September 11, 2004

From the outset, one of the more suspicious aspects of the Killian Papers has been its similarity to what can be produced using Microsoft Word programming. Using the default settings, some bloggers have been able to produce documents nearly identical to the May 19, 1972 and August 18, 1973 documents, at least to the untrained eye.

However, there is one distinct difference between the May 4 and August 1 letters and the documents generated via Microsoft, and is probably the best evidence for the authenticity of at least those two documents. The letterhead at the top is slightly askew, and doesn't match up with a document produced by the default setting. In both cases, there is an attempt to center the address of the memos, but using the default settings, the letterhead is one space to the right of the letterhead used in the memos.

Thus, in order to produce a letterhead that is centered where it is in the Killian Papers, the typist needs to change the default settings by one space in the letterhead, than return the margins to the default setting for the rest of the letter. That would be highly improbable, and it's probably the reason you haven't seen animated "superimposed" letters on websites seeking to debunk the Papers; the rest of the text may match, at least on a superficial level, but the centering is noticeably off. On the other hand, manually calculating the center of the letter for purposes of placing the letterhead, which was the centering process used with typewriters before it was done automatically with computers, could easily produce a letterhead situated exactly where it is in the two memos.

Anyways, Mr. Drum is right; this is the wrong day to play amateur investigator. Today, lets live our lives to honor the dead.
Increasingly, the argument about the Killian Papers has shifted to terrain more favorable to CBS. After two days of pretending the controversy didn't exist, CBS last night finally named one of their attesting experts, who verified the handwriting on one of the documents, while the Boston Globe obtained the statement of an outside witness who had previously doubted the veracity of the documents, but now thinks it possible that a specific typewriter from that period could have produced the fonts, subscripts and spacing that have been at the heart of the dispute. The Drum Questions, which are more concerned with the provenance of the documents, have not been answered, however, and until they are, further skepticism is warranted.

The fact that bloggers like Kevin Drum, Matthew Yglesias, Josh Marshall, and Ezra Klein have been willing to give credence to these claims has not gone over well with some other bloggers on the left. One such blogger went so far as to note sarcastically that "It's admirable that lefty bloggers are being duly skeptical of the CBS documents and diligently reporting it on their blogs. It means that we have more integrity than the other side and will probably go to heaven. Unfortunately, it also means that we are helping Republicans spin their lies and hurting our candidate. Again." He goes on to note that the "other side" plays hardball, and that if we want to win this election, we have to engage in the same tactics.

To which I reply, bullshit. First, to claim our skepticism about the authenticity of the Killian papers is proof of our moral superiority over our conservative counterparts is simply wrong. It is proof, rather, of our liberalism. Liberals are, by nature, people who question authority, who are skeptical of anything that might be defined as received wisdom. The ideology of liberals may have changed over the past two hundred years, from supporting laissez faire free market policies to backing an active governmental role in the economy, but the one consistency has been an aversion to being subservient to any sort of institutional authority, whether it be the sovereign, the church, the government itself, or, in this case, the Tiffany Network.

Second, while I can't speak directly for what motivates other bloggers, I know that I'm not doing anything here for the purpose of proving that I have more "moral integrity" over anyone else. I'm doing this because I happen to enjoy writing, and I find that this site is one of the few places I can really be myself. I'm most decidedly not doing this to advance my career, or because I think I'm this great undiscovered writer, or to elect some candidate, although people who read this site regularly have a pretty good idea as to whom I'm supporting in November.

And after the "Swift Boat Veterans" controversy of a few weeks back, to have "more moral integrity" than the bloggers who advanced that fraud is hardly difficult. On the one hand, you have dirtbags who congratulated themselves for having advanced a story of questionable veracity throughout the internet, complained when the "lib'rul media" didn't initially write up their claims, then wailed to high heavens that when they did investigate those charges, and found them wanting. On the other hand, you have writers like Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall, who, in spite of the questionable reputation of some of the right wing sources involved in questioning the Killian documents, nevertheless drew their own conclusions, and found that the claims of blogs like Powerline had some weight.

The fact that some wackjob is obsessed over what holiday Kerry was technically in Cambodia does not mean that we have to believe every negative thing said about President Bush; I think it has something to do with the adage about the blind pig and the acorn. And I'm quite content to play for the side that values the truth, even if it means we lose elections now and then.

September 10, 2004

CBS is sticking by its story, as well as the authenticity of the Killian Papers, but still has not provided any further information as to its "experts" or the basis for their conclusions. Until they do so, I'm sticking to my position as well.

UPDATE [3:56 p.m. PST]: Dan Rather has gone on the air tonight with a defense of the documents. About the only thing new is that one of their authenticating experts is finally identified, who posits that the difference in opinion with the others who have studied these papers may lie in comparing originals with 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation copies, which necessarily degrade the quality of the comparison. He also concludes that the signature of Mr. Killian on the documents is authentic, which has been a bone of contention with the skeptics. On other issues, particularly the Drum Questions, there is nothing new to report, and no reason to believe that anyone who has already arrived at an opinion on this subject will change his mind.
According to the NY Times, some of the same "experts" quoted by skeptics of the Killian Papers are now backing off somewhat from the earlier categorical conclusions, admitting it's possible that typewriters of that period could have generated the documents in question. I can go either way on this, although my trial lawyer-instincts tell me to be suspicious of CBS, at least until they come forward with more info. Kevin Drum, who has been wary from the start, asks the right questions, here.

Be that as it may, there is still one question that continues to nag at me: why didn't Bush denounce the veracity of these documents from the start? I'm not merely talking about questioning their authenticity, since I assume Dan Bartlett, et al., do not have any expertise as typewriting analysts. But Bush would had to have had some idea as to whether the contents of these documents were accurate, regardless of their authenticity. If, for example, he wasn't given a direct order by Col. Killian to take a medical exam, the May 4, 1972 letter could easily have been refuted by a White House denial, just as you, the reader, could deny a similar allegation made about your past. The White House received copies of these documents the day before the 60 Minutes report aired, so they had some time to get their story straight. Instead, the response has been that the Democrats are recycling old charges, and/or that Bush either didn't need to comply with said order, or was complying. Why hasn't the White House simply rejected the charge? What gives?

September 09, 2004

I am as partisan a Democrat as they come, and am not inclined to give the incumbent President any break in this campaign, so it pains me to say that the burden of proof is clearly on CBS to show that they were not the victims of a hoax concerning the "Killian documents". So far, the evidence that these documents were forgeries, generated decades after Bush left the T.A.N.G. and years after their purported author had passed away, seems compelling, and, as of right now, unrefuted. CBS has refused to reveal the names of its authenticating "experts", but those who have reviewed the copies have concluded, almost to a man, that the Killian documents were probably produced by a word processor or computer, not by a typewriter that existed in 1972-3. These documents may well reflect the thinking of Col. Killian, as his superior officer, a Bush supporter, confirmed, but that doesn't make the documents legitimate, and if CBS wishes to maintain any sort of journalistic credibility, it has to put up or shut up.

Of course, that then leads to the question of who forged the documents. It would have to be someone who knew the late Col. Killian's opinions about Bush's antics in the Air National Guard, who had some ability to imitate the style of military memos from the early-70's, and some background knowledge of George Bush and the Texas Air National Guard from that period, including Bush's address at the time. And, if the reporters acted in good faith in performing due diligence, the forger would have to had laid at least the groundwork for authenticating the provenance of these documents.

But the forger would also have to be either an amateur unaware of the difference between the font used by a typewriter and one used by a computer, or he would be someone who wanted the forgery to be easily exposed. Considering that the content of these documents was embarassing to the President, but not earthshattering (it's not like Col. Killian "drafted" a memo stating that he caught Lt. Bush snorting coke in a gay bar in Austin with John O'Neill), I suspect the latter possibility is more likely.

Lastly, it's also possible that only one of the documents (specifically, the August 18, 1973 "memo", which was a Saturday, FWIW) is inauthentic, tossed in with a set of authentic documents for some nefarious reason. Both of the family members to comment on this story have said it was not like Col. Killian to type memos of this nature; it may well be that these were transcribed from his handwritten notes by a third party well after his death, via word processor or computer. That might explain why the Bush White House has not attacked the authenticity of these documents; if the truthfulness of what's contained within the Killian papers is not at issue, there might not have been any reason to challenge their authenticity. Of course, that would still mean CBS has a lot of explaining to do.

September 06, 2004

Frank Rich, on George Bush:
Though pundits said that Republicans pushed moderates center stage last week to placate suburban swing voters, the real point was less to soften the president's Draconian image on abortion than to harden his manly bona fides. Hence Mr. Bush was fronted by a testosterone-heavy lineup led by a former mayor who did not dally to read a children's book on 9/11, a senator who served in the Hanoi Hilton rather than the "champagne unit" of the Texas Air National Guard, and a governor who can play the role of a warrior on screen more convincingly than can a former Andover cheerleader gallivanting on an aircraft carrier.

On the "Swift Boat Vets":
Democrats are shocked that the Republicans have gotten away with it to the extent they have. After all, John O'Neill, the ringleader of the Swifties, didn't serve "with" Mr. Kerry anywhere except on "The Dick Cavett Show." Other members of this truth squad include a doctor who claims to have treated Mr. Kerry's wounds even though his name isn't on a single relevant document and a guy who has gone so far as to accuse Jim Rassmann, whom Mr. Kerry saved from certain death, of being a liar. How could such obvious clowns fool so many? It must be Karl Rove's fault, or Fox's, or a lack of diligence from the non-Fox press.

To some extent, this is true. The connections between the Swifties and the Bushies would be obvious even if the current onslaught didn't mimic the 2000 Bush attack on John McCain, or even if each day didn't bring the revelation of overlapping personnel. When Marc Racicot, the Bush-Cheney chairman, says (dishonestly) that Mr. Kerry has called American troops "universally responsible" for Abu Ghraib, his message sounds coordinated with the Swifties' claim (equally dishonest) that Mr. Kerry once held American troops universally responsible for the atrocities committed in Vietnam.

And on John Kerry:
When the Democrat asks "Who among us does not love Nascar?" and lets reporters follow him around on a "day off" when his errands include buying a jock strap, he is asking to be ridiculed as an "International Man of Mystery." In the new issue of GQ, you can witness him having a beer...with a reporter as he confesses to a modicum of lust for Charlize Theron and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Presumably the only reason he excluded the demographically desirable Halle Berry is that her Catwoman outfit too closely resembles his own costume for windsurfing.

The flaw in Mr. Kerry is not, as Washington wisdom has it, that he asked for trouble from the Swifties by bringing up Vietnam in the first place. Both his Vietnam service and Vietnam itself are entirely relevant to a campaign set against an unpopular and ineptly executed war in Iraq that was spawned by the executive branch in similarly cloudy circumstances. But having brought Vietnam up against the backdrop of our 2004 war, Mr. Kerry has nothing to say about it except that his service proves he's more manly than Mr. Bush. Well, nearly anyone is more manly than a president who didn't have the guts to visit with the 9/11 commission unaccompanied by a chaperone.

It's Mr. Kerry's behavior now, not what he did 35 years ago, that has prevented his manliness from trumping the president's. Posing against a macho landscape like the Grand Canyon, he says that he would have given Mr. Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq even if he knew then what we know now. The setting may be the Old West, but the words do sound as if they've been translated from the French. His attempt to do nuance, as Mr. Bush would put it, makes him sound as if he buys the message the
Republicans hammered in last week: the road from 9/11 led inevitably into Iraq.

September 05, 2004

For some reason, the conventional wisdom holds that in order for John Kerry to reclaim control of the Presidential campaign, he must be willing to get down into the muck with the Bushies, put on his brass knuckles and to fight dirty, if necessary. Thus, we have seen him challenge the manhood of the Vice President the last two days, questioning whether someone who received five deferments during the 1960's can contribute anything to the national dialogue on fighting terrorism. In so doing, he has looked petty and small, forgetting that most American males of his generation stayed out of Vietnam with dodges similar to the Veep and the Commander-in-Chief, and giving off the air of desperation.

In fact, the more reliable post-convention polls show that Bush has a small lead, not surprising following a month in which Kerry was limited as to what he could spend, and Bush received the benefit of being in charge of the country during the Summer Olympics, when incumbent presidents always receive a significant boost. The gap, which Josh Marshall reports is close to four points, can be easily overcome without any dramatic change in strategy, simply by letting events in Iraq and the economy run their course.

Thus, the fact that Bush is about to have his own version of the "Swift Boat" book published should give liberals pause. Gossip Kitty Kelley is purportedly set to release a book that alleges, among other things, that the President has had a series of mistresses and a more significant drug habit than previously acknowledged. It also alleges that the President's mother is "almost a practicing witch", that the first President Bush may have a few incidents of statutory rape under his belt, and that the Anthrax mailings of 2001 were actually done by government agents to cover up embarassing photos of the President that were in the possession of the editor of the National Enquirer.

I really hope that this book gets the scorn it deserves, and not just because I believe that this campaign has already devolved into the sewer. The charges Kelley lays out are so wacky and bizarre so as to embarass Lyndon LaRouche, and will surely discredit her more serious allegations in the minds of most readers. In addition, Bush is pretty much innoculated against any attacks on his character prior to 1988, thanks to his religious conversion. His base does not hold his coke-snorting and boozing against him, for the simple reason that he has mastered the language of the born-again convert. Accuse him of living a dissolute life, and he will vaguely confirm it; actually prove that he freebasing at a Texas bordello in 1984, and the President's supporters will simply shrug and acknowledge that he was a sinner back before he found Jesus.

So lets just ignore this book, and focus instead on Bush's execrable record over the past four years. That gives us plenty of ammunition to fire at the Republicans, without diminishing ourselves and the political process. Down the other path madness lies [link via Tony Pierce].
I have seen my future, and it's name is "Barney's Beanery". The legendary West Hollywood dive, famous for being the home away from home for legendary drunks such as Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin, has opened up a new site at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Located where Teasers used to be, it provides a huge beer selection, decent chow, and about a hundred TV's to watch any and all sporting events, including all the college football a growing boy could see yesterday afternoon. I am truly home.