December 19, 2004

The Unarmoured Vehicles in Iraq Question: Based on a Lie?

A National Guardsman was prompted by a reporter a week or so ago to ask Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld the embarassing question of why his unit had to drive with unarmoured trucks. People have been calling on Rumsfeld to resign over this.

I don't think it was so bad that the reporter suggested a question to a soldier, except that now it appears that the premise was a lie. That soldier's unit doesn't have any unarmoured vehicles. Via Instapundit, I find that Powerline reports on a press conference in which it comes out that 810 of 830 vehicles in that soldier's unit were already armoured, and the other 20 were scheduled to be armoured the next day.

Q At the time of the question -- summarize this, now -- that unit that the kid was complaining about was mostly armored?

GEN. SPEAKES: Yes. In other words, we completed all the armoring within 24 hours of the time the question was asked.

Q If he hadn't asked that question, would the up-armoring have been accomplished within 24 hours?

GEN. SPEAKES: Yes. This was already an existing program.
Of course, it might be that General Speakes is lying. But he is very specific, and any lie is easily checked.

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September 15, 2004

Reading Between the Lines: Soviet Union, CBS, conventions

A little while ago John O'Sullivan wrote this about reading between the lines in the Soviet Union and CBS. It applies to political conventions too....

Vladimir Bukovsky, the great anti-Soviet dissident, once reproved me for quoting the old joke about the two main official Soviet newspapers: "There's no truth in Pravda [Truth] and no news in Izvestia [News.]" He pointed out that you could learn a great deal of truthful news from both papers if you read them with proper care.

In particular, they often denounced "anti-Soviet lies." These lies had never previously been reported by them. Nor were they lies. And their exposure as such was the first that readers had been told of them. By reading the denunciation carefully, however, intelligent readers could decipher what the original story must have been. It was a roundabout way of getting information --but it worked.

That is exactly how intelligent readers now have to read the New York Times and most of the establishment media --at least when they are reporting on the "anti- Kerry lies" of the Swift-boat veterans.

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September 14, 2004

Stromata Rathergate Story: The November Surprise Sprung Too Early

Stromata on Sept 11 on Rathergate has a story on how Rathergate might have happened. I still am not satisfied-- H is too trusting in the story-- but what I like is the idea that the documents were supposed to be leaked not in September, but just 3 days before the election-- and somebody goofed. Here's my version: somebody had vetted this as "good enough for November", but then it got put in the "run this in September" pile by mistake.

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Rathergate: The Three-Dollar Bills

This Conway Three-Dollar Bill parody will become a classic.

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A Straussian Analysis of the Sept 13 CBS-AP Article on Rathergate

This September 13 story may show that CBS's united front is crumbling. My comments are in italics. ...


(CBS/AP) Amid challenges from other news organizations and partisans, CBS News
continued to defend itself over criticism stemming from documents it obtained
that questioned President Bush's service in the Air National Guard.

Notice that this is joint with the AP, also known for its false reporting-- recall the recent "Republicans boo" story that the AP withdrew without comment after witnesses and videos noted that it was false.

On "The CBS Evening News" Monday night, Dan Rather said his original report on
"60 Minutes" used several different techniques to make sure the memos were
genuine, including talking to handwriting and document analysts and other
experts who strongly insist that the documents could have been created on a
typewriter in the 1970s -- as opposed to a modern-day word-processing software
program, as some have charged.

He didn't name any names, and till this report, I've seen only one name-- that of Marcel Matley, a signature expert. And what's with this "strongly insist"?

"Everything that's in those documents, that people are saying can't be done, as
you said, 32 years ago, is just totally false. Not true. Proportional spacing
was available. Superscripts were available as a custom feature. Proportional
spacing between lines was available. You can order that any way you'd like,"
said document expert Bill Glennon.

Note what he *doesn't* say-- that this document could have been written on one typewriter.

Richard Katz, a software designer, found some other indications in the
documents. He noted that the letter "L" is used in those documents, instead of
the numeral "one." That would be difficult to reproduce on a computer today.

l2345, 5432l, l2345, 5432l,l2345, 5432l,1111,l l l l, 1111, llll. Was this paragraph put here as sabotage, to make the reader guffaw at this point and say, "Well, it looks like other people are CBS are having some fun at Dan Rather's expense." ? Maybe Katz had some more subtle point, but...

In addition to the forensic evidence, Monday's "Evening News" story said the
original report relied on an analysis of the contents of the documents
themselves and interviews with colleague's of the author to determine their
authenticity. The new papers are in line with what is known about the
president's service assignments and dates.

"colleague's of the author"? Well, there's another possibility, that the CBS people are falling to pieces, their minds breaking under the strain. In this case, that goes for the author of this piece, the editor, and the lawyer who I hope they had looking over everything they publish on it.

(That mistake is fixed by now-- the next morning, Sept 14. The story you read at the link is not quite the same as this one. If CBS reads this weblog, it may be even more different by the time you are reading this. Right now, the two paragraphs I call the funniest are still there, though.)

Others have remarked on how you can't verify a document's authenticity by asking people whether it *sounds* realistic. And someone has suggested that the reason it sounds realistic to some people might be that CBS had been going around for weeks saying something like, "We are the mighty, all-knowing CBS, and everyone else is saying that there was political pressure to do favors for Bush. All we need is to find the documents we are sure exist. We would be very grateful if such documents suddenly appeared. Do you know anybody who can forge some?" (Oops-- "find some").

For instance, the official record shows that Mr. Bush was suspended from flying
on Aug. 1, 1972. That date matches the one on a memo given to CBS News, ordering
that Mr. Bush be suspended.

This is the second funniest paragraph. The document is authentic, because it uses one of the same dates available on the real documents you can get via the Bush campaign! I suppose the forger, none too smart, is proud of how he went to the trouble to get the dates right, even though he thought using a real typewriter, carefully imitating the signature, and figuring out whether General Staudt had retired or not would have been excessive care.

At question are memos that carry the signature of the late Lt. Col. Jerry
Killian, who was the commander of Mr. Bush's Texas Air National Guard fighter
squadron. They say Killian was under pressure to "sugar coat" Mr. Bush's record,
and Mr. Bush refused a direct order to take a required medical examination and
discussed how he could skip drills.

"At question"?

This may be stylistic nitpicking, but wouldn't the New York Times, despite its declining standards, have said, "They say that Killian was under pressure to "sugar coat" Mr. Bush's record,
and that Mr. Bush refused a direct order to take a required medical examination and
discussed how he could skip drills." Relevant here as another sign of stress at CBS, and poor quality control even on important documents sure to be zoomed in on by people like me.

By September 14, 9:30 a.m., this last paragraph is deleted.

Raising one question, The Dallas Morning News said in a report for its Saturday
editions that the officer named in a memo as exerting pressure to "sugar coat"
Mr. Bush's record had left the Texas Air National Guard 1 years before the memo
was dated.

The newspaper said it obtained an order showing that Walter B. Staudt, former
commander of the Texas Guard, retired on March 1, 1972. The memo was dated Aug.
18, 1973. A telephone call to Staudt's home Friday night was not answered.

New York Times columnist William Safire wrote Monday that Newsweek magazine had
apparently begun an external investigation: it names "a disgruntled former Guard
officer" as a principal source for CBS, noting "he suffered two nervous
breakdowns" and "unsuccessfully sued for medical expenses."

The L.A. Times reported that handwriting analyst, Marcel Matley, who CBS had
claimed vouched for the authenticity of four memos, vouched for only one
signature, and no scribbled initials. The Times reports he has no opinion about
the typography of any of the supposed memos.

CBS is giving the other side's story in these last four paragraphs! This is very interesting. That's good journalism, of course, but it's inconsistent with what CBS has been doing. These details also contrast with the lack of detail in describing the original problems with the document itself.

"who CBS had
claimed vouched for the authenticity of four memos" ought to be "whom CBS had claimed". This is the most amazing detail. That clause could have been left out of the paragraph, since its contribution is to note that CBS is making false claims about what even its own experts say. More honesty!

"60 Minutes" relied on the documents as part of a Wednesday segment-- reported
by Rather --on Mr. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to

Former colleagues of Killian have since offered differing views on the
authenticity of the documents.

Robert Strong, who appeared in the original segment, said after it aired that
still did not see anything in the memos that made him think they were forgeries.
Robert Strong noted he's not a forensic expert and isn't vouching for the

"I didn't see anything that was inconsistent with how we did business," Strong
said in an interview. "It looked like the sort of thing that Jerry Killian would
have done or said. He was a very professional guy."

Robert Strong is an English professor who never met George Bush and had no involvement in National Guard Administration. He is just somebody who had met Jerry Killian and who is anti-Bush.

Retired Col. Maurice Udell, the unit's instructor pilot who helped train Mr.
Bush, said Friday he thought the documents were fake.

"I completely am disgusted with this (report) I saw on 60 Minutes,"' Udell said.
"That's not true. I was there. I knew Jerry Killian. I went to Vietnam with
Jerry Killian in 1968."

Killian's son also questioned some of the documents, saying his father would
never write a memo like the "sugar coat" one.

Several of the document examiners said one clue that the documents may be
forgeries was the presence of superscripts -- in this case, a raised, smaller
"th" in two references to Guard units.

But Katz, the software expert, pointed out that the documents have both the so-
called "superscript" th (where the letters are slightly higher than the rest of
the sentence, such as 6th ) and a regular-sized "th". That would be common on a
typewriter, not a computer.

"There's one document from May 1972 that contains a normal "th" on the top. To
produce that in Microsoft Word, you would have to go out of your way to type the
letters and then turn the "th" setting off, or back up and then type it again,"
said Katz.

Another funny paragraph. Forgers *do* go to some trouble to forge documents. I myself, a hater of all those automatic features in MS-Word, have done what Katz describes. I don't remember details-- and now I've somehow turned off that obnoxious feature-- but I'd be going along typing and MS-Word would automatically superscript something and I'd have to go back and fiddle with it to turn the superscripting off. I bet I even forgot to turn it off sometimes and left an inappropriate "th" here and there.

There must be an interesting story behind the writing of this article. Sloppiness? Tension? Committee work? Someone rushing out an article that is not uniformly pro-Dan-Rather, rushing so the Rather faction won't see it in time? I ought to go back and read Leo Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing. This document definitely calls for a Straussian reading, the essentials of which are:

1. Ask why seeming mistakes might have been purposely put in the article.

2. Look not at what the author seems to say, but at the effect that it leaves on the reader. The author may have intended that effect.

3. In particular, look for very weak arguments, arguments so weak they seem to support the opposite of the author's stated position.

4. Look at the ordering and structure of the article for clues as to its intent.

5. Remember that in many times and places, an author gets in trouble if he says what he means directly, but censors tend to be not very bright and an author may "write between the lines".

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September 13, 2004

Rathergate as a Litmus Test for Intellectual Honesty

Rathergate's oilslick has left Dan Rather and CBS black from head to toe (though if CBS fires Rather, it might uncover a white spot). The Democratic Party has revealed its tawdriness too. I can't say I'm unhappy. Dan Rather is a fine scalp for the blogosphere to take; CBS is better, and the Democratic Party too, but it doesn't look like it will stop there. One of the uses of this scandal will be to act as a litmus test for intellectual honesty for liberals. This would an update on the old "Alger Hiss was smeared by Republicans" test, which hasn't really been very useful since about 1960, since only those writing in the early 1950's were on record defending Hiss.

I hope somebody starts a list of when different liberal blogs and media outlets started admitting that the documents are forgeries....

... (It would, by the way, be useful to have a test for conservatives, too. Can anyone think of one? I don't mean something stupid like "Which conservatives have the intellectual honesty to admit that the dividend tax cut was a disaster?" We need something where a conservative is caught in provable wrongdoing, and some conservatives deny it. An old example might be the My Lai massacre-- I'm not up on it, but I recall that Lt. Calley had a lot of defenders. )

Here is a start, to show the style of the list I'd like to see. I've listed some recent entries by liberal bloggers to show their state of mind. Some of them still believe CBS. Atrios on September 13 says

Bill Glennon, a technology consultant in New York City who worked for IBM repairing typewriters from 1973 to 1985, says those experts "are full of crap. They just don't know." Glennon says there were IBM machines capable of producing the spacing, and a customized key -- the likes of which he says were not unusual -- could have created the superscript th.

Daily Kos on September 11 says, more weakly,

The main news outlets, including ABC World News (which I caught) are backing CBS. Thanks to our diarists for their hard work. But let's not get distracted by the trees and lose sight of the forest. Now it's time to ask the WH to answer the charges. This story is very much alive.

Update [2004-9-11 23:29:22 by DemFromCT]:

Lots of back and forth about the authenticity of the documents in the media, with CBS standing by its story. A reasonable summary (as of this writing) can be found here:

On the other hand, Kevin Drum on September 10 says

Bottom line: these memos might be 100% genuine. But there are lots of legitimate questions about their origin and authenticity, and at a minimum CBS ought to make its own copies available for inspection and also ought to disclose the names of the typographic experts it consulted. Better yet would be convincing their source to either go public, allow inspection of the original memos, or at least allow a more thorough discussion of exactly where the documents came from.

Until then, I'm afraid skepticism is warranted. I hope CBS hasn't gotten burned by crude forgeries, but like they say, hope is not a plan.

Josh Marshall on September 9 breaks with CBS, to his credit:

Over the last twenty-four hours I've received literally hundreds of emails that point out that each specific criticism, on its own terms, doesn't quite hold up. Thus, for instance, there definitely were proportional type machines widely available at the time. There were ones that did superscripts. There were ones with Times Roman font, or something very near to it.

But that only means that such a document could possibly have been produced at the time; not that it's likely. And taken all together, the criticisms raise big doubts in my mind about their authenticity. Adding even more doubt in my mind is that the author of this site was so easily able to use MS Word to produce a document that to my admittedly untrained eye looks identical to one of the memos in question. Identical.

A list like this would be a big help to liberals wondering which blogs to trust. And newspapers too. If the media follow standard form, the New York Times, the AP, and the Los Angeles Times will be with CBS, but the Washington Post will be against CBS, and all the TV networks and cable companies except Fox will be with CBS.

Update: This test, by the way, will also help test a hypothesis I have raised before: that the blogosphere is more honest, overall, than the old media, because there is more competition and a weblog is forced to address issues orl ose readers. An alternative hypothesis is that weblogs are usually libertarian or conservative, while the old media is liberal, and liberals are more dishonest. If we find that liberal weblogs do address issues (and it does seem that even Kos and Atrios at least mention Rathergate) and address them head-on (more dubious), at least more than the old media do, then we can reject the "dishonest liberals" hypothesis.

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September 12, 2004

CBS vs. AP strategies when Caught Lying; Hewitt Summary

Powerline reminds us that the AP put up a falsified story within the past month too-- the false report that there was heavy booing at a Bush rally when Bush wished good health to Bill Clinton-- and never said it was sorry. AP's strategy when caught, though, was smarter than CBS's: it quickly corrected the error and acted as if it was no big deal. It didn't say it was sorry, though, or punish the reporters who made up the story, presumably because it wasn't sorry and liked the fact that they lied, even though they got caught this time. Only the blogosphere took notice, so the AP's strategy worked.

Note, too the good summary post of the CBS forgeries by Hugh Hewitt.

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Potential Libel Suit: General Hodges vs. CBS?

The Washington Times says

One retired Guard official, who was Mr. Killian's immediate supervisor, Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, was offered up by Mr. Rather as one who would substantiate that the memos were real. But yesterday Gen. Hodges told the Los Angeles Times he thought the memos were fake. One CBS executive said the general, a known Bush supporter, had changed his story.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn't think the Killian family could sue for libel based on CBS having put forward obviously forged documents as genuine (even if it could be proven that CBS actually forged the documents in-house rather than contracting it out).

But how about General Hodges? CBS is saying that the General verified forged documents. Moreover, he is a known Bush supporter, which makes him look pretty stupid and treacherous if he validated documents that were forged to hurt Bush. The General says he didn't do it, though. This looks like enough to get a libel suit before a jury. Before it gets to the jury, though, there is the discovery stage, in which the General would be able to use legal compulsion to get CBS to answer questions about the story under oath...

Update, a few minutes later: Powerline notes at

that the Boston Globe has a pattern of quoting people in this affair, the people saying that the Globe misquoted them, and the Globe standing by their quote. Looks like more potential libel suits to me. These "He said, she said" suits are probably tough to win-- I don't know the standard of proof needed-- but it would be enough to get them before a jury for the plaintiff (the victim) to justify himself in public and to show the falsity of the libeller.
In the case of the Globe, one person they misquoted was a documents expert. He certainly has a case for his professional reputation being damaged by them.

Update, Monday: John Fund writes:

"60 Minutes" may have a sterling reputation in journalism, but it has been burned before by forged documents. In 1997 it broadcast a report alleging that U.S. Customs Service inspectors looked the other way as drugs crossed the Mexican border at San Diego. The story's prize exhibit was a memo from Rudy Comacho, head of the San Diego customs office, ordering that vehicles belonging to one trucking company should be given special leniency in crossing the border. The memo was given to "60 Minutes" by Mike Horner, a former customs inspector who had left the service five years earlier. When asked by CBS for additional proof, he sent another copy with an official stamp on it.

CBS did not interview Mr. Camacho for its story. "It was horrible for him," says Bill Anthony, at the time head of public affairs for the Customs Service. "For 18 months, internal affairs and the Secret Service had him under a cloud while they established that Horner had forged the document out of bitterness over how he'd been treated." In 2000, Mr. Horner admitted he forged the memo "for media exposure" and was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. "Mr. Camacho's reputation was tarnished significantly," Judge Judith Keep noted.

Mr. Camacho sued CBS and eventually settled for an undisclosed sum. In 1999 Leslie Stahl read an apology on the air: "We have concluded we were deceived, and ultimately, so were you, the viewers."

If Mr. Camacho could sue, so could General Hodges, I would think. I hope he does not settle out of court.

Update 2: Eugene Volokh took up my question about General Hodges and writes

The allegation that the General verified the documents, even if false, is likely not defamatory; the allegation that he had changed his story, though, likely is defamatory. They wouldn't be the strongest claims of defamation, since he'd probably have to persuade the jury that he suffered some specific damage as a result of the statements.

But more broadly, even if the General is no longer a public figure (the statements being made about him are not statements about his alleged conduct when he was still serving), he's likely a limited purpose public figure. If he talked to CBS News about the documents, he injected himself into this controversy. Even if he was later misquoted by CBS News itself, he'd still be a public figure for purposes of this debate, so that to recover he would have to prove the CBS knew its statements about him were false (or at least knew the statements were quite likely false). Maybe he could prove such knowing falsehood (e.g., they knew that I hadn't changed my story, so they lied when they said I did change it) plus damages; but that's what he would indeed have to prove, and showing negligence isn't enough.

Professor Volokh also discusses what, in general, would be desirable for lying in public affairs. I quite agree with him that stripping TV stations of their licenses and criminal prosecutions are tools likely to be abused. I disagree with him somewhat about libel suits not being useful. Libel suits help because they force the parties to confront each other's charges in a formal setting with an umpire, the judge. To use Rathergate as an example, a libel suit would compel CBS to produce the documents it says it has, to tell us the names of the experts it says it has, to describe its internal checking process, and to answer questions under cross examination. The jury decision and the actual damages are the least important part of the suit. In fact, the best law might be to allow suits for lying in public matters, and even a jury decision, but no damages. That would avoid one of the two bad things that comes to mind about libel suits: that the jury and judge might award ridiculous damages against an unpopular defendant despite the evidence. (The other bad thing is that civil suits take years to finish-- so in Rathergate, the suit wouldn't do much till long after the 2004 election, though so far this is more about CBS than about the politicians.)

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September 11, 2004

Fontgate: Tom Smith Writes Well and Shape of Days Types Well

Tom Smith is actually as good a writer as Mark Steyn-- we are just deprived of his full talents by Smith's having a job as a tenured professor rather than being a freelance writer:...


Here's the NYT on fontgate or whatever we're going to call it. Now we know what the MSM damage control line is going to be: "Experts disagree! Oh darn! I guess we'll never know! What a shame!" Oddly, the experts who think the CBS docs are transparently crude forgeries have names, while the other experts are well, just experts. Now shut up.


Particularly disgusting on this has been CNN. I just watched Aaron Brown, or whatever his name is, you know, the nauseatingly sensitive anchor guy, ask follow up questions along the lines of "Now, without the original documents, is it really possible to know for sure who is right?" "Oh, no, Aaron, we'll never know . . ." When of course, the right question is, is there any reason to believe they are authentic? Do they appear to be genuine or not? On which side is the weight of the evidence? If some one tells you something is a moon rock and it looks like pool tile, you infer he's full of it, even if all you have to go on is the appearance of the thing. The standard is not, can we be absolutely certain they are forgeries.

AND there's this on Hugh Hewitt's site:

Hi Hugh,
I am a Professor of Computer Science at Rice University who has followed the evolution of word processing technology over the past 30 years. A cursory glance at the "Killian documents" shows that they are forgeries, the product of a modern word processing system. Even the most powerful word processing systems available in the early 70's were not designed to produce propotionally spaced documents.
. . .

"A cursory glance" is all that it takes. It goes on from there. And guess what? The professor is right, and the dunderheads at CBS are wrong.

September 10

Maybe this is one of those things you have to be in your forties or older to understand. Do people remember what a monumental pain in the butt it was to type papers in college? Erasing? White out? Fiddling around with the carriage to squeeze in letters or lines? Anyone who ever typed can tell by visual inspection that the documents in question are word processed. (I learned to type in high school in a class taught by the basketball coach; a guy so mean even the other coaches hated him. He finally left and all sighed in relief. Learned how to type, though.) Some old guy who didn't even type (his wife says he couldn't type) could not have produced such a clean looking document using a normal typewriter. As to the IBM selectric, come on. I was in college from 1975 to 1979, and nobody, even rich kids who would have had one, had a selectric. A grad student I knew got one in 1977 or so, but they were very rare. And they were no huge bargain to work with by today's standards. And the couldn't produce the proportionally spaced documents like those in question. Maybe there were some memory versions around, but the old army reservist was supposed to have one of these in his den in 1972. Doesn't anybody remember 1972? Hardly anybody had an electric typewriter back then for personal use.

All this makes this a weird story for me. I know enough about typing and such to know the documents are fake, I really don't have any doubt, but CBS apparently doesn't know that.

I also just read the Shape of Days definitive post on the question of whether an IBM could have written the memo. He contacted the world expert on this, and got very detailed responses. He shows various ways the $30,000 old IBM could have come close-- close, but no cigar. There are still definite differences, even if Colonel Killian had bought the fancy machine, despite his lack of typing skills, and had jiggled things all day to try get his superscripts looking pretty on this memo for his personal files.

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Signature Expert Matley on the CBS Forgeries

CBS did finally come up with the name of an expert it consulted about the forged documents, Marcel Matley-- but just a handwriting expert, not a documents expert! Since rumor has it (that is, the Prowler article says) that CBS knew the signatures were questionable before they ran the show, this isn't very comforting-- presumably this is the expert who earlier, in private, gave them the opposite opinion. Also, he just states his opinion, rather than addressing any of the specific problems.

The signature on the top is from the unquestionably authentic September 6, 1973 disharge papers. That on the bottom is from the CBS Forgeries (note, of course, the computer typography)....

...What's interesting here is that this is a courtroom expert, a hired gun. That's not at all damning in itself. Indeed, it makes him more credible, because this guy has put his future income on the line. He sure looks wrong to me--or, I expect to you, looking at the evidence above. Some features are the same, the general appearance is far different, as are details such as the "i" and the "n". I don't see how Mr. Matley can ever get another gig as an expert witness. If he did, the other side would put these two signatures up on the screen, just like here, and say: "Mr. Matley, is it true that you gave as your professional opinion that these two signatures are by the same person, rather than one being a forgery? Were you at that time acting as a paid consultant to CBS News? Could CBS find any other experts who agreed with you? Didn't some three dozen other experts, volunteers, not paid, come out in public to say that the documents you said were authentic were forgeries?"

So either Mr. Matley is being very noble indeed, as he says below, or we must wonder what motivation he has. Could he be "cashing out" his reputation? I'd like to know how much CBS is paying him. Or could it be blackmail? Or is there really a case for two signatures that look so different to a non-expert being by the same person?

For more commentary, see Justin Katz on September 9.

Here is what Matley says in Dan Rather's defense of the documents:









National Review quotes Matley saying earlier that it's necessary to look at the original documents, not a photocopy, to tell if a signature is authentic-- yet now he is vouching for a photocopied signature. Of course, it's quite false that you need to look at the original, not a photocopy-- I've noted this stupid comment by a number of experts asked about Rathergate-- but it's still embarassing for Matley.

Update, Sept. 14: Part of getting older is increased experience and wisdom. It is taking me decades to really understand how stupid people can be. It's hard for an economist to understand that people very take out their gun, aim carefully, and shoot themselves in the foot. The Washington Post says this today.

CBS executives have pointed to Matley as their lead expert on whether the memos are genuine, and included him in a "CBS Evening News" defense of the story Friday. Matley said he spent five to eight hours examining the memos. "I knew I could not prove them authentic just from my expertise," he said. "I can't say either way from my expertise, the narrow, narrow little field of my expertise."

In looking at the photocopies, he said, "I really felt we could not definitively say which font this is." But, he said, "I didn't see anything that would definitively tell me these are not authentic."

Matley is backtracking. He's already said the signature is genuine, and he can't retract that, but it looks to as if he's panicking, realizing that his livelihood is crumbling beneath him as the man who authenticated the Rathergate documents-- presumably *not* for a fee equal to the capitalized value of all the future expert witnesss fees he is forfeiting.

Permalink: 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2004

The CBS Forgeries: Why?

The blogosphere has done a great job of proving beyond all doubt that the 60 Minutes Bush National Guard Documents are forgeries, even though Dan Rather is adamantly denying it. Powerline is the place to go for info, or Instapundit. The forgery is obvious even to a non-expert: computer fonts, not typewriters fonts; signature different from the genuine one; computer superscripts that a typewriter of the 1970s couldn't do.

Thus, we can move along to the causes and effects. First the causes. We know that CBS is working to elect Kerry, so they would be pleased to publish genuine documents, or even convincing forgeries. But why would they publish obvious forgeries? The result is to destroy their credibility and to leave George Bush stronger than before.

"Anatomy of a Forgery" by The Prowler suggests that the Democratic Party bushwhacked CBS:

More than six weeks ago, an opposition research staffer for the Democratic National Committee received documents purportedly written by President George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard squadron commander, the late Col. Jerry Killian.

The oppo researcher claimed the source was "a retired military officer." According to a DNC staffer, the documents were seen by both senior staff members at the DNC, as well as the Kerry campaign.

"More than a couple people heard about the papers," says the DNC staffer. "I've heard that they ended up with the Kerry campaign, for them to decide to how to proceed, and presumably they were handed over to 60 Minutes, which used them the other night. But I know this much. When there was discussion here, there were doubts raised about their authenticity."


A CBS producer, who initially tipped off The Prowler about the 60 Minutes story, says that despite seeking professional assurances that the documents were legitimate, there was uncertainty even among the group of producers and researchers working on the story.

"The problem was we had one set of documents from Bush's file that had Killian calling Bush 'an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot.' And someone who Killian said 'performed in an outstanding manner.' Then you have these new documents and the tone and content are so different."

The CBS producer said that some alarms bells went off last week when the signatures and initials of Killian on the documents in hand did not match up with other documents available on the public record, but producers chose to move ahead with the story. "This was too hot not to push. If there were doubts, those people didn't show it," says the producer, who works on a rival CBS News program.

Now, the producer says, there is growing concern inside the building on 57th Street that they may have been suckered by the Kerry campaign. "There is a school of thought here that the Kerry people dumped this in our laps, figuring we'd do the heavy lifting on the story. That maybe they had doubts about these documents but hoped we'd get more information," says the producer.

According to one ABC News employee, some reporters believe that the Kerry campaign as well as the DNC were parties in duping CBS, but a smaller segment believe that both the DNC and the Kerry campaign were duped by Karl Rove, who would have engineered the flap to embarrass the opposition.

Why would the Democrats want to embarass CBS and help Bush? This theory doesn't work.

How about simple stupidity? Could it be that CBS didn't realize the documents were forgeries? The Prowler article suggests not. And it would be a rare degree of stupidity. I've heard it said that tabloid newspapers are very careful about checking out possible libels, and surely 60 Minutes knew some forensic experts. Indeed, CBS claims it did have an expert check out the documents, though since it won't name him, and any real expert would have caught the forgery we may have caught CBS in a lie (the next stage in this scandal? )

Well, how about a different sort of stupidity: CBS did know the documents were forgeries, but thought nobody else would figure it out. This is a bit more plausible, but not very. Even if CBS didn't expect the blogosphere and Killian's family to notice (I didn't mention it, but apparently the purported author of the memos didn't know how to type), CBS, with its paranoid fantasies about George Bush, surely should have expected the Republicans to check.

No-- it doesn't matter how biased we think CBS is-- the problem is that this kind of Amazing Stupidity seems incompatible with running a weekly news show.

There's the Karl Rove Theory-- that Karl Rove planted the documents with the Democrats, knowing they'd be stupidly taken in. But that theory, too, relies on incredible Democratic stupidity. All it adds is the extra requirement that Karl Rove have realized how stupid the Democrats were. So we can reject that theory too.

I discussed this today with my PhD students, as an applied game theory problem. It helped that a couple of them are former high-flying bureaucrats. One suggested that maybe CBS was hurrying, in a competition with someone else who might scoop them on the story. That doesn't wash, because even a quick look at the documents would have revealed them to be forgeries.

We did come up with one alternative to the Amazing Stupidity theory: the Backstabbing Theory. Suppose someone at CBS wants to ditch Dan Rather. Such a person could make sure that he didn't get accurate information on what the document experts, or anybody else said. Dan Rather wanted to believe in the documents' authenticity anyway, so this would just be a matter of spinning things so he could dismiss the doubters. Then, a week later, Dan Rather's name is Mud and one of those doubters is a hero and takes over his job.

We'll see...

Ah-- and then there are consequences. Can anybody sue CBS for libel? Even if CBS itself did not forge the documents, they recklessly published them. Thus, I wonder whether George Bush could sue for libel. As a public figure, he can't sue for innocent mistakes-- innocent being very broadly defined. But even a public figure can sue if he can prove deliberate falsehood-- and, perhaps, if he can show reckless disregard for facts.

The Killian family cannot sue, I think. To be sure, CBS has defamed Mr. Killian, and he is not a public figure, but he is dead, and I think it is not illegal to defame dead people.

I wish somebody could sue. It would be nice to force CBS to reveal all the details in court.

Eugene Volokh looked for fraud statutes that might make forging documents a crime, but didn't find any good ones. It's interesting, because it *would* be criminal if the CBS forgeries were used for a commercial purpose, to extract money from someone.

I thought of another court strategy-- a risky one. Someone could assert that Dan Rather had personally forged the documents, and dare Rather to sue him for libel. Rather might could win such a case, but it would probably come out at trial that though Rather had not personally forged them, they were indeed forgeries and he ought to have known that. The jury might decide that Rather was villainous enough that they didn't want to award him any damages. Rather and CBS would lose more from such a trial, in bad publicity, than they could win, so they probably wouldn't bring suit in the first place. So the dare might be a safe one.

But the big news is that CBS is arguing that the documents are authentic! This is either support for the Amazing Stupidity Theory, or, more likely, CBS knows full well that the documents are forgeries, and knew it all along, but thinks that it can confuse its viewers enough that the viewers won't figure it out. Thus, they use the forgery charges as a pretext to repeat the false charges against Bush, pretending to address the charges but actually evading them and just repeating the falsehood. If all CBS has left by this time are the stupidest, most Democratic viewers, this might be a good strategy for them. The viewers, after all, won't read anything different in the New York Times.

I hope at the next press conference, Bush says, "Now I want to ask one of you guys a question. You, at CBS-- why are you manufacturing fake documents to smear me? Why, after people pointed out that the document was written on a computer, not a typewriter, do you still insist it was written in 1973?"

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September 08, 2004

Polling Trends and Media Bias, 1936 to 2000

Yesterday I compared Kerry to Dukakis in poll patterns and flaws. Today, from the Gallup poll I constructed the following table showing how much the Republican Presidential candidate gained on the Democrat between Labor Day and Election Day. A positive number means the Republican improved by Election Day; a negative number means he worsened.

Notice the three time periods I've separated with horizontal lines. From 1936 to 1952, Republicans always slipped in the last two months of the campaign. From 1976 to 2000, Republicans gained in the last two months, with the single exception of 1988 when they slipped 1 point.

It is clear the media has been heavily Democratic in the 1976 to 2000 period. I've heard that it was heavily Republican in the 1936 to 1952 period-- that the newspaper editors hated the New Deal. Thus, this seems to support the idea that media bias is more important for early polls than for the actual election results, since late in the election its effect is moderated by the advertisements and other efforts of the campaigns.

That idea has big policy implications. If media bias is swinging 5 points in each election, shouldn't we try to increase candidate spending to moderate media power? Especially in this TV age, do we really want most political advertising to be done, in effect, by the few large corporations which dominate TV? The implication, it seems to me, is that we should not only free campaign spending from restrictions, but maybe even subsidize it so it will balance the spending of the media corporations.

Or, we could try to retain the spirit of McCain-Feingold: to reduce the amount of resources spent campaigning. Since the vast majority of those resources take the form of free campaigning by the liberal media though, the McCain-Feingold spirit takes us in a new direction: ban reporting on political news. The McCain-Feingold idea is that voters are too swayed by advertising. Once we take into account that "reporting" is really a form of free advertising, biased as it is, then since far more broadcast time is spent on the news than on campaign ads, the obvious and fair solution is to ban both ads and news. In fact, banning news is much more fair and important. Ad spending is pretty much equal between Republicans and Democrats, but the news is heavily, heavily skewed towards Democrats-- basically, Fox News is *maybe* Republican-- my impression is it is fairly neutral-- but all the rest is partisan Democrat. Thus, I think we conclude that in the next round of silly campaign finance legislation, we should completely deregulate paid advertising, but totally ban TV news.

Surely nobody would claim that making people rely on newspaper news would reduce the quality of our national political life, would they?

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September 07, 2004

Poll Histories: Kerry and Dukakis

Instapundit has been collecting Dukakis-Kerry parallels, e.g. here and here. This is, of course, a fun subject for conservatives at the moment. My electoral college map and prediction are looking better all the time, though now I'm starting to wonder whether maybe Bush will take California (see also

(for a better display, click

Here's my take on Kerry versus Dukakis. The similarity is that both were extreme liberals facing somewhat unpopular moderate conservatives in good economic times, but both were perceived as moderates and the press, heavily on their side, did all it could to preserve the moderate image. Both therefore had a strategy of not talking about issues, but that strategy ran into trouble when their opponents adopted the simple expedient of pointing out their liberalism using ads with specific, undisputable examples. At that point, their advantage in the polls started evaporating, as the diagram in this post shows. I've noted in a previous post the Rasmussen Reports polling data that shows that middle-of= the-road (i.e., wishy-washy) voters wrongly think Kerry is not a liberal. Kerry has a lot of support to lose still, when they learn more about him. Note what must be disturbing for him: Dukakis was in much better shape than Kerry until August, when they both started declining, but by September 1, Dukakis and Kerry were about even. Dukakis then fell even further-- and he didn't have Swiftvets to worry about.

Soxblog talks about "DUKAKISIZATION": how a candidate becomes a laughingstock. Kerry is an easy target for that, unlike Dukakis, who wasn't particularly goofy in appearance and manner until his campaign people told him to do things like drive tanks.

There are two big differences, I think. First, Kerry has a foreign policy records that can only be described as pro-communist, while Dukakis, a governor, had no foreign policy record.

Second, Kerry is highly vulnerable on character issues. His military record is fraudulent. He lied about American atrocities when he returned to America. He won't release his wife's income tax returns, an unprecedented secrecy in the recent history of presidential campaigns, which tells me there is something rotten hidden there (though it might be as simple as, say, not having any charitable deductions). He divorced his first wife under conditions as yet unexplored. He has lived extravagantly using the money of his second wife's dead husband. I don't recall anything in Dukakis's personal life that was as distasteful as any one of these Kerry defects.

What can Kerry do? If he wants to win, I think his best strategy is to keep on obfuscating and denying, and hope that somehow Bush self-destructs. That strategy is not likely to win, but that doesn't mean it isn't his best strategy. He is just not playing a strong hand. Or, if he wants to serve the public, he could imitate Goldwater and say all the extreme things he really believes, in the hope of moving public opinion in the long run even though he would lose the 2004 election.

It's time to bring back an old joke, I think, though it doesn't work as well as it did for Dukakis:

QUESTION: What does "Kerry" mean in the original French?

ANSWER: "McGovern".

By the way, on Dukakis vs. Kerry polling trends see also the Free Republic of July 17. One interesting comment there was:

I think another KEY point is the MEDIA BIAS factor, where polling data during the 'non-attention' time of the voters

Can someone run an analysis of the July/August #s versus the final numbers?

I think if you go all the way back to 1976, in every single race, the
Republicans improved on their July/August polling numbers:
- 1976 (large Carter lead -> small Carter win)
- 1980 (Reagan behind/even race -> big Reagan win)
- 1984 (small Reagan lead -> Reagan landslide)
- 1988 (Bush behind/Dukakis ahead -> Bush wins)
- 1992 (Clinton lead -> Clinton win smaller than Aug lead)
- 1996 (Clinton large lead -> Clinton wins by 7pts)
- 2000 (no change? Bush/Gore even in summer, then close election)

This is something worth exploring, perhaps even in a scholarly paper. Gallup has the data at the site I link to below.

Here is the explanation for my graph above. It uses Gallup poll data, recorded a bit sloppily because each date is actually from about 3 days of polling taken from here and here from I converted calendar dates to digital dates, and my Dukakis data is eyeballed from a strangely drawn Gallup graph. The poll is of "likely voters", in a two way race plus Neither, Other, and No Opinion, where I eliminated the Neither, Other, and No Opinion and show a candidates proportion of what remains. I graphed the data in STATA using the command

graph kerry dukakis date, xscale(3, 11.5) yscale(40, 60)xlab(3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11) ylab( 40, 45, 50, 55, 60) yline (50) connect(l[.] l[l]) symbol([kerry] [dukakis]) psize(200)

Then I saved it as a *.wmf file and converted to *.jpg. I couldn't figure out how to keep the Stata colors when I saved it, though.

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September 04, 2004

The Associated Press Caught on a Falsified Anti-Bush Story

Instapundit nails the Associated Press on a false report that Republicans booed when President Bush wished Bill Clinton speedy recovery from his heart operation.

First, he gives clear evidence that the report was false.

Then he reports on the AP's attempts to cover its tracks, revising the story without noting it was a correction and "pulling the byline" of the reporter who filed the false report, Tom Hays, perhaps to protect him....

Captain's Quarters describes it well:

WEST ALLIS, Wis. - President Bush (news - web sites) on Friday wished Bill Clinton (news - web sites) "best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery." "He's is in our thoughts and prayers," Bush said at a campaign rally. Bush's audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed. Bush did nothing to stop them. Bush offered his wishes while campaigning one day after accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York. Clinton was hospitalized in New York after complaining of mild chest pain and shortness of breath. Bush recently praised Clinton when the former president went to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait. He lauded Clinton for his knowledge, compassion and "the forward- looking spirit that Americans like in a president."

I bolded the two sentences because if you read the AP's update, it disappeared without any explanation. Unfortunately, it was too late to keep the original report to show up in the print media, meaning if you read the newspapers, you're going to see the original and false story. Fortunately, Drudge carries the audio from the event proving that the story is completely false.

Galley Slaves gives the story on the changing AP story and bylines:

So what's going on here? Was Hays in Wisconsin reporting, or in New York? What role did Ron Fournier, Frank Eltman, David Hammer, and Marc Humbert have in this story? There are five reporters on the hook for this misreporting, surely one of them will want to clear their name.

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August 28, 2004

Lehrer's Obsequious Fawning as He Asks Clinton Why Clinton Lied to Him

Jim Lehrer, like most newsreaders, has a nice voice that makes it sound as if he
were wise and objective. Not so. Just remind yourself of this passage below
whenever you hear Jim Lehrer talking about the news. The American Spectator
of September 2004 describes this passage from "">Jim
Lehrer interviewing Bill Clinton

"A prayerful Jim Lehrer approaches the Archbishop of Balderdash, heart
thumping, palms moistening, and, as he genuflects, pants splitting:

JIM LEHRER: I've read the transcripts of all the interviews you've done thus far
since the book came out, and it seemed to me--now you correct me if you think
I'm wrong--but it seemed to me as they've progressed, you've gotten increasingly
annoyed about questions about the Monica Lewinsky matter. Am I right about that?
Are you just tired of talking about that?


JIM LEHRER: I have to ask you one question about it for the record, and I'm sure
this is not going to be any surprise to you because six years ago, the day the
Lewinsky story broke--you mentioned this in your book...

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I wrote it about.

JIM LEHRER: You wrote about it in the book, that because we had a pre--already
prearranged interview, you went ahead with the interview, and I did the first
interview with you, and I asked you if you had had a sexual--improper
relationship. I kept using the past tense, and you kept saying is, "There is no
relationship." My question to you is, was that--that was an intentional dodge,
was it not?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: It was an intentional dodge because I didn't want--I respect
you. I didn't want to lie to you, and I thought that I had to, as I said in the
book, buy two weeks time for things to calm down in order to avoid having Ken
Starr and his boys win this long fight that they were fighting against me, and--
but I also said in the book that I hated it and I tried to--after I did that
interview with you--I tried to confine my comments thereafter just simply saying
that I didn't violate any laws and I didn't ask anybody else to, and that's
pretty much what I said from there on out."

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Electoral College Map; Campaign Finance Reform

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 5. See also the Gallup interactive state map, which has links to state polls.

The PBS Electoral College Pick-Your-Own-States Map is good. It would be even better if it put the number of electoral votes on each state, if it were accompanied by a table with the 2000 race percentages for each state, and if it could be frozen and saved after the user put in his own changes, but at least it is a start.

My forecast is Bush 328, Kerry 210, with the distribution of states in the map accompanying this entry.

The polls I trust most are at the Rasmussen Report. Note, by the way, that I, Eric Rasmus en, am unrelated to the Rasmussen of that report. I don't trust any polls very much, though. Bush still has a lot of ad spending to do, and the debates are still to come. Kerry will have even more ad spending (because of the Demo millionaires funding the 527s, where he's had something like a 60 million to 4 million dollar lead so far-- my unchecked guesses), and will also be in the debates. But so far the voters have been hit with huge amounts of free ads for Kerry in the form of the mainstream media's biased reporting. Bush's spending and the debates will go a little way towards evening that out.

Has anyone, by the way, calculated the value of the Democratic bias of the media? What I'd like to see is some estimate of the amount of newsprint and TV time that is effectively Democratic commercials, multiplied by the standard ad price for that time. I think it would swamp campaign spending, and would show that if we're really concerned about campaign finance reform, we should skip the small stuff- the billion dollars or so spent on paid-for ads-- and go right to the big money, which is the free ads in the form of news and op-eds.

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August 24, 2004

Tom Smith on Oliphant and the Mainstream Press as Dem Shills

Tom Smith at the Right Coast has a classic post on how Thomas Oliphant said that the mainstream press is a shill for the Democratic party.

Thomas Oliphant (whom I can never look at without imagining him in one of those propeller beanies) was there to uphold the honor of the daily press. I thought he was pathetic, but my lovely wife Jeanne thought he did OK.

Most annoying was Oliphant's repeating, over and over, that O'Neill's allegations simply did not live up to the standards of evidence required by the legitimate press. Oh please. It's rather late in the day to stand on the daily papers' claim to journalistic objectivity. O'Neill says he has sworn statements from eight officers and four sailors to the effect that Kerry left the scene of the incident of the action for which Kerry got his bronze star, and only came back later. The testimony of 12 eyewitnesses is evidence, and a lot more than the one or two anonymous sources behind many stories in the regular press.


JOHN O'NEILL: Jim, one other thing, they can look at, which is the web site that has a great deal of information on it.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a web site that's comparable to that? I'm sure the Kerry --
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, it's called the daily press, which is the most difficult thing for these guys to deal with.

Too, too funny. Oliphant says that what the Swiftvets are for Bush, the daily papers are for Kerry. Meaning what? Surrogates? That's correct, but Oliphant probably didn't mean to say it quite that way.

Take a look at the PBS Transcript of the Oliphant-O'Neill exchange. O'Neill is extremely persuasive, and his tone is utterly reasonable.

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

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