:: Skeptical Notion

A blog about politics, news, science and whatever else strikes my fancy. -- A member of the Reality-based Commmunity.
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:: Friday, September 10, 2004 ::

For the record...

Let me reiterate something I've said on a few comment boards (and here previously). Yep, there are some good questions about these documents. Yep, CBS needs to publicly answer them. Yep, they could indeed be forgeries. I understand CBS is planning to address them tonight. I await with great interest.

On the other hand: If the memos are forgeries, CBS has other questions to answer, and I expect those to be public. And, just for the record, I'd also like to know why the White House treated them as true.

After all, even a civilian knows that "disobeying a direct order" is a huge deal in the military, and even a lackluster Guardsman like Bush would undoubtedly remember if he ever disobeyed a direct order. Playing along with the forgery makes no sense, even in a convoluted "Rove did this, the sneaky bastard!" plan.

It's practically a tenet of modern culture that the victim of a false-frame job always protests his innocence, even in the face of seemingly irrefutable facts, only to be vindicated -- and darn near exalted -- in the end. And politics is all about public perception and beliefs. Rove should have played the innocent victim to the hilt not tried to spin the contents.

That little oddity is really the nagging center of the puzzle, at least to me, and about the only reason I'm giving CBS so much slack. The White House reacted to this as if it were legitimate, and if anyone knows Bush's record -- from the actual files to the true unwritten political finangling, it's Karl Rove.
:: Morat 1:23 PM :: ::

In Other News

In other news: My child had his first baseball practice, and continuing a family tradition, he took a ball to the head within the first 30 minutes. He was a real trooper about that, though, and declared later that he liked baseball even more than soccer. Being highly unatheletic myself, I'm always surprised by how quickly he picks things up, and looks like he'll be one of the better players on the team by the end of the year.

My cousin is in ICU, following the birth of her twins. There were some post-pregnancy complications, although doctors seem to feel there was no lasting damage, assuming her blood pressure is finally under control.

I've got a massive cold, which is making my life miserable.

Oh, and it's two thousand and four and the biggest stories of the election year were "What was Kerry doing during Vietnam?" and "What sort of typewriters did they have in 1972?". We truly live in a fucked up world. I think my cold rates higher on the "importance" scale than either of those, and certainly my cousin's problems do.

Offhand, I think I'd rather hear about health care, as my premiums are set to increase. And, strangely enough, I was under the impression that Governor Perry had "fixed that" last year, with some sort of tort reform. Go figure.
:: Morat 11:59 AM :: ::

By the way..

Whomever got here by searching "Dave and Busters" and "Fit for Christians" (I only noted the search words, I didn't check the exact string), allow me to help: If you're the sort of Christian that feels he or she needs to check out if D&B's is "fit for Christians" it's not.

There's alcohol there. And many young women show up, often wearing tight tops. Mostly it's overpriced food (fairly good food, but overpriced just the same) and videogames. And pool. And, as I mentioned, teenagers and twenty-somethings waiting for the clubs to open....

At least in Houston.
:: Morat 11:18 AM :: ::

Bush's National Guard Memo's

I broke down and took a much closer look at the memos, and one thing I did note: Obvious vertical drift from the baseline. The "zoom" feature in Adobe comes in pretty handy (personally, I think the "overlap" method of comparison is a bit buggy. All it does is obscure font differences. Better to blow the puppies up and lay them next to each other). Blow this one up to about 200 to 400% (warning: PDF) and you can note obvious line drift ("rred" in "transferred", the "sh" in "1st Lt. Bush" and check the "him and his", with the words dropping across the statement). That doesn't mean some of them aren't forgeries, or anything else...just that the memo I linked to shows some typewriter-specific artifacts. Anyone clever enough to fake those in MS Word wouldn't be caught up on superscripts and proportional fonts.

Feel free to check it in MS Word (you can zoom in there too). You'll find that you can use the bottom of letters as a ruler. They don't drift "below" or "above" the baseline.

Update: A thought occurs. It's quite possible that Kilian didn't type all of these, of course (that's what aides are for), but it's also possible they weren't all typed on the same make and model of typewriter. Equipment gets phased in and out, and equipment is assigned according to need. It's not unlikely there was more than one typewriter in the office, and not unlikely there was more than one model as well. I'm not sure if that clears up any of the weirdity here, but it's a thought to keep in mind...
:: Morat 9:51 AM :: ::

Cheney: Economic Stats Miss EBay Sales

Let me state, for the record, that you have officially reached the bottom of the economic barrel when you start promoting Ebay as "proof" that it's "not as bad as it looks":
Indicators measure the nation's unemployment rate, consumer spending and other economic milestones, but Vice President Dick Cheney says it misses the hundreds of thousands who make money selling on eBay.
I think Edward's response was perfect:
"If we only included bake sales and how much money kids make at lemonade stands, this economy would really be cooking," Edwards said in a statement

:: Morat 9:40 AM :: ::

Bush's National Guard Memos

So the big story today is: "Are they forgeries?". My response? "Beats me". But if they are, they're going down in history as the oddest and least explicable set of forgeries ever.

A few points to consider: First, yes, typewriters in 1972 did do proportional fonts and sub and superscripts, as well as being able to change font size on those little bad-boys. How do I know? My mother was a secretary for a NASA contractor between 1967 and 1971. I've seen examples of her work (done on a typewriter), and not only did I see a whole host of sub and super-scripts, I also saw all sorts of neat mathematical symbols and proportional fonts. (Yes, I went and checked). Now, I have no idea how expensive that typewriter was. It wasn't hers, after all, and it was highly specialized (in between doing the usual work, she transcribed technical documents. It was, quite literally, rocket science and I don't doubt there were some custom type-sets required there). But nothing about the superscripts was impossible in 1972, assuming you had a fussy enough officer. And, unless the military has changed a lot since 1972, there have always been plenty of fussy officers.

So yes, they did exist. Did the military have them? I have no idea. On the one hand, I would imagine the military -- especially during the draft -- would have invested quite a bit in such things. The military lives of off records and "multiple copies" so they'd undoubtedly want flexible typewriters that could make multiple copies. Xerox was around (if still pretty new) but carbon paper ruled the Earth. Given the huge number of people they were tracking, and the sheer number of pieces of paper this creates, I don't doubt the military spend a lot on typewriters. On the other hand, I have no idea if Killian -- or any of his staff -- had one of these. (For that matter, I have no idea if Killian typed any of this, or if he had an aide do it, assuming they're real).

Now, as to why this would be a very weird forgery. The difference between "computer printed" and "typed" is very obvious if you're examining the originals. I'm not aware of any printer -- at least in the last two decades -- that would leave impact marks on the paper like a typewriter would. I don't know for certain whether carbon copies would have similar impact marks, although it seems pretty likely to me.

So, in short, the only way CBS could mistake a computer printed (IE, the MS Word theory) for typed is if they did not have access to the originals. If you're trying to vet copies (especially ones that have been faxed or scanned), you've got your work cut out for you and I'm not sure how much certainty you could claim. But the originals? We're talking five minutes and a magnifying glass, and you'd know for certain whether it was the product of a computer printer or a typewriter. (Now, whether it came from a typewriter in 1972 and was 33 years old, that takes a bit more work....but you could rule out "computer" in minutes).

So, if CBS has the originals, and they're claiming they're not forgeries, you can safely assume that they weren't made using MS Word. If CBS does not have the originals (which is entirely possible. Does anyone know?), then that's a different matter.

Lacking the originals, CBS -- assuming they're even marginally competent -- would be basing the validity of the documents upon two sources. First, an expert review that would determine whether it was possible these were copies of original documents. (As I noted before, this is a lot trickier than working with originals, and I trust people working with PDF copies of copies even less). Secondly, they would be vetting the source of the documents, determining whether he -- or she -- could gain access to those documents, whether the documents fit into the facts and verified documents CBS had, and whether the source had any motive or reason to lie about the documents. Further, they'd probably try to get independent confirmation of the documents contents. That's Journalism 101, and if CBS failed that, they deserve all the scorn they get.

And now into the last oddity: The White House response. The White House released copies of the CBS documents, and then proceeded to claim that these documents proved Bush was working with his commander to resolve the issue of his flight physical. If they were forgeries, you'd expect a flat denial. Even if they were super dirty-trick forgeries (akin to the time Rove planted a bug in his own office and then claimed it was his candidate's opponents), you'd expect them to deny it....because when they were shown to be forgeries, the White House is vindicated. Now, if the damn things or forgeries, people are going to want to know why the White House accepted them at face value.

Personally, I find the whole damn thing really weird. Perhaps some of the documents are forgeries, and some real. Perhaps they're all forgeries, but the information is entirely true or something Bush thought was true -- or believed was true -- and thus the White House would believe they were real, and spin as if they were. Perhaps they're all real.

Beats the hell out of me. I'll watch with interest. But what I do know is that, without access to the original, claims of forgery should be taken with a grain of salt, and claims of their veracity need to be supplemented with information on the provenance of the documents. As it stands, CBS needs to belly up and either release originals (or, as I said, carbon copies would probably work) for independent expert review, or start releasing information about their sources. And the various talking heads need to mention that their expert's opinions are even further from the source material than CBS's.

Update: Oh, and one last thing: The documents really don't tell us anything new. Nothing that wasn't widely suspected, nothing earthshattering. We knew before that Bush wasn't around in Alabama, and we knew before that he skipped his physical. A lot of work for no real payoff....

Update the Last: For the love of Pete, is it really a surprise to anyone that certain fonts look like the results of a typewriter? Maybe it's because I'm a CS major, but I thought it was pretty frickin' obvious that a number of "standard" fonts were based on typewriter fonts. (And fonts, for the record, include not only the shape of the letter but distance between letters and a few other fun things...).
:: Morat 8:40 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, September 09, 2004 ::

Oops.

Most politicians took an important lesson from Nixon, which was "The coverup is worse than the crime". This White House was apparently absent on "Richard Nixon" Day. (Or were too busy worshipping Nixon, as is apparently the case with both Cheney and the Gubernator). I suppose they thought the lesson was "Don't stop lying...ever.". Given their penchant for secrecy, their changes to the way the FOIA is implemented and their general modus operandi...well, perhaps they thought it could work.
President Bush failed to carry out a direct order from his superior in the Texas Air National Guard in May 1972 to undertake a medical examination that was necessary for him to remain a qualified pilot, according to documents made public yesterday.

Documents obtained by the CBS News program "60 Minutes" shed new light on one of the most controversial episodes in Bush's military service, when he abruptly stopped flying and moved from Texas to Alabama to work on a political campaign. The documents include a memo from Bush's squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, ordering Bush "to be suspended from flight status for failure to perform" to U.S. Air Force and National Guard standards and failure to take his annual physical "as ordered."

The new documents surfaced as the Bush administration released for the first time the president's personal flight logs, which have been the focus of repeated archival searches and Freedom of Information Act requests dating to the 2000 presidential campaign. The logs show that Bush stopped flying in April 1972 after accumulating more than 570 hours of flight time between 1969 and 1972, much of it on an F-102 interceptor jet.
Now the fun comes. Because, you see, 60 Minutes had memo's....which weren't in the supposed "full release" Bush made. So you have a documented lie here, where Bush hid some of his records....records which contradict his story.

What makes this even more painful is the upcoming Kitty Kelly book. Now, this may just be me, but if I'm about to be accused of doing a lot more cocaine, for a lot longer than generally believed, even to the point of doing it at Camp David....well, I'd prefer that I hadn't just been caught lying about something else I did a few decades ago.
:: Morat 8:18 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 ::

Bush Likely to Bow Out of 1 Debate

Color me shocked:
President Bush may skip one of the three debates that have been proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates and accepted by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Republican officials said yesterday.

The officials said Bush's negotiating team plans to resist the middle debate, which was to be Oct. 8 in a town meeting format in the crucial state of Missouri.
Skipping the Town Hall debate? Bad move. That's the one where "real voters" get to ask questions.

Kerry can hammer the message that Bush is afraid to take "real questions from real voters" over and over. Tie it in to Bush's requirements for "loyalty oaths" at his campaign stops, and the press grumblings about the syncophantic non-questions being asked there....well, you've got yourself a bona-fide meme that Bush can't handle the hard questions.

Makes him look weak and afraid. And, best of all, it's true. Bush's handlers can predict what Kerry will bring up in debates, and can predict what the moderators bring up....but they can't prepare him for what an audience member might ask. The Town Hall format requires you to think on your feet, at least a little. Bush's has spent the last four years avoiding that situation.

If Bush does back out, Kerry should show up anyways and simply take questions for the full hour. I would avoid any of those silly "empty chair" devices. Bush's absence will be obvious. There's no need to play it up at all, no need for snarky comments about Bush at all. Bush's name doesn't even need to come up. There's no clearer message than Kerry taking questions, responding to citizens....while Bush refuses to.
:: Morat 9:30 AM :: ::

Gravity is a harsh Mistress

The Genesis' probe's chute failed to deploy, so obviously it wasn't caught. The capsule looked intact, but the collection disks were undoubtedly damaged in the crash. (That was the whole reason for catching the thing). How much data is recoverable -- if any -- won't be known for awhile.

I'd imagine (I couldn't find any confirmation anywhere) that this risk had been planned for, as the proposed helicopter catch was always a big concern. So there's a good chance it wasn't a total bust...the data might not be as useful as originally hoped, but with luck we'll still have fairly pristine samples...or at least uncontaminated samples.

(One of the perks of the job is that we all stop to watch NASA stuff. )

Update: Upon closer inspection, the capsule is only "reasonably intact". It's broken open in several places, but the pieces are all clustered together. Think "mangled car" and not "mangled car over 50 feet of highway". The collection plates should have been the best shielded....one can only hope they weren't contaminated.
:: Morat 9:02 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 ::

Cheney Warns Against Vote for Kerry

It's this sort of asshattery (no, it's not a word. But it fits) that makes it increasingly likely that I'll vote Democrat for life.
'It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,' Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

If Kerry were elected, Cheney said the nation risks falling back into a 'pre-9/11 mind-set' that terrorist attacks are criminal acts that require a reactive approach. Instead, he said Bush's offensive approach works to root out terrorists where they plan and train, and pressure countries that harbor terrorists.
I've always been very much the social liberal, but fiscally I was always much more a moderate. Heck, I used to actually vote for Republicans. But this sort of tactic, this sort of sleazy campaigning, makes it harder and harder to do that.

I look at this and think "How on earth can I vote for a party that puts up with this?". I've moved from wondering where the hypothetical "line" is to wondering if there's a line at all. Is there anything they won't tolerate? Besides homosexuality?

I'm 29 years old. I look at this and I wonder what it will take to convince me, in some far-off future, that the GOP has purged this sort of thing from it's system.
:: Morat 1:39 PM :: ::

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