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September 20, 2004

Comments

He owes the nation his immediate retirement.

I owe Holsclaw an apology.

I'm impressed. They could have continued to stall on this for...weeks, I imagine. It took some guts to fess up.

Burkett's credibility, or what's left of it, has pretty much reached a global minimum. Good for CBS, and I hope they take some serious steps to make sure this doesn't happen again. Or at least, not for a couple of more decades.

Anybody who has been paying attention for the past 18 months knew that Burkett would be a shaky source. I see the guy as frustrated by what he knows but can't prove, reaching Bush's final election and just deciding to do whatever it took -- but there are plenty of other worthy interpretations. The point is, anything he provided had to be seen as suspect.

(apologies for the roller coaster of verb tenses)

With Burkett as the source, everything about the case gets weird. Is he really the 'unimpeachable' source that Rather talked about last week? Because if he is it is ridiculous to call him "unimpeachable". He has been known to be a bit nutty as he shopped around his versions (plural quite intentional) of the Guard story for years. Furthermore, if he had personal documents from Killian, he would have revealed them years ago.

CBS knows all this (having dealt with him before). So they should have been immediately suspicious if he turned up with documents all of the sudden. Combining that with the worries of CBS's document experts should have stopped the story.

That leads me to believe either that Burkett is not the "unimpeachable" source Dan Rather was talking about or that Rather was blatantly lying and just assumed he could get away with it. If the former, we need to know about the chain of custody that led Rather to believe the documents were genuine. If the latter, we need someone at CBS to publically rebuke (and then fire) Rather for misleading us.

If the latter, we need someone at CBS to publically rebuke (and then fire) Rather for misleading us.

Uh...er...got a mouse in your pocket?

Lets see. Being misled into an important decision by happily accepting the veracity of information from a third party which should have been highly suspect. This is grounds for immediate retirement. I agree. Rather and Bush should both resign.

I think it's fair to question why Rather rushed to air this story. He obviously knew it could harm Bush. He owes Bush an apology, as well as the nation.

Well: the memos are still at "cannot be proven to be false". They did, however, correspond to the known facts of Bush's "service" in TANG - as the White House's response to the memos demonstrated. CBS has behaved more responsibly about the story than the mass media response to the SBVFLs: do you feel that the Washington Post, for example, owes an apology to John Kerry, for publishing a story based on the Swifties claims without ever explicitly saying "No part of the SBVFT story can actually be proven to be true"? No media outlet, as far as I know, has gone as far as apologizing and admitting that the Swifties misled them with claims that they could not authenticate.

If there's no apology for publishing damaging lies about Kerry, I fail to see why there should be any apology for publishing damaging truths about Bush.

So, you're going with the "correct, but inauthentic" approach, Jesurgislac?

The Swifties, like them or no, didn't (to my knowledge) produce obviously forged documents in support of their claims. And, it must be said, they don't carry the media clout that 60 Minutes does.

Ack. Out, damned italics!

So, you're going with the "correct, but inauthentic" approach, Jesurgislac?

No: I'm taking a three-pronged approach. One: the memos have not yet been proven to be false. And I think it likely that all those people who spent hours proving that the memos could have been faked using MS Word are going to find out that they really wasted their time. (Because, regardless of whether the memos do or do not originate from Killian, if they're faked, they'd have been faked on a typewriter. ;-) That I'm fairly sure of.) So, following your frequent take on a story, Slarti, I'm going with "We don't know yet". *shrug*

Second point: Unlike the SBVFT's wild claims, these memos did not come as a brand new story upsetting all earlier versions: they merely confirmed what has been known for some time now. George W. Bush failed to report for a physical, was grounded, and never flew again, despite only serving 23 months as a pilot for TANG when he'd signed up for 4 years: and then lied about it, consistently, for years, whenever he was asked about his service in TANG. (And is still lying about it, apparently. He has no shame. But we knew that.)

Third point: I've read multiple claims by people, mostly right-wingers, that they're for truth in media, and that's why they objected to the Killian memos. Now, there are a handful of people who I'd say have some right to make that claim. But no one who went along with the SBVFT lies can claim that: this was a group of people with strong ties to the Bush/Cheney campaign coming out with an absolutely new story about Kerry which was, if true, very damaging. And yet, the media reported it as if it were something more than a political attack on a candidate for office, even though they had no particular reason to believe that any part of it was actually true.

The Swifties, like them or no, didn't (to my knowledge) produce obviously forged documents in support of their claims

They called on a lot of Swift Boat veterans to get their memories of incidents involving John Kerry. In at least one documented incident, the written account provided by a Swift Boat veteran was then edited to correspond with the SBVFLs version of the story - edited to such an extent that the veteran was outraged when he saw it, because he'd been called upon for his memories, and what they produced claiming to be his testimony was not what he remembered. You can argue that this was not the same as "forging documents" - which has not yet been proven - but it's exactly as scummy.

So, following your frequent take on a story, Slarti, I'm going with "We don't know yet".

That's the spirit!

And is still lying about it, apparently.

Oops. The spirit has departed.

Smells like protean spirit.

Oops. The spirit has departed.

When was the last time Bush talked about his "years" flying with TANG? Or gave some other reason than "grounded because I wouldn't take a physical" why he quit flying?

Were those rhetorical questions, or did you want me to answer them?

One: the memos have not yet been proven to be false.

Where is the burden of proof, exactly?

And I think it likely that all those people who spent hours proving that the memos could have been faked using MS Word are going to find out that they really wasted their time. (Because, regardless of whether the memos do or do not originate from Killian, if they're faked, they'd have been faked on a typewriter. ;-) That I'm fairly sure of.)

Why you're willing to speculate that the forger must be competent absent evidence to that effect, yet you are unwilling to speculate that the memo can not be recreated on a typewriter but can be in MS Word when there actually is evidence to that end, is a bit of a mystery.

I suspect that even after CBS actually comes out and says the memos are fake, which appears will be happening be soon, there are still going to be people who insist that it isn't proven that they're faked.

What's really sad is that I'm of the same political persuasion as most of these people. I'm still horrified by that embarrassing and insulting series of articles about the forgeries on The Daily Kos by Hunter. If anything, I thought that the condemnations of forgeries and lies put forth by pro-Bush forces would have resulted in due dilligence and zero-tolerance of forgeries by the anti-Bush side. Color me naive.

Oh well, at least there was spirited condemnation here on ObWi. And Drum and Marshall got it right.

double-plus-ungood: I suspect that even after CBS actually comes out and says the memos are fake, which appears will be happening be soon, there are still going to be people who insist that it isn't proven that they're faked.

Well, if CBS comes out and says "We now know they're fakes, and this is why" they'll be speaking with authority, since they have access to the documents in question. Currently, all the so-called typographic experts who are coming up with "proof" that the memos are forged, are doing so without access to the documents - and are therefore, sorry, talking through their hats.

Which is to say, yes, if CBS say they're fakes for sure (as opposed to "we can't be sure of their authenticity") and show their evidence, I'll believe them. But I see no reason to believe however many bloggers have come up with what they think is a replica using MS Word.

If anything, I thought that the condemnations of forgeries and lies put forth by pro-Bush forces would have resulted in due dilligence and zero-tolerance of forgeries by the anti-Bush side. Color me naive.

Actually, what it resulted in was a clear picture of the double standards widespread in the US media. Uncomfortable truths about the Republican President? Attack! Slanderous lies about the Democratic candidate? ...er, let's not attack, let's pretend we're giving the SBVFL equal time on account of it's more balanced. Yeah, right.

"Well, if CBS comes out and says "We now know they're fakes, and this is why" they'll be speaking with authority, since they have access to the documents in question."

No they don't. They have never had originals. They have always had copies. They are in no better position to analyze copies than anyone on the blogosphere.

Currently, all the so-called typographic experts who are coming up with "proof" that the memos are forged, are doing so without access to the documents - and are therefore, sorry, talking through their hats.

This is the line taken by most people who don't understand typography. Even with access only to copies, one can clearly see that they use TrueType font pseudo-kerning. Confirmation of the paper and imprint of the letters will confirm it, but I would be at a loss to understand how a 1973 typewriter uses spacing technology of a font introduced circa 1990. It's like saying that you can't identify a da Vinci painting of the space shuttle as fake if you're just examining a photo of it, and that you'll have to wait to see the actual painting.

In the meantime, the WaPo does a good job of rounding up the evidence here.

Actually, what it resulted in was a clear picture of the double standards widespread in the US media. Uncomfortable truths about the Republican President? Attack! Slanderous lies about the Democratic candidate? ...er, let's not attack, let's pretend we're giving the SBVFL equal time on account of it's more balanced. Yeah, right.

I tire of the ceaseless blaming of media bias by both sides. I especially tire of anyone, right or left, saying that before they will condemn immoral behaviour on their own side, the other side must do it as well. Surely ethical standards transend the tit-for-tat kindergarten level.

I've posted this elsewhere, so I apologize if you've read it already.

60 Minutes Memos = Mark Fuhrman

OJ did it. Fuhrman didn't have all the evidence he needed to arrest, so Fuhrman "massaged" the scene to get an arrest warrant. By doing so, Fuhrman (hope this doesn't violate your comment policy) "screwed the pooch."

Same with 60.

Jes,

"They did, however, correspond to the known facts of Bush's "service" in TANG"

Are you talking about these known facts:

Joined the Guard in May 1968
began an extended period of training.
Six weeks of basic training.
Fifty-three weeks of flight training.
Twenty-one weeks of fighter-interceptor training.

80 weeks to begin with
It was full-time work.
By the time it was over, Bush had served nearly two years.

Not two years of weekends. Two years.

Racked up hundreds of hours in F-102 jets. As he did, he accumulated points toward his National Guard service requirements. At the time, guardsmen were required to accumulate a minimum of 50 points to meet their yearly obligation.

According to records released earlier this year, Bush earned 253 points in his first year, May 1968 to May 1969 (since he joined in May 1968, his service thereafter was measured on a May-to-May basis).

Bush earned 340 points in 1969-1970. He earned 137 points in 1970-1971. And he earned 112 points in 1971-1972. The numbers indicate that in his first four years, Bush not only showed up, he showed up a lot.

From May 1972 to May 1973, he earned just 56 points —
not much, but enough to meet his requirement.

In June and July of 1973, he accumulated 56 points, enough to meet the minimum requirement for the 1973-1974 year.

A 1970 evaluation said Bush “clearly stands out as a top notch fighter interceptor pilot” and was “a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership.”

A 1971 evaluation called Bush “an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot” who “continually flies intercept missions with the unit to increase his proficiency even further.” And a 1972 evaluation called Bush “an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer.”


http://www.hillnews.com/york/090904.aspx

This is the line taken by most people who don't understand typography. Even with access only to copies, one can clearly see that they use TrueType font pseudo-kerning.

The argument that the memos must be forged because they look like they were done in MS Word is superficially appealling - obviously, if they were typed in MS Word, the best they can be is unauthorized copies made after Killian's death - which, in the absence of any originals, would be impossible to tell apart from a clumsy MSWorded forgery.

But it's also the weakest point. MS Word was set up to produce results looking like typewritten documents. Claims have certainly been made that the typography is such that they must have been done on MS Word, but a moment's thought will tell you that proof that something can be done on MS Word is not proof that it has been done. Claims have been made, and disputed, for and against the evidence of kerning, of superscripts, of proportional spacing... nothing looks convincing, one way or another.

Better arguments against the authenticity of the documents can and have been made - all of them circumstancial evidence, admittedly. I wouldn't pin all your hopes to their having been created on MS Word: I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that even if they're proved to have been typed on a manual typewriter of a kind available to Killian that doesn't prove they're authentic.

I especially tire of anyone, right or left, saying that before they will condemn immoral behaviour on their own side, the other side must do it as well. Surely ethical standards transend the tit-for-tat kindergarten level.

If these memos are forgeries, I'll condemn them: if it turns out Dan Rather knew they were forgeries, I'll condemn Rather, too. Hasn't happened,

Is it "tit-for-tat" to wish that the Republicans were out there condemning the SBVFLs for their slanders of Kerry? Or condemning Bush, for lying about his "service" with TANG? Or to feel that Bush supporters who claim that they stand for "higher ethical standards in media" are blowing hot air if they only discover these "higher ethical standards" when it's a means of attacking Kerry?

Blue, the facts about Bush's period of service with TANG are well-known. Do you suppose the 1972 evaluation was made after Bush refused to take his physical, went AWOL to Alabama, was grounded, and never flew again? All unchallenged facts (well, except for those who claim that Bush was hanging out invisibly at the Alabama base, unseen, unheard, unnoticed...). Not that this would matter much, except that Bush then consistently lied about it. And still does.

d_p_u: "I'm still horrified by that embarrassing and insulting series of articles about the forgeries on The Daily Kos by Hunter."

I find this bizarrely unfair to Hunter. From what I read he made a fair-minded attack on the forgery arguments. His tone was measured, and he rebutted some of the counter-arguments. The comments on his work were often of little value, but that reflects on the site or human nature, not him. It's not reasonable to feel oneself insulted by reasoned argument, even if it's wrong.

MS Word was set up to produce results looking like typewritten documents.

That is the most-oft repeated myth I've yet seen in this discussion. Word processors were designed to emulate typesetters, not typewriters.

But that's beside the point. The thing most often missed or misinterpreted in this debate that it isn't just that you can reproduce the document in Word, or any other processor, it's that the memos use spacing IDENTICAL to TrueType spacing. Overlaying the Word document output over the image of the memos is just a simple way of measuring the character spacing. If you type the contents of the memos into Word and format them to use a Times New Roman font from a different vendor (say Adobe's), then the spacing changes, and the documents no longer match up. This indicates that the documents were created using the TrueType ABC spacing in Microsoft's Times New Roman, a form of kerning that didn't exist before 1990. Therefore, on that point alone, they must be forgeries that were created sometime since 1990.

I find this bizarrely unfair to Hunter. From what I read he made a fair-minded attack on the forgery arguments. His tone was measured, and he rebutted some of the counter-arguments.

In some of his posts, yeah. But in this post he says this:

For those following the story closely, the right-wing blogs (and Howard Kurtz) have a new patron saint of typography, a Joseph M. Newcomer, Ph.D. You can see his argument here, if the traffic hasn't brought it down again. This is the most publicized yet of the attempts to prove the documents are modern Word documents. It is, unfortunately, also among the poorest. Originally, this diary installment was going to dwell mainly on the flaws in Newcomer's logic, which are quite stunning, for a Ph.D.
For someone who's claim to expertise of typography is a few hours googling "typewriters" to attack a noted non-partisan expert with three decades experience in the subject for what can only be partisan reasons is pure arrogance. To do it in such an insulting manner is inexcusable.

Double-plus-ungood: Nicely argued, but still unconvincing as proof. For the sake of counter argument. Permit me to remain generally skeptical - certainly of people who claim to be certain of the typography of documents they've never themselves examined.

d_p_u, Hunter is assailing Newcomer's logic above, not his knowledge. I find nothing in his post worth getting upset about, and I find your "for what can only be partisan reasons" silly.

The link you supplied shows output from Word vs. output from an IBM Selectric Composer. One would assume that if the spacing was the same, then the two would neatly line up, like the Word and memo text does (as can be seen here). But he doesn't show an overlay, and this may be why.

Jes,

Do you believe we landed on the moon? Just curious.


I guess you think these guys are liars...

Copeland, 65, remembers meeting Bush on two occasions. He does not remember the precise dates. On one occasion, Copeland said, Bush and Lt. Col. John "Bill" Calhoun came to Copeland's office with a question about Bush's pay. Copeland is not sure, but he believes the question had to do with where to mail Bush's checks.

Copeland stressed that Calhoun's account of Bush's service in Montgomery would be accurate because Calhoun was in a position to work with Bush during every drill. Calhoun told The Associated Press last week that he saw Bush every drill time, which was one weekend each month.

Not only was Calhoun in a position to know of Bush's service, Copeland said, but Calhoun "was an ethical and honest officer."

Joe Holcombe, 71, of Joppa worked with Bush on the Blount campaign. He told THE DAILY last week that he remembers Bush missing at least one campaign meeting because of his National Guard drills.

d_p_u, Hunter is assailing Newcomer's logic above, not his knowledge. I find nothing in his post worth getting upset about, and I find your "for what can only be partisan reasons" silly.

That post was among your poorest, and I find the flaws in your logic stunning.

Is there nothing insulting about that terminology?

d-p-u - if you're not prepared to point out logical inconsistencies and other flaws in my comment, then sure, since it's addressed to me, it's insulting - or it would be if I didn't have the sense that you're too emotionally invested in this issue to hold to polite standards. But since I don't find your analogy at all convincing I'll stick to my position that by common standards of discourse Hunter's posts were entirely acceptable.

if you're not prepared to point out logical inconsistencies and other flaws in my comment, then sure, since it's addressed to me, it's insulting...

But he didn't point out any of the "inconsistencies and other flaws".

Which is too bad, because I'd be curious about what these logical errors this PhD with over thirty years experience with computer font logic made and this self-educated typography expert has discovered.

"Permit me to remain generally skeptical - certainly of people who claim to be certain of the typography of documents they've never themselves examined."

And by that you certainly intend to include CBS since they only have copies.

Which is precisely the problem, they accepted copies as orignals, from a source already known to be untrustworthy, were told by multiple document experts that the documents were suspicious, and proceeded as if the documents had been proven to be genuine.

You don't know if he has a good argument (well, . And if you're relying on the existence of "computer font logic" distinct from Aristotelian or Fregian or what-have-you logic, I guess I need to go read about it. Unfortunately google says, 'Your search - "computer font logic" - did not match any documents.'

I concluded that the memos were likely forgeries after the various arguments to that effect (here by dpu and Jonas Cord, elsewhere by others like Newcomer) seemed to carry the weight of expertise and analysis. [Yay second-order reasoning!] The fact that CBS has now admitted they were acquired from Bill Burkett goes a long way in explaining their provenance and incompetence, if not CBS' willingness to publicize them without much more thorough scrutiny.

All in all, I feel like I more or less understand what's happened. Except for one thing:

Why the hell didn't the White House deny the substance of the memos upon their release?

Partisanship aside, that screams to me that they agreed that the substance of the allegations was genuine even if they didn't whether the memos were. I've cut this a million different ways and, now that most conspiracy theories have bitten the dust, I can't find any other explanation. Can anyone offer a plausible alternative interpretation, or is the general consensus that the White House just tacitly admitted that Bush's performance in the TXANG was criminally sub-par?

PS: double-plus-ungood, fwiw I found Hunter's posts to be breathtaking in their audacity, but not especially out of line for "spirited" public discourse. He'd be shredded in a professional journal, of course, but that's a different standard.

PPS: Rilkefan, I think part of your previous post got blatted...

Anarch - enh, nothing important lost (as if.) The site is still impolitely making me reinput my personal info when I revise posts which apparently makes me more prone to error...

I'm inclined to believe that the memos are derived from real memos (which Burkett perhaps obtained illegally?), hence the lack of WH denials, but it's hard to tell. Another possibility is that Bush doesn't himself remember and doesn't want to risk a flat denial in case something incontrovertible that contradict him is discovered. This would be at least consistent with Bush's alleged alcohol/drug use at the time, and perhaps is consistent with a sober Bush who wasn't paying a lot of attention at the time, or a sober Bush who hasn't dwelt on the past much and let the memories of a difficult time fade.

Sebastian Holsclaw: And by that you certainly intend to include CBS since they only have copies.

Indeed.

Which is precisely the problem, they accepted copies as orignals, from a source already known to be untrustworthy, were told by multiple document experts that the documents were suspicious, and proceeded as if the documents had been proven to be genuine.

And rapidly acknowledged that they had done so. :-)

Now, about those Niger forgeries...

It comes to something, doesn't it, when CBS behaves better and more responsibly than the Bush administration - and when, apparently, even Bush supporters hold CBS to higher standards than the Bush administration?

I'd be happy to talk about the Niger forgeries. Why did France forge documents that made it look like Saddam was shopping for nuclear material?

Hmmm... depending who Lucy Ramirez is (and I confess, I have no idea), I admit the case for those memos being genuine is looking shakier and shakier. ;-) However, though Kevin Drum mentioned her name as if she were an "everyone knows", I can't recall ever having heard of her before.

Why did France forge documents that made it look like Saddam was shopping for nuclear material?

Where's your evidence that it was the French government who was behind the forged documents? AFAIK, all we know is that it was a Frenchman who did it.

Why was the Bush administration so readily taken in by such crudely-forged documents? And why do you suppose Bush supporters are holding CBS to higher standards than the Bush administration? If Dan Rather should go because of the memos, who in the Bush administration should go because of the Niger documents?

Jes,

" And why do you suppose Bush supporters are holding CBS to higher standards than the Bush administration?"

Maybe it's because you are comparing apples to oranges...


During the State the Union Address on January 28, 2003, President Bush said:

Bush: The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.


Butler Report: It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.

Committee Report: He (the intelligence officer) said he judged that the most important fact in the report was that the Nigerian officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerian Prime Minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium, because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting.

Both the Butler report and the Senate Intelligence Committee report make clear that Bush's 16 words weren't based on the fake documents.


Or maybe it was their responses when confronted...

"CBS NEWS ACKNOWLEDGES THAT, BASED ON SUBSEQUENT REPORTING ON QUESTIONS ABOUT DOCUMENTS, IT CANNOT PROVE THEY ARE AUTHENTIC AND, THEREFORE, THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN USED IN THE "60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY" REPORT"

Fleischer: Now, we've long acknowledged -- and this is old news, we've said this repeatedly -- that the information on yellow cake did, indeed, turn out to be incorrect.

Rice: What we've said subsequently is, knowing what we now know, that some of the Niger documents were apparently forged, we wouldn't have put this in the President's speech -- but that's knowing what we know now.

CBS is saying that they can't prove they are not authentic.

Fleisher admits to being incorrect
Rice admits documents were forged.

Someone here is still in denial... and that makes a big difference in ones response

http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=222

Maybe it's because you are comparing apples to oranges...

You're right. A TV news station making a mistake about a document for a news report, which they acknowledge and apologize for, rather publicly, about a week after broadcast. Apples.

The administration of the United States making a mistake about a document, which they don't acknowledge or apologize for until months after they've talked the US into going to war... Oranges.

No comparison. No doubt that those calling for Dan Rather's resignation, but not for George W. Bush's, are holding the President of the United States to lower standards than they are the anchor for a news program.

I'm not sure what level of snark attaches to this remark but:

No doubt that those calling for Dan Rather's resignation, but not for George W. Bush's, are holding the President of the United States to lower standards than they are the anchor for a news program.

Could it be that, in today's era of supposed cynicism, we genuinely do trust Presidents less than news anchors? The President is a politician, after all, and Politicians Are Scum (tm), whereas a news anchor is at least ostensibly supposed/believed to be objective. Throw in a general sense that reporting contrary to one's political stance is inherently biased (SCLM, TLM &c) and there's a powerful undercurrent to which Rather et al. might well have fallen prey.

I'm not saying that that's all that's at work here, and I think your point about standards is well-taken -- indeed, I've made it myself ;) -- but there really is something corrosive about our professed cynicism and actual credulity.

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