WASHINGTON — It was the first public allegation that CBS News used forged memos
in its report questioning President Bush's National Guard service — a highly technical explanation posted within hours of
airtime citing proportional spacing and font styles.
But it did not come from an expert in typography or typewriter
history as some first thought. Instead, it was the work of Harry W. MacDougald, an Atlanta lawyer with strong ties to conservative
Republican causes who helped draft the petition urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to disbar President Clinton after the Monica
Lewinsky scandal, the Times has found.
Of course, some of us who (ahem!) are experts in typography
knew he was blowing smoke as soon as he said the originals might have been set in Palatino -- Times New Roman, maybe, but not Palatino -- but let's continue ...
This whole sorry episode began on the evening of September 8, when a lawyer named
Harry MacDougald, posting anonymously as "Buckhead," wrote on Free Republic that the memos were forgeries created by computer
word processing or possibly by typesetting equipment but not on typewriters available in 1972. By the following morning this
assertion had been picked up by a number of right-wing blogs. It hit Drudge mid-afternoon, was on Fox News by early evening,
and was all over mass media in time for the 10 o'clock news
In other words, the unsupported opinion of one anonymous man traveled from a radically extremist
web site to all of mass media and became cemented as conventional wisdom in less than 24 hours.
Note that most of the same people who ridiculed Dan Rather because he wasn't more
careful about the memos accepted "Buckhead's" claims at face value. We may yet
learn that the memos were forged, but this cannot be determined with certainty without the originals.
People all over the web who hitherto didn't know a ligature from a serif are suddenly
"experts" who hang great significance on the exact placement of a superscript or the fact that words on the PDF file can be
made to align with the same words created with word processing. Although when I tried it, it turned out like this:
The above doesn't prove anything. Clearly, the red letters (word processing) are
a tiny bit larger than the black letters (from the CBS scans). But without the originals, we don't know if the scans are true
to size (I suspect they are not), which is why all the animated GIFs that have been created to show perfect alignment
don't prove anything, either.
On the other hand, because of the extreme degradation of the characters themselves
I suspect there's enough distortion in the CBS scans that they may no longer align perfectly with their own originals. If
the originals still exist and someday come to light, expect someone to claim they aren't the real originals because
they don't line up perfectly with the scans.
And, once again, typewriters did exist in 1972 that could have typed the
originals. They were the more expensive models, but they did exist.
That being said, there are enough questions about the provenance of the
memos that I agree they should be questioned and investigated. If the originals turn up and it turns out they were forged,
I promise to announce this on The Mahablog in 52 point Helvetica.
Via Orcinus -- letters rigged to ignite when opened that were mailed to the governor's offices in 18 US states have been intercepted.
Federal and state authorities have narrowed their investigation to a single
person of interest, according to Glen Whorton, assistant director for the Nevada Corrections Department.
Whorton said on Saturday it does not appear that any of the letters contained any writings, only a blank sheet with a match
or match head rigged to ignite when the paper was opened. [Link]
The catch is that the terrorist appears to be local talent, possibly
a white supremacist/Aryan Brotherhood associate. Therefore, no one cares. Only Middle Eastern terrorists are worthy of concern
The next time someone tries to tell you that
nobody but fundamentalist Christians, corporate CEOS, and neoconservative ideologues support George Bush’s election as president,
you tell them that’s not fair. Terrorists do too. Here’s a statement from Abu Hafs al-Masri, the Islamic militants who claimed “credit” for the Madrid train bombings,
in support of Bush’s election campaign:
"We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming
elections," it said.
Addressing Bush, it said: "We know that a heavyweight operation would destroy your government,
and this is what we don't want. We are not going to find a bigger idiot than you." The statement said Abu Hafs al-Masri needs
what it called Bush's "idiocy and religious fanaticism" because they would "wake up" the Islamic world. Comparing Bush with
his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, the statement tells the president, "Actually, there is no difference between
you and Kerry, but Kerry will kill our community, while it is unaware, because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish
infidelity and present it to the Arab and Islamic community as civilization."
Also in Altercation -- Secret Service violate citizens' First Amendment
rights; as many as 400,000 New Yorkers may suffer consequences because of government cover up of dangerous
air quality after 9/11. But we knew that.
We're watching the biggest jujitsu flip ever seen in American politics. President Bush, a slacker, a draft evader, a failure
in business, a man so devoid of world curiosity that he rarely left America's shores (even checked "no overseas service" on
his Air National Guard application) and a president who has misled the American people about everything from the invasion
of Iraq to the cost of Medicare, has managed to flip John Kerry onto his back by turning Kerry's strengths -- his valor in
Vietnam, his intellect, his expanded worldview and, yes, his nuanced thinking -- against him. In jujitsu that's how it's meant
to be. In politics it's cynical and destructive -- and shamefully effective.
Lenfestey makes some great points -- me sure to read the whole
I posted what follows on March 12, 2003. The links may be broken. I'm reposting it here because my old archives are not permalinked and it's hard to fined stuff
in them. I just stumbled on this when I was looking for something else. It seems to be appropriate at the moment.
Perils of the Path
There was an excellent article in the New
York Times yesterday (in fact, the entire op ed page was excellent). Jackson Lears wrote,
war plans are risky, but Mr. Bush is no gambler. In fact he denies the very existence of chance. "Events aren't moved by blind
change and chance" he has said, but by "the hand of a just and faithful God." From the outset he has been convinced that his
presidency is part of a divine plan, even telling a friend while he was governor of Texas, "I believe God wants me to run
This conviction that he is doing God's will has surfaced
more openly since 9/11. In his State of the Union addresses and other public forums, he has presented himself as the leader
of a global war against evil. As for a war in Iraq, "we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust
in them." God is at work in world affairs, he says, calling for the United States to lead a liberating crusade in the Middle
East, and "this call of history has come to the right country." [Jackson Lears, "How a War Became a Crusade," The New York Times, March 11, 2003]
Osama bin Laden (see Field Guide to Evil Doers, above) also believes he is doing God's will. You think one of these guys might
be wrong? Or both of them wrong? Or maybe they are both right, proving God has a sick sense of humor?
Although it would be absurd to claim the two men at the center
of the present crisis are mirror images of each other, it would also be a mistake to ignore the parallels between them. Despite
the vast differences that divide the two leaders, Bush and bin Laden are both at bottom representatives of the same political
type: the idealist who, having undergone a profound conversion experience, wants to reform the world as radically as he has
People of this sort are in the end more dangerous than
even the most cynical and corrupt dictator. After all the despot's greed might eventually be sated, and the tyrant's cruelty
may some day sleep; but nothing can satisfy the man who wants to transform the world. Even after thousands or millions have
perished; even after entire societies have been turned upside down; even after the word of God or Marx has been brought to
every village and hamlet in the formerly benighted nation, the world, much to the idealist's disgust, remains largely as it
was before he set out to save it. [Paul Campos, "A Tale of Two Idealists," Scripps-Howard News Service, March 11, 2003]
In an Atlantic Monthly interview, Richard
Brookhiser said that
"Bush's faith means that he does not tolerate, or even
recognize, ambiguity: there is an all-knowing God who decrees certain behaviors, and leaders must obey." While this clear-cut
belief structure enables him to make split-second decisions and take action with principled confidence, it also means that
he is limited by "strictly defined mental horizons." [Atlantic Unbound, Atlantic Monthly, March 2003]
Joe Klein has written a couple of columns along the
same lines. This one is particularly good:
And this, I think, is at the heart of what is disturbing
about Bush's faith in this moment of national crisis: it does not discomfort him enough; it does not impel him to have second
thoughts, to explore other intellectual possibilities or question the possible consequences of his actions. I asked one of
Bush's closest advisers last week if the President had struggled with his Iraq decision. "No," he said, peremptorily, then
quickly amended, "He understands the enormity of it, he understands the nuances, but has there been hand-wringing or existential
angst along the way? No." (This, in contrast to his torturous quasi-Solomonic decision on stem-cell research.) ...
There are plenty of thoughtful, angst-ridden Evangelicals,
of course; the President's simple swagger isn't merely a consequence of his religious faith. He has long disdained the tortured
moral relativism he first encountered at Yale. He doesn't come from the most introspective of families. And he has recently
found an intellectual home in the secular evangelism of the neoconservatives, who posit a stark world of American good and
authoritarian evil. But George W. Bush's faith offers no speed bumps on the road to Baghdad; it does not give him pause or
force him to reflect. It is a source of comfort and strength but not of wisdom. [Klein, "The Blinding Glare of His Certainty," Time, February 18, 2003]
Never forget that Bush has little experience with failure.
This is not to say that he has never failed; his business career was a disaster. But he was repeatedly bailed out of his problems
by his parents' wealthy friends. He does not take responsibility for consequences. He does not know how to doubt.
And for this reason his is a childish religiosity; Jesus as security blanket.
I have Three Treasures, which I hold fast and watch
over closely. The first is Mercy. The second is Frugality. The third is Not Daring to Be First in the World.
Because I am merciful, therefore I can be brave. Because I am frugal, therefore I can be generous. Because I dare not be
first, therefore I can be the chief of all vessels.
If a man wants to be brave without first being merciful,
generous without first being frugal, a leader without first wishing to follow, he is only courting death! [Tao Teh Ching, verse 67]
George W. Bush is now trapped as tightly in Iraq as Johnson was in Vietnam. The
war is going badly. The president's own intelligence estimates are pessimistic. There is no plan to actually win the war in
Iraq, and no willingness to concede defeat. [Bob Herbert, 9/17]
I opposed the invasion of Iraq for several reasons. I doubted Iraq was
the dire threat to the United States the Bushies were making it out to be. I thought we had unfinished business with al Qaeda,
and a war on Iraq would take resources away from that. The weapons inspectors scouring Iraq for WMDs (and not finding any)
were begging for more time, and I saw no logical reason not to give them more time. Middle East experts warned that an invasion
could seriously destabilize the region. A great many people believed that, although most Iraqis would welcome "regime
change," they would not tolerate being occupied by U.S. troops for very long.
Bush supporters would not even seriously address these questions. Anyone who was
opposed to the invasion was dismissed as a "Saddam lover."
In April 2003, when the statue of Saddam was toppled, a fellow who'd been heckling The
Mahablog and ridiculing my concerns about Iraq emailed me a big JPEG of this event, suitable to use as Windows wallpaper
(or, at least that's what he said it was; I didn't open the file). As far as he was concerned the whole matter was settled.
The invasion was successful; he was right and I was wrong.
Never mind that I hadn't predicted the invasion, viewed strictly as a military operation, wouldn't
be successful. It was what would happen in the days and weeks and months after the invasion that worried me.
And, of course, I was right and the heckler was wrong. My worst fears have all come
to pass, and more.
Before the war, I kept asking the wingnuts how, precisely, would the mere
removal of Saddam Hussein cause democracy and peace and love and McDonald's franchises to bloom in the desert of Iraq? It
seemed to me some steps were not being factored in. And indeed, the Bushies were supplied with piles and piles of studies explaining all of the things that could go wrong and what preparations should be made for the postwar period.
But the Bushie plan was that, once Saddam was gone, the Good Fairy of Democracy
would sprinkle pixie dust on Baghdad and Iraq would live happily ever after. Postwar plans were for the French and other
grownups who don't believe in magic.
Today in the Middle East, it appears Bush is viewed as such a loser that Ariel Sharon doesn't even pay him lip service any more. Long-time U.S. allies Turkey and Jordan are backing away from Bush as fast as they can. For good or ill, even the House of Saud is tottering because of Bush's folly.
If our goal was to nudge the Middle East into being more stable, democratic, and pro-American, we're failing spectacularly.
And can anyone explain to me now what the famous transfer of sovereignty was supposed
to accomplish, exactly? Just yesterday Scott McClellan told a press gaggle, " ... the pessimist nay sayers said that they -- that we would not be able to transfer sovereignty
by June 30th. The Iraqi people proved them wrong. And we did it early."
Golly gee, they were able to conduct a ceremony. Whoop di doo. Wake me up when the Iraqi
people have elections and our troops come home.
In March 2003, many smart, articulate people supported the invasion. Some of these
same people are saying smart, articulate things about why Bush should be trusted more than Kerry to deal with Iraq.
For example, this statement from Andrew Sullivan stuns me: "...the key is to insist that we are not leaving any time soon - which is obviously not
what the election of John Kerry would achieve. It may be that the only way out of this mess is to stick with the man who helped
In other words, we are supposed to stick with the most spectacularly incompetent
president in American history because his opponent might not continue making the same mistakes?
Lots of people, me included, are frustrated with John Kerry because he hasn't spelled
out how his Iraq policies would differ from Bush's. But to be fair, the situation in Iraq is deteriorating so rapidly that
there's no way to know what problems we'll be facing in January 2005. Anything Kerry says about Iraq now might not be applicable
at the beginning of a Kerry Administration.
Maybe Kerry isn't making specific promises about Iraq because he doesn't want
to lie to us about what's possible.
There are great many elements of the
Middle East Mega-crisis that are outside U.S. control. Senator Kerry might be able to tell us what he wants to do,
or how he hopes an exit strategy will work out, but I think it's safe to say that no honest person can promise anything.
But the first step to solving any problem is to recognize
that there's a problem. The second step is to thoroughly understand the nature of the problem. And the third step is to formulate
a solution that doesn't cause worse problems. In the past three years, Bush
has demonstratedhe can't do any of these things.
But Kerry has made great progress with steps
one and two. For this reason, I trust him to be better able than Bush to go on to step three. And so far, I've been right.
Even if they are genuine, the documents don't add much to what is known.
While some of the details remain uncertain, it is clear that during the Vietnam War, President Bush took advantage of his
family connections to obtain a slot in the Texas Air National Guard, became certified as a jet pilot, later missed a number
of meetings and other obligations, lost his National Guard pilot's license, and was honorably discharged.
With Senator John Kerry, while some details are also in dispute, abundant
documentation makes it clear that Kerry volunteered for hazardous duty in Vietnam, returned after an abbreviated tour in which
he was wounded three times, and performed with true heroism twice, earning the Silver Star and Bronze Star he was awarded.
[Boston Globe, 9/17]
Ever wonder why the polls seem divorced from observable reality? Jimmy Breslin says why:
The telephone polls do not include cellular phones. There are almost 169 million
cell phones being used in America today - 168,900,019 as of Sept. 15, according to the cell phone institute in Washington.
is no way to poll cell phone users, so it isn't done.
I'd guess this means polls skew older and lower-income than the electorate really is. Hmmm. Breslin quotes John Zogby:
Zogby points out that you don't know in which area code the cell phone user lives.
Nor do you know what they do. Beyond that, you miss younger people who live on cell phones. If you do a political poll on
land-line phones, you miss those from 18 to 25, and there are figures all over the place that show there are 40 million between
the ages of 18 and 29, one in five eligible voters.
Make of that what you will. Zogby says he does not use telephone
polls, and last week (September 8 and 9) he had Bush just two points up, with a three point margin of error.
Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush's approval rating declined to 44 percent from 56 percent among undecided voters since the Republican
National Convention, a poll by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center found.
Immediately after the Republican convention in New York, several
polls showed Mr. Bush jumping ahead of Mr. Kerry with a clear lead of between six and 11 percentage points. There's no such
'convention bounce' for the president in the latest poll by Harris.
The Harris poll, conducted by telephone Sept. 9-13, shows Sen.
Kerry leading Mr. Bush 48% to 47% among likely voters nationwide. The poll also found that a slender 51% to 45% majority doesn't
believe that Mr. Bush deserves to be re-elected.
The previous poll in which likely U.S. voters were asked which
candidate they preferred showed Messrs. Kerry and Bush tied 47% to 47%. That survey was conducted before the Republican National
Convention in New York City, which ended earlier this month. An earlier poll in June indicated a Bush lead over Mr. Kerry
of 10 percentage points, at 51% to 41%.
The latest poll was conducted within the U. S. among a nationwide
cross section of 1,018 adults. It has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.
The results echo a recent poll sponsored by Investor's Business
Daily, which also showed that the gap between the U.S. presidential candidates has disappeared. The poll of likely voters
showed the two candidates tied at 47% in a two-man race and tied at 46% if independent candidate Ralph Nader is included.
Robert A. Strong, a professor at Washington and Lee University, has the misfortune
of being a professor named Robert A. Strong. For this he has been targeted by the hyenas and flooded with hateful emails.
Why? Because CBS reported that a college professor named Robert Strong, a friend
and former colleague of the late Jerry Killian, believes the TANG documents to be genuine.
However, the targeted Robert Strong of Washington and Lee is not the same Robert
Strong who knew Killian.
Professor Strong of Washington and Lee writes in the Miami Herald:
Who are these people? They obviously have the time to find my e-mail address but
lack the courtesy to inquire whether I am the person they heard about on television. They are unhappy about what they saw.
But how does that get them to the conclusion that I am a ''liar,'' the ''biggest dirty trickster since Watergate'' and ``a
paid agent of George Soros''?
My e-mailers apparently think that the folks at 60 Minutes were sloppy in
checking the facts about Bush's service in the National Guard. Where do they get their facts? How can they be utterly oblivious
to their own inability to discover the simplest facts about me? ...
...Have we become so polarized and partisan that no one any longer cares about the
truthfulness of what is said in a political campaign? Could it be that dirty tricks that used to involve whispered rumors
are now done more openly and more nationally on the web and in television advertising bought with unregulated money?
Or is it something about the Internet? It used to be that only leaders could be demagogues.
They were the only ones with access to mass communication, which allowed them to manipulate popular prejudices in pursuit
of power. Now fast computers and the World Wide Web have democratized demagogy. Today anyone can sit at his or her terminal,
spew hatred, issue false accusations and become a virtual Sen. Joe McCarthy. On both sides of the political spectrum, that
is exactly what some people are doing.
The Left has its share of hyenas, also, but from what I've seen the Rght has more
hyenas. The next step for these brainless goons is to form non-virtual packs to punch out teeth and break windows.
Just the Fax: There's a claim that the allegedly forged Killian documents were faxed to CBS from a Kinko's in Abilene. Like I said. The kinds of distortion in the memos, especially the bowing in the capital I, are characteristic of faxes.
Fingers are pointing at Bill Burkett, a retired National Guard officer who once accused
Bush aides for ordering a portion of Bush's Guard records destroyed. Awhile back I remember Kevin Drum and Atrios and others
writing quite a bit about Burkett, but I don't recall details.
As of today it appears the hyenas have won the typography wars. This
victory was not based on the quality of their arguments but on the fact that they howl louder.
The hyenas also have some cute ditigal tricks up their sleeves. Somebody created
a nifty animated GIF of this memo that seems to "prove" that one of the memos was originally word processed with Palatino Linotype. But, although it's just
about impossible to figure out what font was actually used, I don't think it was Palatino.
As I've said before, it's just about impossible to tell what font these puppies were
set in. But in the memo in question the only comma I see has a curl to it, which would rule out Palatino. Palatino is also
a very wide font that eats up a lot of space, which IMO pretty much rules it out --
At left -- the top sample is from the memo used in the animated GIF, and below are the same letters in Palatino. The Palatino
letters are shorter and wider.
Note also the distinctive letter P.
If the guy who created the animated Gif used Palatino Linotype, as he says, the
only way the Palatino text would have fit letter for letter is if he condensed it. Bad, bad, animated Gif maker. Naughty. I'd say the guy is "busted," in fact.
Also, it appears to me that he makes the two samples "match" by fading
one of them out. At the end, you're not really looking at two samples superimposed. You're only looking at one sample.
The Gif creator has some point or another to make about the ledding, or the space
between lines. As I remember, the line spaces on electric typewriters could be adjusted, but I'm not going to swear to that.
However, there were at least a couple of points between the lowest point of a y and the highest point of an l.
Finally, I wish the technoweenies would grasp that the tabs in Microsoft
Word and other word processing software are supposed to mimic tabs found on a typewriter. The software
was created so that typists who were accustomed to tabbing letters and memos on a typewriter could tab them
the same way on their computers. MS Word has a half-inch default tab. The fact that some typist way back when might have
set his/her tabs on half inch also is not really astonishing.
Peter Slover of the Dallas Morning News located Jerry Killian's secretary, who says the content of the allegedly forged memos is accurate -- “I remember very vividly when Bush was there
and all the yak-yak that was going on about it" -- but that the typing itself is not her work.
The secretary, Marian Carr Knox, believes someone retyped the memos.
She said she did not recall typing the memos reported by CBS News, though she said
they accurately reflect the viewpoints of Lt. Col. Killian and documents that would have been in the personal file. Also,
she could not say whether the CBS documents corresponded memo for memo with that file.
“The information in here was correct, but it was picked up from the real ones,” she
Mrs. Cox also remembers having a mechanical Olympia typewriter
with a raised "th" charadcter in those years, proof that all kinds of things like that existed. These memos were not typed
on a mechanical typewriter, however.
I like this part --
She said that the culture of the time was that men didn’t type office-related documents, and she expressed doubt that Lt.
Col. Killian would have typed the memos. She said she would typically type his memos from his handwritten notes, which she
would then destroy.
When I wrote on Friday that men did not type in those years and that a clerk had typed the memos for Killian, a flaming idiot named Chris Nath (see
comment #2) wrote,
Oh my God. You’ve never served in the military, have you? Of all the asinine rationalizations
I’ve read regarding these documents, this one takes the cake. You honestly believe what your wrote here, don’t you? I’m not
saying that the wingnuts falling over themselves are not without fault, but give me a break.
Once again, I am proved correct. But let's continue ... What's important is
the content of the letters, and Mrs. Cox verifies the content. And if the typing isn't hers, perhaps Mrs. Cox was
on vacation or ill, and Killian borrowed a clerk from elsewhere to fill in. That seems to me more probable than someone's
retyping them later, as Mrs. Cox suggests, although anything is possible.
Since I'm still getting a lot of hits from Little Green Footballs (thanks for enhancing
my Google ranking, guys!) I thought I'd do a little type font seminar this morning. I opened one of the Killian memos (the
same one from 18 August 1973 that LGFers love so much) in Photoshop, cropped to focus on one line, then I typed the same line in Microsoft Word, Times
New Roman, and pasted it into the Photoshop document, then I blew them both up to show detail. There are a number of
details of the font that don't match. Most notable are the top serifs, which are squared off in the Killian memo and don't
have the cute little dip characteristic of true Times New Roman, which is what I'm key boarding in right now. You can see
what I'm talking about below.
The sample at top is from a Killian memo. At bottom is what I keyboarded in MS Word
this morning. The flat serif, IMO, indicates a typewriter. However, you can see the amount of distortion clearly in the
capital Is. That's a common distortion seen in bad quality printing and old faxes. That's why you can't do a true comparison
without the original memo.
You can see the entire line of type, both ways, here.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A business school professor who taught George W. Bush at Harvard University in the early 1970s says the future president
told him that family friends had pulled strings to get him into the Texas Air National Guard.
Yoshi Tsurumi, in his first on-camera interview on the subject, told CNN that
Bush confided in him during an after-class hallway conversation during the 1973-74 school year.
"He admitted to me that to avoid the Vietnam draft, he had his dad -- he said
'Dad's friends' -- skip him through the long waiting list to get him into the Texas National Guard," Tsurumi said. "He thought
that was a smart thing to do."
I can't blame Bush for pulling strings to get into the Guard. I
had a built-in deferment, so I didn't have to face the draft. I can't say I wouldn't have pulled strings, too, assuming I
had any. A man of character would have fulfilled his obligations, however.
I wondered where all the trolls are coming from, then realized I'm being linked (and
vilified) on Little Green Footballs. Although I take this as a great honor -- not as glorious as being on Dick Nixon's enemies
list, but in the ballpark -- I'm removing holoscan comments for the time being. I don't have time to read through all the
muck the LGFers are leaving, and I don't want to be responsible for it.
To those asking for proof a 1970s era typewriter could turn out text replicable by
Microsoft Word, click here.
To those charming gentlemen who found my phone number, be advised my phone company
has been notified.
By now it's pretty well known that the Killian "forgery" claims originated
with a poster named Buckhead on Free Republic. So it may amuse you to know that on September 2, said Buckhead was certain John Kerry had been a Communist agent in 1972.
As of now, I believe all of the "proof" of forgery of the Killian documents
has been tossed out of court, so to speak. We've accounted for proportional type several different ways, centered heads,
all manner of character questions (including the famous raised "th," which turns out to have been a special character on some type element balls, as I suspected), kerning (there wasn't any), and the astonishing fact that when you set the same document twice in the same type face and size it will look pretty much alike. Imagine.
The hyenas on the right are still mindlessly yapping about forgeries, because that's
what they do. But by now most people with brains understand the documents are most likely authentic.
According to this LA Times article, the "forgery" claim can be traced to an anonymous poster on Free Republic. Of course. Then some junior technoweenie on Little
Green Footballs discovered he could replicate the documents on Microsoft Word, which said junior technoweenie, who clearly
knows absolutely nothing about typography, assumed was proof the documents were phony. And then Matt Drudge picked it
up, and then it went to mainstream media. And this in a space of about 12 hours.
No question that the Web is impacting major media and the political campaign. The
question is, how? Quoting the LA Times:
This was the first time, some said, that the Web logs were engaging in their
own form of investigative journalism — and readers, they warned, should be cautious.
"The mainstream press is having
to follow them," said Jeffrey Seglin, a professor at Emerson College in Boston. "The fear I have is: How do you know who's
doing the Web logs?
"And what happens when this stuff gets into the mainstream, and it eventually turns out that the
'60 Minutes' documents were perfectly legitimate, but because there's been so much reporting about what's being reported,
it has already taken on a life of its own?"
There are two legitimate issues here. One is the content of the documents,
which proves Our Fearless Leaders was indeed a spoiled little princeling who got away with disobeying a direct order while dissing
But the other question is, how can we restore some semblance of responsibility
to news reporting?
When I was in journalism school (a zillion years ago, seems like) there was this notion that
a professional journalist verified his information before making a story public. And even then, statements were
to be cautiously edged with lots of qualifiers just in case the reporter had been misled.
But now false allegations hit the public so fast the whole world hears them before
knowledgable people can clear their throats to speak up.
Short of giving a responsibility transplant to anyone within ten feet of a computer
keyboard, I don't know what to do.
... through some gradual process of cultural mummification, the attacks
of three years ago have become a symbol, a cluster of stuffed and mounted official images, and as such they must now compete
with fresher images for the country's interest and attention.
By now even Rudy Giuliani must realize it's time to change his act. Conventional
wisdom everywhere seems to be that it's time to "get over" 9/11 and move on. (Google for 9/11 move on to see what
I suspect "moving on" means different things to different people. It can mean everything
from returning to pre-tragedy routines, however painfully, to forgetting the event entirely. For example, these good people interviewed for the Shippensberg Sentinel (Pennsylvania) say the date doesn't affect them much, although one woman
admitted the September 11 attacks had inspired her to purchase a cell phone.
It's different for New Yorkers, but it
has been all along. The first time after the attacks I went home to Missouri I was shocked to see people wearing 9/11
commemorative T-shirts. That would have been -- still would be -- unthinkable in New York City.
Though most out-of-towners don't realize it, New Yorkers don't visit Ground
Zero very often. On the contrary, many have avoided going near the site — and they have dim opinions of the crowds that congregate
I didn't notice this until a Toronto friend asked me when I'd last visited
Ground Zero, and I realized that I'd never once purposely gone to look at it. It wasn't until this summer that I ran into
the site, accidentally, while shopping nearby.
As Thompson says, for eyewitnesses the memories of that day are still
painful, as are memories of the many days after. For weeks after 9/11 New Yorkers lived with the makeshift flower-and-candle
memorials everywhere, on every unguarded wall, street corner, and even in the subways. We remember that, too. We
remember the burning smell that pervaded lower Manhattan and large part of Brooklyn, New Jersey, and probably Staten Island
also, for many weeks.
I remember bagpipes. A month after 9/11 I started working near St. Patrick's
Cathedral, and every morning there was another funeral, with bagpipes.
And for months, whenever friends met for the first time after the attacks, they would
gently, tentatively, ask the terrible question -- who did you lose? It seems nearly everyone knew someone whose life
was snuffed out that day.
New Yorkers don't ask that question any more. It's been awhile since I've seen anyone
faint in terror (yes, people really do that. I can now say I've seen it) at the sound of a low-flying plane or a rumor of
bombs in the subway. We're past the stage of needing to talk about it. If that's "moving on," most of us have
On the other hand, I believe I speak for many who were there when I say that beautiful
September days (like today) make me uneasy. Damn you, bin Laden.
(At the other end of the moving on scale -- last April James Lileks was looking forward to September 11: The Movie. "Just tell the story
as it happened that day, and people would cram the theaters by the millions."
In the "heartland," maybe. Not in
This blogger, who knew some of the dead, recently suspended blogging because she felt she had to move on:
I was all set to do the Voices Project again. I was ready to share stories,
to remember, to ask how you feel three years on.
That's what I told myself this morning. No.
I refuse to start myself down that long, rocky slope of depression again.
I refuse to take this perfect, blue-sky day and spend it reliving days of darkness. I can't.
Tomorrow, my son starts his middle school career. My daughter starts high
school. Time has a way of smacking you in the face when you need it most. I can't once again entrench myself in some virtual
dark, dank basement where I'm huddled over the keyboard, weeping.
I have moved on. There, I said it.
... Oh, I still have the anger and pain but, instead of trying to will them
out of me by throwing myself into a mental re-enactment of that day, I've decided to let them be. I've learned to live with
the little, black lump of nothingness and now I have learned how to not make that bigger than it should be. Nor smaller. It's
the piece of 9/11 I own and I'd no sooner give that up than give up a limb.
I especially appreciate the honesty of that last sentence. People
stake a claim to 9/11 all kinds of ways, by wearing commemorative T-shirts to making pilgrimages to Ground Zero. New Yorkers,
writes Clive Thompson, can seethe with resentment at visiting "heartlanders" who wallow in 9/11 nostalgia. And, yes, Republican
conventioneers do come to mind.
Walter Kirn remembers somewhat different emotions from the blogger above."The sense of pure victimization
I felt back then, untainted by guilt and uncut with self-reproach, was powerful, pervasive and oddly intoxicating. I suspected
that I'd miss it once it passed."
This is not something I can measure, but it seems to me there was, and is, more anger
about the September 11 attacks outside New York City than in it. Dale Maharidge wrote in the September 20 issue of The Nation,
On the first anniversary of 9/11 I went to a mosque in Chicago and found
a smaller repeat of what had happened for three nights after the attacks, when thousands of whites had rallied near this building
in the suburb of Bridgeview. This time, vehicles sprouting giant US flags raced down Harlem Avenue. There were horns and peeling
rubber. Two bare-chested men had flags painted neck-to-navel on their bodies. Hundreds of flag-waving white people roared
in unison, "USA! USA!"
I recall some individual acts of violence against Middle Easterners in the NYC
area after September 11, but nothing like that. In my memory, the pervading mood in New York, after September 11
and on the first anniversary, was sorrow. Terrible sorrow.
And defiance, yes. By September 13, Times Square construction sites were festooned
with flags and hand-lettered expressions of contempt for Osama bin Laden. That same day I felt uplifted by the number of American
flags I saw unfurled on Madison Avenue. But in New York there was more mourning than madness.
The next time it [the picture of her husband's fire truck] came into her
life was in March of last year when the sanitation man, a good man, who always talked about the picture and who had been carefully
putting the garbage cans back to the side of the house, now came charging to the door.
"Congratulations! You ought
to be excited."
"Why?" she remembers saying.
"Because they're going in to get even for you. You'll have revenge."
The United States had invaded Iraq.
"I don't want revenge. I don't think this country should have revenge." She remembers
him looking at her as if she were demented.
"When they read the names, they should read the names of the thousand soldiers
who got killed in Iraq, too," she was saying on Friday morning.
What I feel about 9/11 these days is mostly regret.
We as a nation were given an opportunity to rise to greatness, and we blew it. We blew it because our leaders were
small people with narrow minds and selfish interests who wouldn't understand greatness if it bit their butts. Instead of leadership, we got manipulation.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.