Getting Technical about the Killian Memos

by Brian on September 15, 2004

If Matt Yglesias is going to use philosophical technical jargon in political debates, he could at least try to be pedantic about it.

After CBS ran the story, the conservative side of the ‘sphere came up with dozens of purported debunkings of their authenticity, almost all of which turned out to be more purported than debunking. Then after a few days of back-and-forth, traditional reporters at The Washington Post came out with a more careful, more accurate, more actually-debunking story. The folks at PowerLine and LGF are, at best, Gettier cases, they didn’t do any of the actual debunking. Instead, it was done by reporters working for major papers.

But these aren’t really Gettier cases, because Gettier cases are instances of justified true belief that aren’t knowledge, while the beliefs of the folks at Powerline and LGF were unjustified false beliefs.

Two caveats.

First, Matt may think that these folks were actually justified in their beliefs. If so, he’s at least using the term sincerely, though I think he was wrong. All the reasons why the purported debunkings weren’t actual debunkings seem to me to tell against the justification of the original forgery belief.

Second, the ‘at best’ may be doing a lot of work here, i.e. bracketing the issue of lack of justification. I still think it’s misleading. We can’t say that I’m, at best, as good a baseball player as Manny Ramirez, just to mean that I’m not a better baseball player than Manny Ramirez. So I think it’s, at best, an overly generous qualification.

While on our pedantry high horses, this passage from the Washington Post

“I am personally 100 percent sure that they are fake,” said Joseph M. Newcomer, author of several books on Windows programming, who worked on electronic typesetting techniques in the early 1970s. Newcomer said he had produced virtually exact replicas of the CBS documents using Microsoft Word formatting and the Times New Roman font.

Now what exactly is the argument here? I think it’s of the following form.

If the memos were produced on Microsoft Word, they’d look exactly like this.
The memos look exactly like this.
So the memos were produced on Microsoft Word.

Nevermind that the first premise is probably false, because the distinction between exactly and virtually is pretty darn important here. The argument is the kind of howler that we fail freshman logic students for committing. It even has a fancy name: affirming the consequent.

On the other hand, the other arguments against the authenticity of the documents don’t seem to rely on false premises or invalid reasoning.

On the third hand, the really most interesting charge brought up against Bush in the last fortnight doesn’t rely at all on the Killian memos. That’s the charge that he was required to report for Guard duty in Massachusetts when he started at Harvard, but never managed to as much as join a unit. This is potentially worse than whatever he did or didn’t do in Alabama, where at least he seems to have put some effort into making up the time he didn’t serve. Now there’s dispute over what he was required to do in Massachusetts, but none of that dispute turns on whether folks used Times New Roman or TrippyHippyTopia on military documents in the 1970s.

On the fourth hand, does this whole thing bring back bad memories of Ralph Willis for anyone else?

{ 57 comments }

1

John Quiggin 09.15.04 at 12:07 am

Blast from the past! Poor Ralph, he wasn’t a bad Treasurer, but he really blew it big time in 96.

2

me2i81 09.15.04 at 12:13 am

I once did an experiment where I produced a document in Helvetica, and another in Times, and I was surprised that some people genuinely couldn’t see the difference. Those sorts of people apparently process the text as symbols, and don’t see all the stuff that typography weenies see. I had to point out “look at the shape of the stem–it’s perfectly straight in that one, and has a little thing sticking out in the other.”

I do see those things, and know enough to know that I couldn’t tell you either way by looking at a scan of a standard-resolution FAX. I do know that in the pre-laser-printer days there were non-experts who were obsessed by typography, and would go out of their way to use a typewriter with a proportionally-spaced font, just for the fun of it. I know this because I was one of them. I even knew people who had printing presses in their garages as a hobby. We had one such typewriter where I once worked (this was around ’81) and I had loads of fun with it. There was also a guy who published a semi-famous ‘zine with it in his spare time.

3

Russkie 09.15.04 at 12:16 am

If you’re going to diss Powerline, can you at least provide a link to a particular post so that we ourselves can evaluate whether they are actually as intellectually inferior as you say they are?

To ask whether we’re supposed to just trust you (Dan-Rather-style) would be a cheap shot.

4

double-plus-ungood 09.15.04 at 12:27 am

Now what exactly is the argument here? I think it’s of the following form.

If the memos were produced on Microsoft Word, they’d look exactly like this.
The memos look exactly like this.
So the memos were produced on Microsoft Word.

No, that is emphatically not what he’s saying. He, unlike many who are chiming in on this issue, actually knows quite a lot about computer font technology. Microsoft Word (and many other Windows applications) use a form of pseudo-kerning to display fonts properly. This allows small characters like “e” to squeeze under larger characters that have room, like the right side of “f”. You can see this if you type that combination into Word, and either blow up the view, or modify the font size to something quite large.

Typewriters could not do this (just to head off a couple of debates, this is not true kerning or proportional spacing, by the way).

When you can reproduce exactly a document using a font-spacing technology that wasn’t available until the early 1990’s, it’s a pretty strong indication that that technology was used to produce the alleged memo. And let’s be clear about this – typing the contents of the memo into Word using the default font, font size, margins, and tab spacing result in a pixel-level identical document. Every word is in the same exact spot as the supposed memo.

As Newcomer says on his excellent on-line article about this, it’s like seeing a Da Vinci painting done in acrylic.

5

Tom T. 09.15.04 at 12:34 am

me2i81,

But can such a typewriter produce a center-justified header?

6

Giles 09.15.04 at 1:04 am

I think you’re missing the point – the philosophical points relate to individuals whereas the debunking was decentralized criticism by many actors. Would you seek to ask whether the Dow was rational or Gettier, sober?

And in this instance I think the memo proves that decentralized systems are better at debunking than creating bunk.

[I’m speculating that the memo was created by a sort of decentralized system where some guy in moveon made a bad forgery and then some how other people got hold of it and it took on a mind of its own.]

7

Matthew Yglesias 09.15.04 at 1:08 am

Yeah, dude, I intended the “at best” to be doing a lot of work. It’s setting an upper bound on what one can claim the situation to have been, not an endorsement of the claim.

8

Brett Bellmore 09.15.04 at 1:56 am

I suppose it could be considered a statistical argument; Of all the numerous ways a document prepared in a National Guard office back in 1973 might conceivably look, what are the odds that it would look exactly like a document prepared using Microsoft Word defaults? (And, let us add, nothing like documents prepared in that office of proven providence.) Yes, it may have been theoretically possible for the document to have been made back in ’73, but that’s sure as heck not the way to bet.

9

bob mcmanus 09.15.04 at 2:27 am

Quiggin, I can’t believe you started this thread on a comment blog. Check out the first half-dozen posters, and their calm assurance. And each of them so awfully wrong.

Best yet was the Post’s “textual analysis” by that noted expert in word distributions, Howie Kurtz.

10

Katherine 09.15.04 at 2:29 am

Actually, if you look at it one way what the bloggers did was analagous to what CBS did*: they were the first to report a story that turned out to be true, but they did so based on bad evidence since debunked.

Now, I expect more of CBS than PowerLine. On the other hand I assume CBS will apologize, retract prominently, and be a hell of a lot more careful with documents in the future; I expect to PowerLine to pat itself on the back for its courage, moxie and journalism skills for the next several weeks.

*based on the interview with Killian’s secretary.

11

bob mcmanus 09.15.04 at 2:29 am

Oops, this is Weatherson. Sorry.

And I except Matthew, of course

12

bob mcmanus 09.15.04 at 2:56 am

“On the other hand I assume CBS will apologize, retract prominently, and be a hell of a lot more careful with documents in the future”

What exactly did CBS ever say? Did they say that what they were presenting were accurate representations of the original documents? I.e., copies?

If I tell you you are looking at a copy of the Mona Lisa, do you start doing analysis of paint chips?

13

russ e 09.15.04 at 3:06 am

Haven’t checked this site out for a while. What the heck are youse guys discussing here?

Thank the blogs for getting the forgery expose started.

My own two cents: I worked on a IBM Selectric Composer [for a little newspaper called “Revolution”] in 1973 and there is no way these memos were made on one of those dinosaurs, even if they were state-of-the-art at the time. Accept it.

Now when is everybody going to start discussing something new and interesting?

14

ruralsaturday 09.15.04 at 3:26 am

Oh now it just couldn’t possibly be chaff could it? Intended consequences again. Just like Iraq is a complete success, except on paper. The goal was to neutralize the Iraqi state as a military presence in the Middle East. Mission Accomplished.
The font debate is doing what it was intended to do – now in the minds of the many Bush’s non-service is legitmized by the false accusations of his non-service, even though the accusations are valid.
But no one’s that cynical right?
Right.
Mission Accomplished.

15

Evan 09.15.04 at 3:31 am

lol. HATE rules.

16

bob mcmanus 09.15.04 at 3:34 am

I will leaveon this. In my hand I am holding the Declaration of Independence, printed on an ink-jet printer in Times New Roman, with TJ’s signature added on using MS Paint. Is this a forgery or fraud?

CBS says the content determines accuracy, the bloggers are claiming the form (with the presumption) makes it a forgery. The bloggers are definitely trying to devalue the content.

CBS would be in big trouble in a court of law, but they aren’t in a courtroom. Assuming my assessment of the situation is accurate.

17

darkforceinc 09.15.04 at 4:11 am

From the viewpoint of someone who is not a expert in typesetting, and have no intention of pretending to acquire such knowledge by mere google, how can I tell if the arguments presented on the documents are credible?

On one hand, I heard mention of assertion that the memos are forged from powerline, but I am no position to judge his competence. At the same time, a usually credible source, the USA today supposedly got their own copies of the memo’s independently, and have a I.B.M. typewriter specialist who claim that the memo’s could have been produced (source: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/14/politics/campaign/14guard.html?pagewanted=2), how exactly do I weigh those two arguments?

Aside from that though, I thought that if it is possible for the memo’s to be written with a typewriter, then logically it would be hard to prove them forgeries based on that. I can understand that many people think it is unlikely even if the typewriters are capable, how conclusive can that analysis be?

18

asg 09.15.04 at 4:15 am

Precisely which of the beliefs of the folks at Powerline and LGF, with respect to the forged memos, were false?

19

Kenny Easwaran 09.15.04 at 4:37 am

I was under the impression that the Gettier people weren’t the bloggers that poorly debunked the forgery, but rather the general public who heard about the Bush stories through the “forged” memos. If the memos turn out to definitely be forgeries, but substantially similar in content to actual memos that existed at the time, then we could have formed justified, true beliefs about Bush’s national guard service. But of course, we’d be in a Gettier case, because we only saw “forgeries”.

(I’m waiting for the dust to settle in the blogosphere before deciding for myself whether they’re forgeries or not. “Virtually exact replicas” aren’t exact replicas.

20

John 09.15.04 at 5:07 am

Precisely which of the beliefs of the folks at Powerline and LGF, with respect to the forged memos, were false?

Er, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce proportional fonts, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce superscripts or curly apostrophes, and so forth? The list goes on for quite some time.

21

Tom T. 09.15.04 at 5:10 am

Can someone explain why we’re meant to conclude that the bloggers’ debunking was a failure? The Kos post certainly raises questions about the bloggers’ findings and establishes that there may be a chain of assumptions under which the memos are not forged. At best, though, that simply raises questions about the questions. Is there some more conclusive evaluation out there that explains why those challenges to the bloggers should be deemed more reliable than the bloggers’ challenges to the documents?

22

howler 09.15.04 at 5:15 am

the really most interesting charge brought up against Bush in the last fortnight doesn’t rely at all on the Killian memos.

Does philosophy have a name for “argument by changing the subject,” and are freshmen warned against it? ;-)

23

Billy 09.15.04 at 6:09 am

For the love of sweet Jesus, will you please stop quibbling about the goddamn memos? They are obvious, obvious forgeries. I want Bush out of office as much as anyone, but do you think we’re going to achieve that by whining about how it’s technically possible they were typed up on a model 54x, of which 20 were sold in Argentina and could possibly have been shipped to America on the Eva’s Pride, let’s check the manifest… etc. etc.

It’s over. Face it. It’s over! CBS got scammed, and they got scammed in a really embarrassing way that hurts online Kerry supporters. If we had any sense, we would stop bickering over tiny, 0.001% probabilities and move on to the ACTUAL, PROVEN BAD THINGS THE REPUBLICANS OPENLY TALK ABOUT DOING, JESUS CHRIST HOW HARD IS IT TO UNDERSTAND THAT?

I know you probably intended this as a semi-whimsical jaunt into philosophy, but seriously. That’s like someone on trial for murder making jokes about the grammar of the witness testifying about the noises she heard. It’s so, so not helpful.

24

Russkie 09.15.04 at 6:11 am

Precisely which of the beliefs of the folks at Powerline and LGF, with respect to the forged memos, were false?

Er, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce proportional fonts, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce superscripts or curly apostrophes, and so forth?

Neither LGF nor Powerline made either of those first two claims (don’t know about the third), so please try again (with a link this time).

25

Jonas Cord 09.15.04 at 6:34 am

Er, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce proportional fonts, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce superscripts or curly apostrophes, and so forth? The list goes on for quite some time.

Keep in mind, that while these objections individually do not make a case for forgery, it was these objections that led to the ultimate discovery of the IBM Selectric Composer as the only likely candidate typewriter that could have made the memo. This would not have happened if, as Matthew Yglesias suggests, we all keep our mouths shut at wait until we have something 100% credible and verified to say – which, ultimately newspapers strive to do.

Ultimately, despite Brian’s talk about intellectual honesty, I doubt his committment. The fact that he’s willing to cite the sloppy, frothing-at-the-mouth-angry post by Hunter at Kos as “disproving” the sloppy, forthing-at-the-mouth-angry postings of right-wing sites – demonstrates this.

26

Jonas Cord 09.15.04 at 6:37 am

Er, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce proportional fonts, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce superscripts or curly apostrophes, and so forth? The list goes on for quite some time.

Keep in mind, that while these objections individually do not make a case for forgery, it was these objections that led to the ultimate discovery of the IBM Selectric Composer as the only likely candidate typewriter that could have made the memo. This would not have happened if, as Matthew Yglesias suggests, we all keep our mouths shut at wait until we have something 100% credible and verified to say – which, ultimately newspapers strive to do.

Ultimately, despite Brian’s talk about intellectual honesty, I doubt his committment. The fact that he’s willing to cite the sloppy, frothing-at-the-mouth-angry post by Hunter at Kos as “disproving” the sloppy, forthing-at-the-mouth-angry postings of right-wing sites – demonstrates this.

27

Keith Ellis 09.15.04 at 7:17 am

I remain baffled by the desire to rescue the memos’ legitimacy. The only generous explanation I can come up with is that a lot of lefty bloggers that I think well of spend a lot of time reading righty bloggers that I don’t. Thus, the defense is a reaction to the offense.

I don’t read those blogs. I didn’t watch the CBS show, either. I knew the news was coming from reading TMP. But a) I didn’t have a huge emotional investment in the idea that this, finally, will bring down Bush; or b) I’ve never had any doubts that there’s something BushCo is hiding about his guard service.

All that is just to explain that I share the same political viewpoint and beliefs about Bush as Brian et al; but this frenzy (and anger) about undebunking the memos shakes my confidence in their reasonableness.

28

mpj9 09.15.04 at 7:30 am

If the memos were produced on Microsoft Word, they’d look exactly like this.
The memos look exactly like this.
So the memos were produced on Microsoft Word.

Sure, that’s a logical fallacy, but there are other modes of reasoning than sentential logic deduction. The useful, real-life analog to affirming the consequent cashes out to a perfectly valid (though not in the technical sense of the term!) Bayesian/Popperian sort of argument. Right now, we have two possible theories that are consistent with the brute fact that CBS obtained certain pieces of paper:

  1. they are photocopies of documents produced in the 70s, on a typewriter, just the way CBS described
  2. they were produced recently, in Microsoft Word, and decidedly not the way CBS described

Because new facts, having to do with what kinds of typewriters were readily available in the 70s, the claims of the extant people involved, etc., have cast doubt on the first theory, and because no other credible theories have emerged, the second theory is looking increasingly good.

The logic here is the same as on lawyer shows when the D.A. asks the medical examiner if the bad guy could have done, to the innocent victim, precisely the bad thing the D.A. thinks the bad guy did. The M.E. replies, “Yes, that’s consistent with the evidence.” It’s not a formal proof, but it’s the next best thing.

29

Randolph Fritz 09.15.04 at 8:08 am

An IBM Executive probably could have produced similar documents. BUT…

The Dallas News claim to have located Killian’s secretary. She confirms that she typed similar documents, but says that these are not copies of the ones she typed.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/091504dnpolnatguard.1185eb4ae.html
registration required.

I suppose they’re a leak; fake fakes, as it were. One *cannot* make these things up!

30

bad Jim 09.15.04 at 8:19 am

The failure of logic that I find most striking, as exhibited by commenters at Political Animal, for example, is that Bush would be exonerated if the memos proved to be forgeries.

The memos are merely incremental; they add a direct order to a standing order (that a pilot take an annual physical) and provide some political color (allusions to pressure from above). They hardly change the general story, that Bush got into the Guard through favoritism, despite minimal qualifications, and didn’t fulfill his obligations.

The real dynamite would be the records of the inquiry which should have followed Bush’s refusal or inability to maintain pilot status.

31

Russkie 09.15.04 at 8:37 am

Powerline’s main post on the topic is at http://powerlineblog.com/archives/007760.php Obviously there’s nothing disingenous or “unjustified” about it. It’s reasonable (and tentative when appropriate). Unless someone can show me otherwise.

The WaPo added a few new points to the info that we had from the blogs (eg. Bush’s home address; military correspondence conventions) – but Yglesias can’t seriously be saying that these new details swayed him. Obviously, WaPo’s saying that they were forged simply enabled Yglesias to admit the increasingly unavoidable conclusions without appearing to consort with Bush supporters.

32

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.15.04 at 9:03 am

“Er, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce proportional fonts, that no typewriters in the 1970s could produce superscripts or curly apostrophes, and so forth? The list goes on for quite some time.”

That isn’t even close to the claim. LGF and Powerline both agree that individual elements could have been produced by different typewriters. They claimed that all of the elements together could not have been produced on a single typewriter normally available, and on the typesetting equipment that could do it, it would have taken hours of work which would have been silly on a personal CYA memo.

It is as if you translated a statement of “A person cannot possess both 20/20 vision and be blind” into “There are no people with 20/20 vision and there are no blind people.”

33

Brett Bellmore 09.15.04 at 10:43 am

Bad Jim, who cares if Bush is exonerated? Can’t you think beyond the next five weeks?

At this point enough evidence has accumulated to establish that at the very best 60 minutes proceeded with a reckless disregard for the truth, and more likely was engaged in deliberately defrauding the American people for political purposes. The very experts they claimed they were relying have now stated that they warned 60 Minutes that these memos were likely forgeries, or could be!

You think this is likely the only time they’ve tried something like this? They HAVE been caught relying on forged documents before, you know. You think that, had they gotten away with it, they’d never do it again?

This is about a major network’s premier news show being caught at the worst journalistic sin imaginable, (Even if they WERE doing it to save your candidate.) and the major network stonewalling instead of owning up to it.

Do you REALLY think that if they’re allowed to get away with this, they’re only going to lie to us to help Democratic candidates? And all the rest of the time be relentlessly honest? Do you REALLY think that?

60 Minutes delenda est!

34

Russkie 09.15.04 at 10:47 am

Holsclaw wrote:

That isn’t even close to the claim. LGF and Powerline both agree that individual elements could have been produced by different typewriters.

Notice that when Charles/LGF derides Kos or Atrios, he always links to the post in question – so that readers can see the post themselves and make up their own minds.

CT, OTOH, seems to have some policy against linking to blogs that it doesn’t like. It’s as if the viewpoint is “we can’t possibly send traffic to these evil people, and it’s so beneath us to actually respond to them or do anything other than sneer in their general direction”.

35

Matt McGrattan 09.15.04 at 11:41 am

“Sure, that’s a logical fallacy, but there are other modes of reasoning than sentential logic deduction.”

Yeah, exactly. You can read the argument as a straight-forward case of inference to the best explanation. The best explanation for the specific appearance of these documents, for example, is that they were produced in a word processor.

Of course some people DO argue that these kinds of abductive arguments are fallacious but there’s no doubt we use them all the time and they aren’t obviously bad arguments.

36

Rob 09.15.04 at 12:44 pm

You do realize linking to LGF doesn’t work because Charles soon runs away by changing the link?

37

asg 09.15.04 at 1:42 pm

Sebastian, russkie, and jonas said what I wanted to. John’s misattribution of views such as “there were no superscript capabilities in the early 70s” to the right-wing blogosphere appears to be contagious, too, since it crops up in Hunter’s screed on the Daily Kos (in which he basically puts up that particular straw man and then manages to do a poor job knocking it down by simply asserting that, indeed, there WERE such superscript capabilities). What he doesn’t do is compare the superscripts available at the time (whose characters are indeed smaller than the rest on the line, but whose tops do not rise above the top of the text line) to the ones in the allegedly forged memos (whose tops DO rise above the top of the text line).

Regardless, Jonas’ advice to keep a cool head is well taken. CBS has not helped in this, since there are several things they could do that would, indeed, put an end to forgery talk in the eyes of reasonable folks — they could reproduce the memos using a period typewriter and show that such typewriters were available in Air Force offices at the time (the latter has at least been suggested by the Daily Kos, although not to any level of reliability), they could get the secretary to comment in some detail on what sort of typewriter she used and talk about the amount of work needed to put in curlicues like superscripts, and so forth. They haven’t done any of this (although maybe they are going to). We shall see.

38

bull 09.15.04 at 3:17 pm

CBS’s memos don’t pass the laugh test. Even aside from the notion that the Texas Air National Guard would be perfectly centering the headings on their memos typed on the latest and greatest models from IBM, the fakes don’t even get the little details right: he put his title as Lt. Col., not Lt. Colonel.

Anyway, I’m eagerly anticipating the dropping of that great big behemoth of a shoe that’s coming: who was the source for these fakes? The source will eventually be revealed. Was it anyone connected with Kerry’s camp? That would be world class stupid, but then whoever foisted these ridiculous charades on CBS wasn’t too terribly bright or careful. I’m dying to know.

Btw, before anyone attacks me as a Bush shill, I plan to hold my nose and vote for Kerry, because as Republican as I am Bush is just too inept for my tastes.

39

Jonathan 09.15.04 at 3:58 pm

Since no one else has mentioned this, where do you come off claiming Newcomer has a logical flaw from a one paragraph summary of what the WaPo said about his work. I like you guys, but this is your sloppiest post in a while. Evaluate Newcomer’s logic (which is, by the way, airtight) by looking at Newcomer’s argument, which is readily available at homepage.mac.com/cfj/newcomer/index.htm

40

asg 09.15.04 at 4:05 pm

I left out the most obvious thing CBS could do to demonstrate authenticity beyond reasonable doubt — produce the originals so the paper can be age-tested and the type impressions can be compared to those of period typewriters. That would be the easy thing to do, assuming CBS didn’t base a major in-depth scoop on a bunch of photocopies.

41

baa 09.15.04 at 5:00 pm

CBS says: here are authentic typed documents from 1972.

Bloggo McBlogger says: These are obvious forgeries. They have several features one does not see in standard typewritten documents from that period. Moreover, they are identical to what Microsoft word would produce in more-or-less default mode. How likely is that?

So far, that’s a great argument. And speaking as a representative of analytic philosophy, not as a political partisan, I would prefer you and Matt Y not make our field look like a haven of ninnies by denying that it’s a great argument.

Now, is it a completely decisive argument? No. But don’t pretend to a “we philosophers” rigor that knocks this argument out of the ballpark. Here are two reasons why you should drop this pretension. First, because it is false. Second, academic humanities is generally regarded as intellectually sloppy, and while you and I know analytic philosophy has not succumbed to the rot, not everyone else does. So I would prefer that we not devalue the currency of our discipline.

Cheers,

Ben A

42

asg 09.15.04 at 6:46 pm

Not to beat a dead horse here, but just for those who are still interested, an owner of an actual IBM Selectric Composer (the typewriter Daily Kos insists “easily could have produced those memos”) attempts to replicate the memos. The results are not pretty.

Anyway, what was that about unjustified false beliefs? Gettier cases? Real barns?

43

asg 09.15.04 at 6:58 pm

44

Tom Doyle 09.15.04 at 8:21 pm

I was in the Marine Corps reserves from 65-71. The deal was 6 months initial active duty, one weekend “drill” (2 days and sometimes overnight) per month and 2 weeks “summer camp” each year, for six years. When I enlisted, we had to attend 90% of the week end drills (100% of everything else) to meet the commitment. If one didn’t or wouldn’t comply, one would be “called up” for two years active duty. That’s what it said on the enlistment contract that I signed.

When I enlisted, getting in the reserves was easy. This was before the US started drafting people in huge numbers for Vietnam.

A year or so into my enlistment, around the time major drafting began, Congress passed a law raising the 90% requirement to 100%. The policy was strictly enforced. If someone was late for drill, or sent to the barber shop because his hair exceeded Marine approved length, he had to make up the drill. In the units to which I belonged, this meant reporting to the training center on a weekday, and cleaning weapons and/or swabbing and buffing the deck (“floor” in army/civilian/air force talk) for 4 hours.

I can understand Bush not wanting to play weekend warrior. Most all my fellow Marines complained more or less constantly about everything, denied being “gung ho,” said they couldn’t wait to get out, etc. This “discourse” is perhaps the most ancient and universal military tradition.

However, the only options we were aware of were to fulfill the requirements for six years or get involuntarily activated. To the extent one found the former onerous and disagreeable, one would take exceptional care to avoid the latter.

Bush and I were in different programs. He was an officer and a pilot in the Air National Guard. I was an enlisted infantry person in the Marine Corps Reserve. Both programs had mandatory participation requirements and the consequences of noncompliance appear identical. A Marine in my program with Bush’s apparent attendance record would have been ordered to involuntary active duty for two years.

It is beyond belief that Bush’s service, whatever it is, cannot be documented. Military procedure being what it was and is, the presumption must be that the records were tampered with.

Recall the detailed scrutiny that national candidates receive (e.g., Eagleton, Ferraro, Quale). The gaps in Bush’s history, military and otherwise, were and are unprecedented. For other candidates they would have been disqualifying. The ability of the Bush machine to cause Bush’s history to be a non-issue, however this was managed, is shameful and ominous.

45

Brett Bellmore 09.16.04 at 1:35 am

The gaps in Bush’s history, military and otherwise, were and are unprecedented”

How true; Why some of Kerry’s medals have as many as THREE separate histories behind them, not just the conventional one. :lol:

46

Anarch 09.16.04 at 2:09 am

Brett Bellmore At this point enough evidence has accumulated to establish that at the very best 60 minutes proceeded with a reckless disregard for the truth, and more likely was engaged in deliberately defrauding the American people for political purposes. The very experts they claimed they were relying have now stated that they warned 60 Minutes that these memos were likely forgeries, or could be!

You think this is likely the only time they’ve tried something like this? They HAVE been caught relying on forged documents before, you know. You think that, had they gotten away with it, they’d never do it again?

Funny, I’ve been saying exactly the same thing about the Bush Administration for the past two years…

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Bernard Yomtov 09.16.04 at 3:23 am

they are identical to what Microsoft word would produce in more-or-less default mode. How likely is that?

So far, that’s a great argument. And speaking as a representative of analytic philosophy, not as a political partisan, I would prefer you and Matt Y not make our field look like a haven of ninnies by denying that it’s a great argument.

Well, I’m not an analytical philosopher, but it doesn’t strike me as a great argument on its face. If I understand your point, it’s this:

Suppose we know that if A then Z. It does not automatically follow that if Z then A. But on a Bayesian basis, if we observe Z then there is a good likelihood of A.

But this only holds if A is relatively unlikely ex ante. Say that it’s known, in addition to the above, that

If B then Z
If C then Z

etc.

Then the inference fails. It’s like saying if the world is flat the sun will rise tomorrow at 6:45, and then claiming that the fact the sun rose as predicted suggests the world is flat.

Now you may say that it is in fact unlikely that a document allegedly typewritten in the early 70’s could be reproduced by “Microsoft Word in default mode.” But the whole business about Word is nonsense. Why is Word critical to the argument? There are any number of word processing programs, and using Word in non-default mode is not hard.

The question is not “How likely is it that a 35-year old document can be reproduced exactly by Word in default mode?”

The question is “How likely is it that a 35-year old document can be reproduced exactly by modern word processing technology?”

And the answer to that question seems to me to be “very likely,” which means the argument isn’t so hot after all.

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Tom Doyle 09.16.04 at 5:03 am

“How true; Why some of Kerry’s medals have as many as THREE separate histories behind them, not just the conventional one. :lol:”

As I said, shameful and ominous. “Brett Bellmore” is more the former than the latter.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 09.16.04 at 8:03 am

“The question is “How likely is it that a 35-year old document can be reproduced exactly by modern word processing technology?”

And the answer to that question seems to me to be “very likely,” which means the argument isn’t so hot after all.”

Exciting, but doesn’t pertain to the issue. A more accurate question is “How likely is it that an allegedly 35-year old document can be reproduced exactly by the most common modern word processing program available when set at most of its default values”

And the answer to that is not bloody likely.

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Brett Bellmore 09.16.04 at 11:31 am

Three histories:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=14774

Yeah, I know; You want references from a source that LIKES Kerry, and therefor has no motive to cover this. Right?

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Bernard Yomtov 09.16.04 at 3:20 pm

I should have written, “how likely it is that Z holds under alternatives to A,” rather than “how likely A is ex ante.”

Sebastian,

Suppose that it had been discovered that the memos could be perfectly reproduced using, say, WordPerfect, with some minor change to the defaults.

Then you would be saying,

“How likely is it that an allegedly 35-year old document can be reproduced exactly with WordPerfect if you just change X?” In other words, if they could be reproduced with ANY word-processing software you would have exactly the same argument.

This is Bible Code logic. “How likely is it that every seventh (or tenth or whatever it was) letter will spell out a name? Not very. But it is extremely likely that for some n every nth letter will spell out a name, especially. All yoou’ve done is find n.

And of course it is likely that, given a document typed in 1972, there exists a way to reproduce it with some word-processing software.

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double-plus-ungood 09.16.04 at 5:01 pm

And of course it is likely that, given a document typed in 1972, there exists a way to reproduce it with some word-processing software.

Certainly, but this is all beside the point. The real question is why does the alleged memo display pseudo-kerning with measurements exactly corresponding to TrueType specifications which were not available prior to the early 1990s? Typing the content into Word and overlaying the results onto an image of the memos is simply a way of verifying that the memo uses the same character spacing. The fact that Word’s default setting produce identical margins, leading, center justification, font and font size, and line breaks is just gravy.

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Bernard Yomtov 09.16.04 at 7:36 pm

dpu,

My point was purely that just the fact that a document can be reproduced with word processing is not strong evidence that it was not typed. If it has other features that cannot be produced without word processing, then that is a different matter.

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james 09.16.04 at 10:39 pm

http://www.flounder.com/bush2.htm

This link goes into excruciating detail as to why the documents are forgeries. The author makes dozens of points. The three primary points being, 1) Any 1972 typewriter capable of actually producing the entire memo would be so rare as to exclude use in the air force. 2) The document makes use of ABC dimensioning. This is what gives it the kern look. Non-publishing house typewriters did not have this ability. 3) The superscript.

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Clark Goble 09.17.04 at 4:15 am

I think that whether the argument of nearly exactly duplicating the memo with Word is a strong argument or not rests entirely with ones background of using different word processing / desktop publishing programs and similar fonts. In my experience (which from various discussions doesn’t match everyone) it was extremely unlikely for the line spacing and word breaks to be exact. Even between platforms (Mac and PCs before the Truetype fonts became standardized) spacing rarely matched.

It is, as someone mentioned, an abductive argument. But one extremely strong in my eyes. Was it strong enough to establish that it was a forgery? Perhaps not. But it definitely was strong enough so as to put the burden of proof very far on CBS’ side. Further bloggers, well before the rest of the media, were contacting various document experts, typerwriter experts and the like.

I think the error was to see it as a static argument. Rather as I mentioned, the argument was a distributed abductive one that would have made C. S. Peirce proud.

(The philosophical blog, Siris, did a great commentary on it I thought)

http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2004/09/cooperative-distributed-argumentation.html

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Steve 09.17.04 at 1:25 pm

Gee, now that we have more, like the secretary who would have typed the memo, etc. and know that they things are forgeries from a proven liar with an axe to grind, it is interesting to come back and read these posts.

Now, is it a completely decisive argument? No. But don’t pretend to a “we philosophers” rigor that knocks this argument out of the ballpark. Here are two reasons why you should drop this pretension. First, because it is false. Second, academic humanities is generally regarded as intellectually sloppy, and while you and I know analytic philosophy has not succumbed to the rot, not everyone else does. So I would prefer that we not devalue the currency of our discipline.

sure catches it the best.

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Harry 09.20.04 at 4:03 am

This thread should really be immortalized somewhere as a cautionary example of what happens when you give a determined child a hammer. No wonder philosophy is described as the cheapest department on campus to support.*

Thanks for putting a smile on my face, gents!

*For those unfamiliar with the joke — the second cheapest department is math, because all you need to supply are pencils, paper, and wastebaskets. The philosophy department doesn’t need the wastebaskets.

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