Saturday, September 11, 2004

Boston Globe: Killian Memos Authentic

I still have no idea, but The Boston Globe seems to have done their homework.

...specialists interviewed by the Globe and some other news organizations say the specialized characters used in the documents, and the type format, were common to electric typewriters in wide use in the early 1970s, when Bush was a first lieutenant.

Philip D. Bouffard, a forensic document examiner in Ohio who has analyzed typewritten samples for 30 years, had expressed suspicions about the documents in an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, one in a wave of similar media reports. But Bouffard told the Globe yesterday that after further study, he now believes the documents could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer typewriter available at the time.
I really don't want to reprint the whole article here, so go read it yourself. This issue isn't going away, and with Team W calling the release of the memos "an orchestrated effort by Democrats and the Kerry campaign to tear down the president," it's important that questions about both the authenticity and the source of the documents be answered.

One thing still bothers me, though. As Wired writes:

If the newly released 32-year-old National Guard memos regarding George W. Bush were written on a computer with Microsoft Word, as experts suspect, they're some of the most inept high-profile forgeries in modern history.
It makes no sense that these documents would have been forged -- if indeed they were forged -- by anyone allied with the Kerry campaign.

posted by Scott | 9/11/2004 | |

Clinton v. al Qaeda: New Evidence

So much for the idea that Clinton coddled terrorists...

Taliban Chief Phoned U.S. on '98 Strike
Fri Sep 10, 10:44 PM ET
By WILLIAM C. MANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A day after former President Clinton sent cruise missiles against al-Qaida targets in Afghanistan, the leader of that country's ruling Taliban militia telephoned the State Department and offered to talk, according to a State Department message disclosed Friday.

Little came of the contact, although Mullah Mohammed Omar counseled the department that the United States would never be accepted as a friend of the Muslims unless Congress forced Clinton to resign.

Clinton announced Aug. 21, 1998, that he had sent cruise missiles "to strike at the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Osama bin Laden, perhaps the pre-eminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today."

The attacks were to retaliate for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa two weeks earlier that killed 231 people. Bin Laden, mastermind behind the al-Qaida terror network, was blamed for those as well as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Not only do we have the fact that the Clinton administration stopped the millennium bombing of LAX to point to as proof that Clinton took al Qaeda far more seriously than Bush did pre-9/11. Now we have the words of a close al Qaeda partner.

And what does Omar tell us? Not that they're happy with Clinton and to keep up the good work, but that the terrorists wanted him out of office. I could finish that sentence with "and replaced by a Republican," but that's more Drudge's and Cheney's style than mine.

Here's my favorite part:

"It is indicative of the seriousness of how the Taliban view the U.S. strikes and our anger over bin Laden."
Think about that next time you hear that the Clinton administration didn't do enough to combat terror.

posted by Scott | 9/11/2004 | |

Economic Conservatives Abandon Bush

The cracks in the GOP armor are showing a bit in terms of economic policy.

From the AP:

Bush is campaigning for a second term promising to overhaul the Social Security retirement system and the U.S. tax code. He is pushing for more spending on job training and for expanding health care tax credits.

But Bush has yet to say how he will pay for it, even as he charges that his Democratic presidential rival, John Kerry, is hiding "details on how they would raise spending and lower the deficit" until after the Nov. 2 election.
So there's the hypocrisy, but it actually gets worse...


But even fiscal conservatives, traditionally allied with the Republican White House, were skeptical of Bush's plans.

"While it's true that Kerry hasn't provided a detailed plan, neither has the president," said Heritage Foundation budget analyst Brian Riedl.

William Niskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute, said Bush's warnings about Kerry's spending plans were "inconsistent" with his own proposals. "There's no way to accomplish (Bush's) major new measures, including tax reform, without substantial increases in spending," Niskanen said.

Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth, a group that raises money for conservative political candidates, said Bush was not being "very forthright" about his plans. He called Bush's fiscal record "abysmal," adding that under both Bush and Kerry "fiscal responsibility takes the back seat."

This week congressional analysts warned the deficit will balloon to a cumulative $2.29 trillion over the next decade.

Bush's most ambitious proposal -- adding personal retirement accounts to Social Security -- may be the most costly up front. The estimated cost of diverting some payroll taxes to these private accounts ranges from $1 trillion to $2 trillion over 10 years, analysts say.

Bush's own economic advisers say tapping the bond markets to pay for private accounts could dramatically increase the federal debt for decades.
And don't go thinking that come November, conservatives have nowhere to turn but Bush. The Washington Times ran a really interesting piece today about the third parties challenging Bush from the right.

Three third-party presidential candidates have ballot access in more states than Ralph Nader and pose as much, if not more, of a threat to President Bush than to Democratic contender Sen. John Kerry.

The Libertarian Party is now on the presidential ballot in 44 states and the Constitution Party in 35 states, both more than the 24 that Mr. Nader has managed amidst a concerted effort from state Democrats to thwart his bids.

The Libertarian and Constitution parties appeal to disenchanted conservatives who are fed up with the president's stance on immigration, too permissive in those quarters, or his coziness with centrist Republicans like Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.

"We are playing to the conservatives who do not have a party to vote for," said Libertarian presidential hopeful Michael Badnarik. "For example, Republicans have traditionally stood for smaller government, but this president has not adhered to that standard."
Funny how all of the polling is just Bush and Kerry or Bush, Kerry, and Nader. A clear majority of voters do not want Bush to be re-elected. It stands to reason that many of these voters would prefer to vote for a conservative candidate other than Bush if they realized they had the chance. One wonders what would happen to the numbers if some of these other conservative candidates were to get an influx of cash and could increase their awareness.

Care to find out?

Michael Peroutka
Michael Badnarik

Tell 'em... uh... Free Republic sent you. Yeah...

posted by Scott | 9/11/2004 | |

Friday, September 10, 2004

While We've Been Studying Typewriter History...

This whole forged memo nonsense, as I keep saying, is distracting from the issues. What have you missed, you might wonder?

More Cheney lies:

Vice President Dick Cheney stepped back today from the inflammatory language he used two days ago to describe the consequences of the presidential elections, but, ignoring the findings of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, he said that Saddam Hussein had given "safe haven" to Al Qaeda.
More bad economic news:
The cost of health insurance climbed at a double-digit pace for the fourth consecutive year, sucking money out of family budgets and adding to the pressure on companies to shift more of the bill to workers.

Premiums for employer-sponsored health coverage for families rose 11.2 percent in 2004, according to a study released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Although that's down from 13.9 percent last year, it's still about five times the rate of inflation or the increase in workers' wages.
The Bush administration cops to violating international law:

Pentagon investigators believe the CIA has held as many as 100 "ghost" detainees in Iraq without revealing their identities or locations, a much greater number than previously disclosed, a senior Defense Department official told Congress on Thursday.
Bush is poised to allow assault weapons back on the streets:

The move means that ordinary citizens will be allowed to keep heavy assault weapons in their homes.

The ban needed to be renewed by next week, but President George W Bush's supporters in Congress refused to make time available for a vote to extend it.
Don't be stupid, people. The oldest trick of magicians and politicians is to keep you focused on one hand while the other picks your pocket. There's serious news out there. It's time to pay attention.

posted by Scott | 9/10/2004 | |

The Killian Memos - Update

Both the AP and The Washington Post are out tonight with stories questioning the authenticity of the Killian memos. Like I said earlier, I have absolutely no idea what to make of this. No serious political player on the Kerry side is dumb enough to have forged these documents to make a point that didn't even need to be made.

In fact, it's interesting to note that the only party that stands to gain from the faked documents is the Bush campaign. The allegations contained in the memos weren't smoking guns -- they were character assassination. A large swath of the American electorate already believe Bush to be a pompous asshole. We needed memos from the seventies to confirm it?

I know my tinfoil hat is starting to show, but bear with me here.

What if someone in the Bush campaign -- or even just a Bush supporter acting independently -- crudely forged one or two 'secret documents' and then leaked them to CBS News (or, alternately, to a Kerry surrogate who passed them to CBS) as a way of discrediting all of the documents calling into question Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam era?

It may sound a bit far-fetched, but it's essentially the same tactic Soft Skull Press founder Sander Hicks claims the Bush campaign used in 2000 to discredit Jim Hatfield's biography of Bush, 'Fortunate Son'. Hatfield, who died in 2001 of a drug overdose, claimed in the book that George W. Bush had been arrested for possession of cocaine in the early '70s. When it became public that Hatfield himself had a criminal record, original publisher St. Martin's pulled back all copies of 'Fortunate Son' and burned them. The CW became that everything in Hatfield's book was untrue because Hatfield was a criminal. Hatfield held fast until his death to the claim that it was Karl Rove who gave him the information about Bush's coke bust.

Point being, whether or not Hatfield's version was accurate, releasing false information along with the true is a well-established tactic used to discredit the whole story. It's also something Karl Rove has been accused of doing in the past.

Either way, this situation is an absolute mess. It would have been nice if the SCLM had spent half as much time on the Swift Liars as they are on what may or may not be a fake memo that contains little important information.

My head is still spinning...


The water just keeps getting muddier. There are a few people on the left -- like Josh Marshall -- who think that the chances are pretty good that the documents were indeed forged.

...the questions raised about these documents seem very compelling. And though those points above are telling about the underling story, I can't see where they tell us much meaningful about the authenticity of these documents.

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.

That combined with the individual criticisms mentioned above seems very hard to get around.
My problem with this is that if the individual criticisms don't stand up to scrutiny, then why would they when taken as a whole? The fact that quite a few people have taken a meme and run with it doesn't make it any more true.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the points from the pro-forgery crowd:
- The document has proportional spacing, which wasn't available at the time.
- The document was produced in 'Times New Roman' typeface, which hadn't been designed yet.
- The document uses superscript 'th's, which couldn't be produced by typewriters at the time.
- Even if any one typewriter had one of these features, none had all of them.

To counter that, the anti-forgery crowd has shown that:
- IBM advertised typewriters with proportional spacing, a feature they introduced in 1941
- The typeface 'Times New Roman' was actually designed in 1931.
- A number of documents from the early sixties -- including previously released official papers from Bush's military records -- have been shown to use superscript 'th's.
- Why wouldn't one typewriter have had all of these features?

So to sum up, yeah, maybe these documents were forged, but the evidence for that is severely lacking. The expert testimony, which the whole argument hinges on, has been largely debunked.

Honestly, I have to go back to my original argument that these documents are not at all important in making the case that Bush was a spoiled child of privilege who got out of Vietnam because his daddy was important and who didn't even fulfill his duties stateside as he'd promised. I also have to stick with the idea that if these are forgeries, they were put out there by Bush surrogates just to muddy the waters. And if I'm right about that, then Team W can finally rightfully declare, 'Mission Accomplished'.

posted by Scott | 9/10/2004 | |

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Scott "Tin Ear" McClellan

Courtesy of dKos, a snippet from this morning's gaggle:

Q: Jakarta bombing. Got anything on it?

MR. McCLELLAN: What about it, just looking for a comment?

In the aftermath of the car bombing outside of the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, 9 were dead and 180 were wounded. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's take?

What about it?

What the hell is wrong with these people?

In fairness, McClellan did issue a stock statement to follow up.

Q Jakarta bombing. Got anything on it?

MR. McCLELLAN: What about it, just looking for a comment?

Q Any details we might not have heard, or a reaction?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we condemn these kind of attacks in the strongest possible terms. It is -- it shows the true nature of the terrorists, and it is a grim reminder that we remain engaged in a global war on terrorism. The terrorists will be defeated. This is a tactic that is -- that's similar to tactics that have been used by Jemaat-e-Islam. And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.
Note that he had to be prompted to even give a reaction of any kind. And these are the people who are supposed to be handling terrorism so well? Absolutely pathetic.

posted by Scott | 9/09/2004 | |

Cheney: Not Just Crazy... Stupid, Too!

Presidential Elections - AP

Cheney: Economic Stats Miss EBay Sales

CINCINNATI - Indicators measure the nation's unemployment rate, consumer spending and other economic milestones, but Vice President Dick Cheney says it misses the hundreds of thousands who make money selling on eBay.

"That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," Cheney told an audience in Ohio. "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay."
Well, I guess that explains it. The economy hasn't shown the impressive growth the administration predicted because the government's economic numbers didn't include eBay sales.

I'll be damned if that's not the dumbest thing I've heard in... at least... days.

Rather than just assume this statement is as stupid as it sounds, I decided to do the math. According to eBay's Full Year 2003 Financial Results, gross merchandise sales, the full value of all items sold on eBay, was $24 billion. Not bad. But averaged out over the entire American populace, that's roughly $82 per person. And that generously assumes that all of that $24 billion is only winding up in the pockets of American sellers.

So yeah, Dick. You're right. The American economy isn't all that bad. After all, we each have an average of $82 extra in our pockets this year.

Does anyone know if he's including the shipping?

posted by Scott | 9/09/2004 | |

Killian Memos: Fake? Real? What Gives?

Is anyone on the internet talking about anything besides the Killian memos today?

Drudge Report:

'60 Minutes' Documents on Bush Might Be Fake /// 32-year-old documents produced Wednesday by CBSNEWS 60 MINS on Bush's guard service may have been forged using a current word processing program // typed using a proportional font, not common at that time, and they used a superscript font feature found in today's Microsoft Word program, Internet reports claim... Developing...
Kevin Drum:

NATIONAL GUARD SMOKING GUN?....As you know, 60 Minutes is running a segment tonight that features Ben Barnes explaining how he pulled strings to get George Bush into the National Guard in 1968. But the segment also features something else: new documents from the personal files of Col. Jerry Killian, Bush's squadron commander.
So what's the truth? I have no clue.

A few thoughts immediately come to mind, though. One, it would seem to me that it would be incredibly stupid for anyone for forge the documents in Word when it's not all that hard to go to find an old typewriter on eBay. Two, weren't the memos typed on paper? Isn't paper organic material? Can't all organic material be carbon dated? (Those are not rhetorical questions. I seriously don't know.) And three, if '60 Minutes' was going to hire a handwriting analysts, wouldn't they also hire someone to check into the authenticity of the memos themselves? (And if not, duh.)

Another interesting point is brought up by both Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan: if the documents are fake, why would the Bush administration be issuing them? Or their copies of them, as the case may be. Whether or not they were sitting on the documents themselves, releasing them would seem to indicate, as Marshall puts it, "that the White House accepted the documents as genuine".

To take that even further, but still borrowing heavily from Marshall, if the documents are fake, or if there was any serious suspicion that they are fake, why is the White House press office claiming that one of the memos supports Bush's version of the story?

"The memos that were released, in fact, show the President was working with his commanders to comply with the order."
Why oh why oh why did I think I was going to be able to take a cue from David Broder today and talk about the importance of labor unions in progressive politics? Apparently the high road has been totally washed out by a mud slide -- it's the low road for all of us, now.

posted by Scott | 9/09/2004 | |

Broder Decries Lack Of Labor Power

The latest column by David Broder is a serious wake up call to all who identify themselves as liberals and progressives. While we go back and forth so much about the 'he said'/'he said' and horserace aspects of modern politics, we -- especially on the left -- do not spend enough time really examining the things we need to do to get our policies implemented.

We tend to think that it's enough to get elected. Once you're elected, you can put in place the platform on which you won so many votes. But how often does that happen for us? Clinton's healthcare proposals immediately spring to mind. In fact, the only policies President Clinton had great success with were the ones he put forth as sops to the right in order to get them to go along with his other priorities. It's as if we offer to buy something for $5, but then when the seller gets the $5, asks for $5 more before he'll give us the product; we pay up and the cycle repeats.

Contrast this with the way the GOP has been doing business for the better part of the last decade. When they have a policy they want implemented, they do everything in their power to make it happen. Witness the carefully calculated and crafted language of Frank Luntz, the K Street Project of Grover Norquist, and the hard line demand for Congressional GOP loyalty of Tom DeLay as a few examples.

None of this is news to any of you, I'm sure. But our answers have not yet been very constructive. The call for more think tanks and more funding and more talking heads is definitely a start; the walls of our echo chamber had definitely weakened over the last few years. But none of this addresses the root cause of the problem.

The main driver behind the right-wing movement of late is big money. It's coming from big corporations and rabid ideologues like Richard Mellon Scaife, and the foot soldiers on the ground come courtesy of the fundamentalist Christian Coalition.

This is what David Broder really gets at in the column. The progressive community used to get this same kind of money and muscle from labor unions.

...when labor lobbied powerfully on Capitol Hill, it did not confine itself to bread-and-butter issues for its own members. It was at the forefront of battles for aid to education, civil rights, housing programs and a host of other social causes important to the whole community. And because it was muscular, it was heard and heeded.
But with the rise of the right-wing has come a choking off of worker's attempts to organize. On top of that, Democrats fall all over themselves to prove they're not in the pocket of labor. To prove it, they refuse to fight for the interests of the unions. By contrast, when was the last time you heard President Bush try to distance himself from corporate America? When was the last time Bush did not support a policy that put corporate profit over human interest? It doesn't happen.

But it's not too late -- especially if John Kerry wins in November. In the run-up to the Democratic National Convention, Kerry refused to appear before the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which was being picketed by Boston unions. When Mayors from across the country and both political parties slammed the decision, Kerry laid down the law: "I don't cross picket lines. I never have."

This was an incredible statement of support for the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain, but it's only a first step. Democrats need to continue to push for labor so that labor can continue to push for both the interests of the American worker and the power of the progressive community.

Broder sums up the consequences of inaction perfectly:

For those who think a Wal-Mart economy is the American future, the falloff in labor's influence is no cause for regret. But I suspect the country will continue to pay a price -- and not just union families -- until labor regains a place at the economic and political table.

posted by Scott | 9/09/2004 | |

Bush To Weasel Out Of Open Debate

Are you surprised? Really?

If you were that stupid, with that much blood on your hands, with that crappy of a record, and that much hypocrisy weighing on your shoulders, would you want to participate in a debate that might be open to people who might not like you?

I didn't think so.

posted by Scott | 9/09/2004 | |

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Team Fear Strikes Again!

From The New York Times:

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice," Mr. Cheney told a crowd of 350 people in Des Moines, "because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
Dick Cheney is a monster. Plain and simple.

It's as if the VP's daily talking points are carved into an ancient stone tablet he carries around in his pocket: Fear, fear, fear. Terror, terror, terror.

This has been covered by everyone and their mothers at this point, but let me bring up one point I have yet to hear anyone make. After 3/11, the story was supposed to be that al Qaeda wanted Kerry to win. That was obvious crap, but bear with me. Now Cheney is saying that if Kerry wins, not only will al Qaeda not be happy, but they're going to be so unhappy as to attack America with more force than they already have. Wouldn't that suggest that al Qaeda hates Kerry more than they do Bush?

If nothing else, this whole Cheney fear mongering incident has confirmed a few things we already believed. One is that Cheney is deranged and hates at least a full one-half of all Americans (liberals and moderates). The other is that Keith Olbermann is an awesome blogger.

A few of Keith's choice cuts:

(Note: the subject of the post was not Cheney, but actually Elizabeth Edwards)

[Cheney erased] whatever remained from the convention of the line between honest politicking, and terrorizing voters.
That's quite an answer to Mrs. Edwards' politics of inclusiveness on the subject of Homeland Security, especially given that some international analysts conclude that Osama Bin Laden attacked this country largely in the hope that we would respond by doing something militaristic in the Middle East that would make every Muslim in the world perceive us as a slow-moving bully, and thus provide a focus and an inspiration for fanaticism that would overthrow all of the region’s secular governments.
Elizabeth Edwards won’t question Republicans' intentions on counter-terrorism.

Dick Cheney not only questions Democrats', but as he does he sounds like he's nearing Megalomania Freeway.
Beautiful stuff.

posted by Scott | 9/08/2004 | |

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

1,001 US Soldiers Killed in Iraq

1,001 US Soldiers Killed in Iraq
11,700 US Soldiers Wounded in Iraq
46 US Contractors Killed in Iraq
65 UK Soldiers Killed in Iraq
66 Other Coalition Soldiers Killed in Iraq
104 Non-US Contractors Killed in Iraq
11,793 Iraqi Civilians Killed in Iraq

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
-- John Kerry, Senate Testimony, 4/22/71
So sad.

My sympathies and best wishes for the future to all of the families who have lost loved ones in the Iraq war.

posted by Scott | 9/07/2004 | |

Liberal Handwringing

People, you seriously need to calm the hell down.

The New York Times caught this exchange over the weekend.

Katie Simenson, 41, a massage therapist, accused the Democratic ticket of letting Republicans suggest that Mr. Edwards had taken frivolous cases as a lawyer and that Mr. Kerry was a waffler and soft on defense.

"They're going to run you right over and make you look like idiots," Ms. Simenson said.

Mr. Edwards sought to answer, promising " to fight every day between now and Election Day" and assuring her that Mr. Kerry "is strong, courageous and he is a fighter."

"And I like to believe I am the same thing," he said. But Ms. Simenson shook her head.

"We will - don't shake your head! - we will fight," Mr. Edwards continued. "No, we will fight every way we know how. But we are fighting for you, we are not fighting with these politicians. George Bush wants to fight with politicians. We are fighting for you. We want to make your life better - don't argue with me, let me finish. We're going to stand up - I let you talk, let me finish - we're going to stand up for the things that we believe in."
So you attack Edwards, saying he's not making his case and then talk over him so he can't even make his case to you? I fear that Chris Matthews syndrome has now spread from cable news to the general populace.

While I don't begrudge Ms. Simenson -- or anyone else for that matter -- her right to voice her opinion to the campaign, one would think that a little more respect is due to a sitting Senator who won the Democratic nomination for Vice-President. One can hardly imagine a Republican speaking like this to Dick Cheney. Whether or not she realized it, this confrontation feeds the media narrative that the Democrats are in complete disarray and struggling to get our heads above water. And attention to that story really detracts from attention that could and should be paid to the distortions that the GOP is using to "run you right over" Kerry and Edwards.

So rather than continuing to freak out about poll fluctuations and negative stories, here's something to repeat as a mantra:

Smallest. Incumbent. Bounce. Ever.

Wouldn't you know it, that's what Bush got from this year's GOP convention, according to Gallup. The TIME and Newsweek polls seem to be silly outliers as the rest of the polls indicate a minimal, nonexistent, or negative post-convention lead for Bush.

Bush's two-point convention bounce is one of the smallest registered in Gallup polling history... Bush's bounce is the smallest an incumbent president has received.
Feeling better now? I swear to you, it may be a bit cloudy, but the sky is most certainly not falling.

posted by Scott | 9/07/2004 | |
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