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.

    Wednesday, September 08, 2004

    Nothin' to See Here, Move Along

    OK, I watched the “Sixty Minutes” segment where former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes talked about pulling strings to get George W. Bush his slot in the “champagne Unit” of the Texas Air National Guard. Whoop de do. Anybody who was anywhere near draft age in the late 1960s could have told you that. Nobody got into the Air National Guard without having some strings pulled somewhere. Look — there was a five year waiting list to get in. You could sign up before you got out of high school and still get bumped by some rich kid.

    One new thing was a memo where Lieutenant Colonel Killian (head of the Texas Air National Guard at the time) noted that Bush had disobeyed a direct order to take his physical. Military types — what do they call disobeying a direct order? We already knew he skipped his physical; we still don't know why.

    Now, I'm not claiming that Bush was wrong for wanting to stay out of Vietnam. Everybody did. I'll just say that his actions there raise some very serious doubts about his much- vaunted “character”. It looks like, after four years of perfectly honorable and boring service (In the military, boring is good, especially during a war.), he lit out for Alabama, and later Cambridge, and left the Powers that Be to clean up after him. His sworn obligation to the Guard got in the way of what he wanted to do, so he simply blew it off and let others cover his tail. Character. Right.

    In the normal college crowd that I was in, there was a distinct hierarchy of respect on the subject of Vietnam:

    1. At the very top were the resistors. These are the people who put their arses on the line for their beliefs, and ended up going to jail or to Canada. This took an amount of guts far, far higher than any other option.
    2. Then there were the volunteers. Most of us thought the war was wrong, but those who didn't agree and who were willing to put their arses on the line were certainly worthy of respect.
    3. Next are the people who “played the game”. There were all sorts of medical deferments; problem was that, as each new deferment came up, the draft boards would tighten restrictions on it until it was useless.
    4. Next are the ones who “did their duty” and didn't try to stay out of the draft. Yeah, you do what other people expect of you, even if you know it's wrong. (If you really believe it's right, enlist.) This was a small group; everybody I knew was trying to stay out. Getting drafted was the penalty for losing.
    5. At the very bottom, with no respect whatever, was what we called “4F Hawks”. (The phrase “chickenhawk” meant something entirely different at that time.) These are the guys who didn't have to fight, but were happy to see others “do their duty” by marching through minefields.

    The 4Fs (guys who, for one reason or another, were not eligible for the draft) were outside the system. Everybody envied them, even if the reason for their deferment was, say, missing legs. Problem was, they tended to gloat.

    Generally, the guys who got into the National Guard were rated about one small step above the 4F Hawks. It was automatically assumed that they had gotten in by political pull, whether they did or not. They tended not to care.

    The attitudes toward veterans varied by their attitudes. Most of them were glad to be home; we accepted them as guys who'd been through a really bad time. Some were obnoxious; they tended to get shunned. Who wants a party pooper? They usually hung out with the 4F Hawks, who tended to worship them.

    There was one guy who claimed to have spit on a returning veteran. We called him “Crazy Harv”. He was a violent, radical Maoist to the extent that the other radical Maoists wanted nothing whatever to do with him. Did he really do it? On one hand, he was crazy enough to try (getting beaten to a bloody pulp didn't seem to bother him). On the other hand, he was seriously delusional.

    Anyway, I wrote up some other draft- era notes a while back. They're still good, if you need a refresher on what it was like to be in college under threat of the draft.

    Tuesday, September 07, 2004

    I Feel a Draft

    Well, come on all of you, big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again. Yeah, he's got himself in a terrible jam Way down yonder in Vietnam So put down your books and pick up a gun, Gonna have a whole lotta fun.

    Joe McDonald

    I've said before that if Bush is reelected, we'll have a military draft by May of 2005. Now, every time this gets brought up, the arguments come rolling in. It won't do any good because it will take two years to get actual troops. The Selective Service is just a relic. The American people won't stand for it.

    Sorry, guys. The military is stretched uncomfortably tightly now, and the Grand Neocon Plan involves taking over at least five more countries (Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Somalia and Sudan, according to Wesley Clark) each of which will be as big a quagmire as Iraq. We're gonna need a lot of manpower, along with a vast increase in the budget for material. (Neocons seem to think that Bradley treads and Humvee tires grow on trees. Not to mention bullets.)

    Here's a description of how it will be done (via). Nice and simple; no fuss,no bother.

    Protest? Resistance? Not bloody likely. A lot of noise, a few high-profile protesters thrown into Leavenworth to be beaten, maimed, and probably killed, and any protests will turn into just noise. Note that, for all the noise that the Vietnam-era draft protests made, nothing was actually done until the war was effectively over.

    Legal challenges? Even less likely. Here is a sample of the Supreme Court opinion on the case that conclusively legalized the draft:

    Finally, as we are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment, we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement.

    U.S. Supreme Court, ARVER v. U.S. , 245 U.S. 366 (1918)

    This is, bluntly, one of the most appalling Supreme Court decisions I've ever read. Basically, it says that the right of the United States to raise armies means that the US has the right to raise armies by any means whatever. Its language is absolutist and dogmatic. It does not argue that the Draft is legal on Constitutional grounds; aside from the right to raise armies, there are none. Instead, it makes its arguments with phrases like "in the light of the fundamental principles with which the subject is concerned", "the inevitable consequence of the provisions of the Constitution", "its unsoundness is too apparent to require us to do more", and, of course, "refuted by its mere statement".

    This isn't law. This is bluster. It's what you say when you don't have a real argument.

    Georgie will love it.

    LATER — Looks like the Army is looking at a little problem next year ...

    Weblog Commenting and Trackback by