Friday, September 10, 2004


Well, it seems that the Blogosphere is all atwitter over the possiblity that the documents that CBS News got from Georgie Bush's commanding officer might be forged. Now, CBS News claims that they checked the docs out thoroughly with forgery experts and that they're authentic. Lambert, over at Corrente, has a good rundown on the hoohah, with links. The most notable thing about these memos is how little they add. Now we know that Georgie got into trouble for not taking his physical. Before, it was just obvious.

Some observations. Why do I seem to be the only one around who remembers the late 1960s and early 1970s?

  • The font is not Times New Roman. It's Times Roman, developed in the early 1930s by the London Times. Gimmick is that fonts can't be copyrighted; font names can. Microsoft had to change the name. Times Roman and Times New Roman are almost identical.
  • The IBM Executive typewriter had all the features needed to produce a document like this. The Selectric series didn't (the th), without far more jiggering with type balls than anybody'd do for a short “memo to file”. Note to those claiming that the docs were done with Microsoft Word -- run your tests on this and see how they come out. Gary Farber has a good post with typewriter details.
  • The individual letters are uneven, both in weight and vertical spacing. Hard to do with a word processor; impossible to avoid with a non- Selectric typewriter.
  • It may be an artifact of the scanning process, but the copies sure look like carbons to me. Again, hard to do on a computer; impossible to avoid on a typewriter.
  • Given that the military is officially as uniform as possible, office equipment was a big status item. Having a fancy typewriter was something to feel good about.
  • Mrs. Killian says that her husband didn't write memos like that and that her husband would never say anything bad about a Guardsman. I call bullshit on this; these memos are exactly what you'd expect to see with a guy who is having problems. Look, airplanes, especially fighters, are horribly dangerous hunks of machinery. If something goes wrong, your nose had better be very, very clean.
  • As to her husband “not being a paper person”; again, bullshit. Work with the military and you're going to be buried in paper whether you want it or not. And everybody learns the value of a “CYA” “memo to file” in about a week.
  • Now some speculation:

  • If I were going to forge a document from the 1970s, I'd use a bog- standard Selectric typewriter.
  • If this really was done on a word processor, it has to be the clumsiest forged document possible, next to a signed letter by Julius Caesar dated “46 BC”. Now, why would anybody do this?
    • CBS News is utterly, flamingly, incompetent.
    • CBS News is the victim of a very elaborate hoax to discredit them in general and Dan Rather in particular.
    • CBS News is under the control of Karl Rove, to the extent that he can force them to do this, in order to have a Great Debunking later.

    I'm no fan of CBS or Rove, but, bluntly, CBS isn't that bad and Rove isn't that good.

  • Tentative conclusion: genuine, until I see some info from people who know what they're talking about. Blogosphere “experts” can bring up interesting points, but I want to see something from people who you'd want to call as expert witnesses.

    LATER — Coupla more things might need explaining. Sorry if I'm stating the obvious.

    Cover your arse. Also occasionally seen as CYAWP (cover your arse with paper) Utterly necessary for survival in any bureucracy. If your arse isn't covered, you'll get blamed for everything.
    Memo to File
    Just like it says; a memo whose only destination is your file cabinet. This has a number of uses:
    • To document an idea that you can't act on right now.
    • To CYA. “I told them this wouldn't work. Here's the stuff they wouldn't listen to.”
    • To vent frustration. Since you're the only one that sees it, you can say things you wouldn't want to say officially or in person.
    The Killian memos seem to be a combination of these.

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