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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

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Friday, September 10, 2004

CBS, You're Nailed by a TH

Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English countrefet, from Middle French contrefait, from past participle of contrefaire to imitate, from contre- + faire to make, from Latin facere -- more at DO
1 : made in imitation of something else with intent to deceive : FORGED [counterfeit money]
2 : false material presented as news but in reality intended as propaganda or to further an agenda

There are some things that you only learn with age. Life can be like that. Take the operation of a typewriter, for example.

I'm going to tell you a story that you're only hearing bits and pieces of on the news, because the news frequently only deals with sound bites. This story is sordid, dirty, and we'll get to watch some famous people being very, very stupid.

Good, now I have your attention. Lets get started.

The Bush Fiasco

No doubt you're been hearing about all of this in the news. In a nutshell, there are claims that President Bush shirked his duty during the final couple of years of a six year period with the Texas National Guard. No one seems to be arguing that he didn't fly any planes or receive pay.

No, what they are proposing is that he had "special treatment" and that "someone upstairs" was pulling strings for him. Although things like this are hardly limited to George Bush, it's being presented as an unpardonable lapse of moral character and patriotism.

Be that as it may, our problem here is not the event itself, but the evidence that is being reported to support it. Specifically, I am referring to the recent "60 Minutes" piece on the subject, where documents from Lt. Col. Jerry Killian are used as the basis for the charges.

Timing Issues

I found it quite interesting that on September 7th, CBS News claimed that "papers were missing" from the service record. Only one day later, CBS News reported that "What is news is that gaps in Mr. Bush's service, combined with witness testimony, appear to substantiate Democratic claims that the president was absent from a portion of his required service."

Only one more day later, and CBS News reports this: "What has never surfaced before, reports CBS News Anchor Dan Rather, are four documents from the personal files of Col. Jerry Killian, Mr. Bush's squadron commander. They could help answer lingering questions on whether Lt. Bush received special consideration during his military service."

On September 10th, again only one day later, the hammer falls yet again via Dan Rather: "President Bush received preferential treatment in gaining entry to the National Guard during the Vietnam War and did not meet standards during his service period..."

The primary proof of this lies in two sources. One is former Texas House Speaker and Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, who says that he helped George Bush circumvent the normal rules. Of course, Barnes is a direct advisor to John Kerry's presidential campaign, so that testimony is suspect.

The second source is those documents supposedly written by the late Col. Jerry Killian.

Just the TH's please, Ma'am

Something as simple as a superscript sent up red flags the morning after the "60 Minutes" show. Apparently, someone doesn't know how to use a typewriter.

In 1972, typewriters type in straight lines. There are only two types. There are fixed carriage and there are balls. Fixed carriage typewriters are the ones with the keys attached to little swinging arms that smack the paper when you type. These are limited to one font size and only regular symbols. Ball typewriters have interchangeable balls that can type in whatever font you like, but they are still limited to pretty much the same set of symbols and a uniform size.

The only machines that could produce a tiny superscripted "th" in 1972 were high end typesetting machines and perhaps a few very, very expensive typewriters.

So, knowing this, check this out from the memo supposedly dated May 4th, 1972:

In the top header section, we see the "th" following the "111" as a typewriter would have rendered it (although there is another glaring error here we will look at in a moment.) Yet, within the text of the message, the "th" is superscripted, something 1972 typewriters were incapable of.

This occurs a second time in the supposed memo from the 18th of August, which is the most incriminatory. It contains the following:

How did these superscripted th's get there? Simple. The most widely used word processing software, Microsoft Word, automatically inserts it. Type a number followed by a "th" or a "st" or a "nd" or an "rd" and it gets superscripted just like magic.

There are two basic ways to avoid this.

The first is to simply highlight the text and make sure that the font settings are normal. Had this been done for the entire document instead of just the header text in the first example, the second missed instance wouldn't have been superscripted. Unfortunately for them, it slipped by.

Second, you can avoid superscripting by simply inserting a space between the number and the extension. For example, instead of typing "1st" you could type "1 st" and the st would remain normal. Do we see examples of this? You bet. Look at this from the memo supposedly dated 19 May, 1972:

And the following, from the "memorandum for record" supposedly written on August 1st, 1992:

In this memorandum, we can see where both techniques were used. What we do not see is consistency in spacing, even in describing squadrons (which was done correctly in the memo's header as "111th") and in the usage of "st" following a one.

The spaces are circumstantial evidence of forgery, and could perhaps be explained as the one finger pecking of an officer who was not a particularly good typist. But, there is one more piece of evidence that proves these documents are forgeries.

And that piece of evidence is incontrovertible.

A Matter of Proportions

In order to understand this part, you have to know the difference between the two types of fonts, or letter styles. The first type is monospaced. Monospaced fonts use exactly the same space between letters regardless of which letter it is. A space is the same distance as a lower case "l" which is the same as a capital "W" and so forth. On modern computers, the Courier font family is a good example of this.

The second type of font type is proportional. In proportional fonts, letters take up different amounts of space. For example, a space takes up less room than an "i" which takes up less than a "W". Times or Times New Roman are good examples of this.

Word processors on modern PC computers default to a proportional font because it looks better and reads easier.

Typewriters couldn't do that.

Documents from typewriters have their letters spaced so evenly that they appear to be on a grid. Take a look at this document image, from the previously released documents regarding George Bush, that was generated from Jerry Killian's department:

I have added shading in the background to make it obvious how the letters line up. USAToday has the complete collection of documents that were released in this matter under the freedom of information act requests.

Every single document is typed in a fixed font. Without exception. Which is not a surprise, since it would have been impossible to do otherwise in an office setting.

Not so the "newly discovered" Killian memos. In each and every one, a proportional font is used:

This is concrete and incontrovertible proof that these documents cannot be genuine. Regardless of what President Bush's record may say, this isn't part of it but is rather an intentional fabrication. Why did such obvious hints of forgery slip through? Because whoever actually created these documents is probably too young to have ever used a typewriter, and didn't know any better.

Evidence Notwithstanding

You will note the sequence of events that led up to the revelation of these memos, and how CBS ramped up the news coverage of this story a bit more each day for a four day period culminating in the "60 Minutes" show.

You will also note that Dan Rather's name is attached to each level of this sequence (feel free to check the original links above.) One has to wonder why, when the forgery of these documents is so easy to spot, they went to press with this anyway?

Not only that, but when confronted with the potential that they were forgeries, Rather announced this morning that the documents were genuine and there was no internal investigation into them!

Does he thing the American people are stupid?

Maybe he's right.

"Things are getting very, very close to the time when George Bush can celebrate, but close only counts with hand grenades and horse shoes. So close may not be good enough. But by any reasonable analysis, Bush has the whip hand at the moment: 217 to 167 in the Electoral College."
--Dan Rather, Election Night, November 7, 2000

"This much tension you can't cut with a saw, it requires a blow torch: 217 for Bush, 167 for Gore."
--Dan Rather, Election Night, November 7, 2000 a few minutes later

Permalink: 9/10/2004 03:36:00 PM |
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