew of plaintiffs, some of them former members of the military — a central thread running through her filings is the idea that soldiers owe no allegiance to an illegitimate commander — and assorted fulminators and fringe players, including Wiley Drake, a pastor who has said that he prays for Obama’s death. Drake and another plaintiff have now hired a new lawyer, because alliances within the movement are a fractious thing. Taitz — who says that it’s “wrong” to pray for the president’s death — is also in a legal tussle with Philip Berg, a Pennsylvania lawyer whom, some observers say, she has edged aside to become the most visible face of the movement.

If that’s true, it’s easy to see how it might have happened. If you were the producer of an opinionated news show and wanted to book a birther, whom would you choose? A nondescript Pennsylvanian or an excitable Moldovan American lawyer-dentist described by Lincoln, her assistant, as a “fierce blonde” reminiscent of the warrior goddess Athena? Easy call! Today Taitz, 49, is wearing white high-heeled slingbacks; bare legs; a white skirt; black and white shirt; enormous eyelashes; and her characteristic air of charming but ferocious tenacity, part Meg Ryan, part Madame Defarge.

“He is lying about his identity, he is hiding his whole identity, this is dangerous!” says Taitz, looking eagerly toward a judicial ruling on the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss the California case. She is hopeful that this judge will let her go ahead…

Taitz is also on the radar of militia groups, whom she sometimes addresses on her blog; in one posting, she urged “state militias” to descend upon southern U.S. borders and help check those arriving for signs of swine flu virus; in another, she called on “citizen’s militia” to protect people from being rounded up by government forces using swine flu as a pretext. The question of her broader influence “is our main concern,” says Robert Haggard, a frequent poster to Politijab, a Web site whose members include legal experts tracking Taitz with horrified fascination. “We don’t believe that Orly herself is dangerous, the problem is, she is attracting these people who are, and have a history of being so.”