Archive:

September 2004, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Out On A Limb With Dan Rather:  News organizations, of necessity, rely on other news organizations for much of their news.  The Seattle PI made the mistake of trusting the Boston Globe and Dan Rather.  Last Thursday, relying on the Globe, which was using some of the same dubious sources as Rather, the PI published this editorial, titled "Where Was George?"
The Boston Globe reported yesterday that an analysis of military records shows that Bush "fell well short of meeting his military obligation" in the late '60s and early '70s and he did not face the prescribed punishments for doing so.
(The PI undermined their own argument with this ending.
If it's fair game to question whether Kerry earned the medals he was awarded for his tour of duty in the Vietnam War, it's fair game, too, to question whether Bush earned what amounted to his deferment from that war.
So, if the SwiftVets had not run their commercials, this would not be a legitimate issue?   That's a strange view for a newspaper.

And I might also note that almost everyone concedes that Bush fulfilled all his requirements — and much more — in the first four years of his service during the 1960s.)

But set that aside and consider what has happened since the editorial was published last Thursday.  It has become obvious to anyone with an open mind, and even to some, such as the Los Angeles Times, not known for that quality, that Dan Rather (and the Globe) relied on crude forgeries for their attack on Bush.  So the factual foundation of the PI's attack on Bush has disappeared.  Has the PI apologized?  Posted a correction?  Even noted that there are doubts about the Globe story?  No, no, and no.  The limbs they relied on, the Globe and Rather stories, have been sawed off, but the editorial board continues to sit there, obliviously.

Nor has the PI done much to tell its readers about the forgeries since last Thursday.  The editorial page did publish William Safire's column, but he is a regular.  They published one, not very good, letter criticizing the editorial and one, somewhat better, letter supporting their argument.

The news side has published about the minimum possible on Rathergate, although they did note that Killian's son questioned the memos, and that two document experts were skeptical about them.  The PI has yet to run a full article on the many problems experts in everything from typography to military jargon have spotted.  They have not told their readers about Matley's lack of credentials, or his admission that he could not authenticate a signature on a copy of a document — as CBS said he did.  They have not even asked one of their own reporters to contact typography experts at Microsoft and Aldus, two local companies.  That shows, I would say, a certain lack of enterprise on the part of the executive editor, Kenneth M. Bunting — or possibly a reluctance to do stories that would embarrass the media and the Democratic party.

Readers who got their news only from the PI would probably find today's article, titled "CBS News fights to restore credibility", puzzling, since they would not know much about Rathergate and the pile of evidence that has destroyed the Globe story and the Rather broadcast.

There is a final, ironic point that the PI seems to be unaware of.  Critics have claimed that Bush slacked off in his last years in the Guard.  But the same appears to be true of Kerry's time in the reserves.  He finished his duty years late, most likely because he slacked off in some way.  Neither bothers me much, especially as compared to their records of accomplishment, whether slim, as in Kerry's case, or full, as in Bush's case.

It is time for the PI to give more coverage to this story.  If we can not, as it appears, trust CBS, we need to know that.  I think the editorial writers at the PI should apologize, though I can understand why they might consider the matter still open, as Rather dodges and stonewalls.  At the very least, Mark Trahant, the editorial page editor, should tell readers about the doubts raised by the forged documents.  And the PI should publish some of the many critical letters they must have received on this subject.  It is time for them to come off those sawed off limbs; Dan Rather has become a joke, but they need not share his fate.

(There is an instructive example from the PI's history for Mr. Trahant.  His predecessor, Joann Byrd, published an editorial attacking the Republicans for leaking material damaging to Clinton.  On the same day that she wrote her editorial, we learned that it was not a Republican, but a Democratic judge who had leaked the material, inadvertently, as I recall.   (She had some, but not sufficient, reason to think that Republicans had leaked the material.   An AP reporter, Pete Yost, had implied that in his article, though he knew the real source.)   She never printed a correction, even though she knew about her error the next day.   After that incident, I never trusted her or Pete Yost.

Trahant, in contrast, has made some corrections, so I don't automatically dismiss everything on the editorial page that I can't check.  It is time for him to do another correction, or at least a clarification.  And he might want to check, since he is interested in these matters, the odd end of Senator Kerry's Navy career.)
- 3:57 PM, 16 September 2004   [link]


Those Who Think Drivers should not use cell phones will find support for their position in this article.
A cargo ship rammed into a Greek hillside as the captain was speaking on his cell phone, authorities said today.

No one was hurt when the Romanian-flagged Susie ran aground near the town of Stylida, 250 kilometres north of Athens.
I've learned to extra wary of drivers using cell phones from a couple of near misses.
- 1:25 PM, 16 September 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  This introduction to John Fund's book on vote fraud, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.  His general argument will be familiar to regular readers of this site, but he has some striking examples of our problems.
At least eight of the nineteen hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were actually able to register to vote in either Virginia or Florida while they made their deadly preparations for 9/11.
. . .
Some of the sloppiness that makes fraud and foul-ups in election counts possible seems to be built into the system by design.  The "Motor Voter Law," the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Clinton upon entering office, imposed fraud-friendly rules on the states by requiring driver's license bureaus to register anyone applying for licenses, to offer mail-in registration with no identification needed, and to forbid government workers to challenge new registrants, while making it difficult to purge "deadwood" voters (those who have died or moved away).  In 2001, the voter rolls in many American cities included more names than the U.S. Census listed as the total number of residents over age eighteen.  Philadelphia's voter rolls, for instance, have jumped 24 percent since 1995 at the same time that the city's population has declined by 13 percent.
. . .
But in the United States, at a time of heightened security and mundane rules that require citizens to show ID to travel and even rent a video, only seventeen states require some form of documentation in order to vote.
. . .
After extensive research, I can report that while voting irregularities are common, the number of people who have spent time in jail as a result of a conviction for voter fraud in the last dozen years can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
That fraudulent votes generally help Democratic candidates is not the only reason we have this mess, but it is the main one.  The 1993 "Motor Voter" law was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton — after it had been vetoed by Republican President George H. W. Bush.  We should repeal it, or at least the parts of that facilitate fraud.
- 11:09 AM, 16 September 2004   [link]


What Kind Of Expert Is Marcel Matley?  The handwriting authority used by Dan Rather to authenticate the forged National Guard documents is not an expert, but an "expert".
It turns out that Marcel Matley, CBS' so-called "expert" who said the signatures on National Guard files obtained by the network are real, is not certified by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, has had no formal training in identifying either papers, inks, typewriters or photocopies, and has never been trained in a document lab or by any law enforcement entity.
Why did CBS hire Matley?  Did they even try to check his credentials, or rather his lack of them?

(Matley does have an interesting writing style, as you can see in his analysis of a woman's character from her handwriting.
She has an excellent and rich animate nature with a healthy, instinctual libidinal energy which, when integrated, will propel her into dynamic and fruitful activity
Minor technical question: There are reports that CBS has been using faxed copies of the forgeries.   Aren't faxed copies inherently poor quality?  As I recall, they have too few scan lines to preserve the sort of fine details a real expert would need for authentication.)
- 5:45 AM, 16 September 2004   [link]


Site Clean Up:  I just moved some sites to the dormant category, and will be adding some new sites soon.  As always, if I have made a mistake, or am missing a site I should have, please let me know.

While I am on the subject of the site, I should mention my idea for a slogan.  What do you think of something like: "Analysis and commentary from a cross country skiing conservative"?

(Confession: I haven't been cross country skiing for several years, but I really, really plan to start doing it again this year.  Maybe even this month, since September is the only month in which I have not skied on Mt. Rainier.)
- 4:27 PM, 15 September 2004   [link]


Two More Cockroaches Spotted:  In this post, I argued that we should treat the Rathergate story like the sighting of a cockroach.  When we spot one, we should assume that there are many other cockroaches, or in the case of CBS, bad stories.

Already, two more cockroaches have been spotted in Dan Rather's work.  Eric Fettman points out just how dubious Rather's story, a month ago, about an Israeli "spy" in the Pentagon is.
By all accounts, what started off as a story about espionage at the highest levels of the Pentagon has turned into, at worst, a case of the possible misuse of classified documents — specifically, a single draft memo on U.S. policy on Iran that a Defense Department analyst may have shown to someone at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who may then have passed the information on to Israeli officials.
Which is not how Rather described it.

Ann Morse goes farther back, to 1988, to explain how Rather smeared Vietnam veterans in a big special, The Wall Within.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, drug abuse, alcoholism, joblessness, homelessness, suicidal thoughts: These tattered warriors suffered from them all.

The The Wall Within was hailed by critics who — like the Washington Post's Tom Shales — gushed that the documentary was "extraordinarily powerful."  There was just one problem: Almost none of it was true.
. . .
As [B. G.] Burkett notes, the records of all of these vets were easily checkable through Freedom of Information Act requests of their military records — something Rather and his producers simply didn't bother to do.  They accepted at face value the lurid tales of atrocities committed in Vietnam and the stories of criminal behavior, drug addiction, and despair at home.

Perhaps that's because this is what they wanted to believe.  Says Burkett: The Wall Within "precisely fit what Americans have grown to believe about the Vietnam War and its veterans: They routinely committed war crimes.  They came home from an immoral war traumatized, vilified, then pitied.  Jobless, homeless, addicted, suicidal, they remain afflicted by inner conflicts, stranded on the fringes of society."
None of which is true, as Burkett has shown in his book, Stolen Valor.

What did Rather and CBS do when these errors were brought to their attention?  They stonewalled and hid behind irrelevancies.

I expect to see many more CBS cockroaches, as more people examine their work.
- 1:47 PM, 15 September 2004   [link]


What The Campaign May Show About Kerry's Executive Ability:  We can tell something about a candidate's executive ability by how he runs his campaign.  In 1992, watching Clinton consistently run late and improvise, we could conclude — correctly as it turned out — that he would run a sloppy White House.  Similarly, the tight control that the Bush campaign had over its schedule and message during the 2000 campaign showed something about how he would run his White House.

There have been a series of slips by the Kerry campaign this year that would not happen if it were run better.  Kerry does not seem to have an executive officer with the authority and the ability to handle the details.  Here's the latest example.
The nation's biggest police union has voted to endorse President Bush, after Sen. John Kerry failed to respond to its candidate questionnaire.

The 318,000-member Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) made its decision at its national board meeting in Albuquerque on Sept. 10.  This is the first time in the group's history that it has made a unanimous endorsement, FOP Executive Director Jim Pasco said.
Kerry's campaign refused to return the questionnaire, asking for an interview instead.  As the Hill article notes, the union has never done interviews without the questionnaire.  Although President Bush probably would have won their endorsement anyway, the union did endorse Clinton in 1996, and there were items in the questionnaire that could have helped Kerry.

(Via the Viking Pundit.)
- 9:43 AM, 15 September 2004
More:  Thomas Lifson comes to a similar conclusion, though he puts it more harshly ("frightening level of incompetence").  Read the whole piece for more examples of Kerry's executive failures in this campaign.  If he can't run a campaign, can he run the executive branch?
- 1:05PM, 15 September 2004   [link]


Rathergate Gets Worse:  Until I read this report, I thought that Dan Rather and CBS believed their own story, believed that the forged National Guard documents were real.  They were suckers, not con men (and women).  Now I am not so sure about that.
Emily Will, a veteran document examiner from North Carolina, told ABC News she saw problems right away with the one document CBS hired her to check the weekend before the broadcast.

"I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting, and I found problems with the printing itself as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter," she said.

Will says she sent the CBS producer an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents.
. . .
A second document examiner hired by CBS News, Linda James of Plano, Texas, also told ABC News she had concerns about the documents and could not authenticate them.  She said she expressed her concerns to CBS before the 60 Minutes II broadcast.
. . .
A third examiner hired by CBS for its story, Marcel Matley, appeared on CBS Evening News last Friday and was described as saying the document was real.

According to The Washington Post, Matley said he examined only the signature attributed to Killian and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.
And Matley has since admitted that he could not authenticate a copy of a signature.

The very best explanation for CBS running the story, in spite of the warnings from document experts, is that those doing the story are incredibly incompetent journalists.  That's the very best explanation.  Far more likely, given this new information, is that CBS did not care whether the documents were forgeries.

Two days ago, in this post, I argued that we should assume that the fake documents story was evidence for many false stories from CBS, not just one.  I'd say this new information strengthens the case for that argument — whether CBS is guilty of incompetence, fraud, or both, in the Rathergate scandal.
- 7:11 AM, 15 September 2004   [link]


Strategic Voting:  Very shortly, I will be going out to vote in Washington state's primary election.  Although I won't be able to skip back and forth between parties as I could in the blanket primaries, I can request a Democratic party ballot and vote strategically for the candidates that I think are most likely to lose.  I have seen several people recommending voting strategically, notably professor Harry Brighouse of Crooked Timber.
If you are a Democrat living in Wisconsin I'd like to encourage you to vote, tomorrow, for Tim Michels in the US Senate primary, and, if you live in the Second District, for Ron Greer in the Congressional primary.  The Democratic candidates in the general election are Russ Feingold and Tammy Baldwin respectively.  At present Russ Darrow seems the Republican most likely to cause trouble for Feingold; Michels is not (quite) as wealthy, has worse name recognition, and is more immoderate: I think Feingold would find it easier to beat Michels, so I'd like to see him win the primary.  Greer makes Alan Keyes look like a raving pinko (in both senses of pinko).   His opponent, Dave Magnum, seems fine in many ways ('fine' here being a relative term, in a world in which pretty much everyone is pretty awful), and is much more likely to give Baldwin a real fight.
I have never done that kind of strategic voting, and I don't plan to, in this primary, or any other.  Why not?  Because it goes against what I consider a good ethical rule of thumb, Kant's categorical imperative.   Here's the most common version of it:
Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
(Calling it a rule of thumb will probably bug some, especially if they know more than I do about the categorical imperative.  I use that phrase, because the imperative does seem to identify ethical behavior in many situations, but I haven't thought about it enough to go farther than that.)

I would think it wrong if Democratic voters tried to choose the worst candidate in a Republican primary, so I won't try to choose the worst Democratic candidate in their primary.  I don't want everyone to do it, so I won't do it myself.

(There are also practical difficulties.  When Reagan first ran for governor of California, Democrats were certain that he would be easier to defeat than his primary opponent, a moderate Republican from northern California.  Life is full of surprises.)

Finding this advice from a philosophy professor reminds me of a scene from my favorite political novel, Edwin O'Connor's The Last Hurrah.  Two of the minor characters are discussing political tactics.
Aren't you the big bad cynic?", Nancy asked lazily.  And what does your little professor say to all this?  Don't those big old common-man brown eyes cry just a wee bit?  I mean, he's always talking to me about ethics.  Ethics in politics.  Didn't he write some kind of book about it?"

"Sure," Jack said.  Shortly after he wrote the New Testament.  He's written most of the really big stuff.  You find that out when you talk to him for a while.  But he approves of the campaign.  He's actually suggested a few little tricks of his own.   You see, he isn't much concerned about our ethics; it's the other side that worries him.   He worries mainly about the fact that they don't agree with him.  That's because they're reactionaries, hence of doubtful ethical standards.  You have to worry about what people like that will do, obviously.  Especially if they disagree with you.  Whereas what we do, even if it may not look quite aboveboard at times, is really all right, because we're on the side of the angels.  Or even better: we're on the side of the professor." (pp. 295-296)
Any resemblance between Professor Brighouse and the fictional professor is, I am sure, coincidental.

(There is another kind of strategic voting that I think is just fine, ethically: voting for a candidate, in a primary, that you think has a better chance to win than the candidate you like best.)
- 5:49 PM, 14 September 2004   [link]


It's Not All Biological:  Natural gas, that is.
Long-dead plant matter may not be the world's only source of hydrocarbons.  Twelve miles or more beneath its surface, in hellish temperatures and under pressures 50,000 times that at sea level, the earth itself may be generating methane, say researchers who have squeezed common rock and water together to reproduce these conditions.
. . .
Dr. Scott said the work was inspired by the writings of Dr. Thomas Gold, a maverick astrophysicist who spun off a stream of brilliant ideas, many of them correct, before his death in June.  In the still undecided category remains Dr. Gold's thesis that hydrocarbons are an abundant natural constituent of the earth that constantly seep to the surface; petroleum deposits only seem to be biological in origin, he suggested, because they are contaminated with materials made by a subsurface kingdom of chemical-eating microbes.

Several aspects of Dr. Gold's thesis have been corroborated, including the discovery of the subsurface microbes as well as certain sources of methane gas that are clearly not biological.
. . .
"This work suggests that natural gas, which people in the West have assumed is primarily biological in origin, may not be so much so," said Dr. Dudley Herschbach, a Nobel-Prize-winning chemist at Harvard and a co-author of the study.  "I think all of this will lead people to take Tom Gold more seriously than many were inclined to."
If this finding holds up, we may find that earth's reserves of natural gas are much larger than most geologists would currently estimate.
- 1:32 PM, 14 September 2004   [link]


100 Trillion:  I'll have to ask for extra ballots when I vote today.
From a cellular perspective, you might think the human body was mostly human.  But you'd be wrong.  It is actually mostly bacterial.

The typical adult body harbors about 100 trillion bacterial cells from at least 500 species — 10 times the number of human cells. And that's not counting viruses and fungi.
Jane Brody is exaggerating a little, since our cells are much larger than the cells of our bacterial guests.  They may outnumber us, but we outweigh them.

Fortunately, most of them are on our side.
Most of these bacterial organisms are what medicine calls "friendly," or at least harmless.   Friendly bacteria, or probiotics, serve a host of biological functions important to the survival of the animal they populate.  Some aid in digestion, some compete with harmful bacteria and keep them in check, some stimulate the immune system.  And they may have other roles not yet known.

Researchers here and abroad are looking at probiotics as a promising answer to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance and abuse.  To date, studies have indicated that ingested probiotics can play an important role in preventing or controlling food and skin allergies in children, bacterial vaginosis and premature labor in pregnant women, inflammatory bowel disease, recurrent ear and bladder infections, dental caries, chronic diarrhea and traveler's diarrhea.   They may even help lower cholesterol in the blood and, by degrading carcinogens, thwart the development of certain cancers.
I'd send them a thank you card, if there were any cards that small.
- 1:18 PM, 14 September 2004   [link]


Electoral Vote Snapshot:  I have been running a series of popular vote predictions starting in March; in my latest, I predicted that Bush would win 57 percent of the two party vote.  I am not quite ready to predict the electoral college vote, a much more difficult problem.  But I can give a rough snapshot of what I what I think the it would be — if the election were held today.

I start by assuming that Bush would win about 53 percent of the two party vote if the election were held today.  That's close to both the Real Clear Politics average of polls and to the latest Gallup result.  The simplest way to guess the electoral college vote is to assume that Bush would win 53 percent of those votes as well, or 285 votes.

That's not a very good way, because plurality elections give disproportionate rewards to popular vote winners — and there is a slight Republican bias to the electoral college.  So, let me try another rough estimate.  If Bush has a national lead of 6 percent, then there has been an average swing of 3 percent to him, from the 2000 election.   What states would shift to Bush from 2000, given a uniform 3 percent vote shift?  Here's the list: Iowa (7), Maine (4*), Michigan (17), Minnesota (10), New Mexico (5), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (21), Washington (11), and Wisconsin (10), with the electoral votes in parentheses.  With the 278 votes from states that he won in 2000, that would give him 370 electoral votes, assuming, again, that the election were held today.  (Don't forget that the states that Bush carried in 2000 gained 7 electoral votes, net, since the 2000 election.)

That's still a very rough estimate, even for a snapshot, since it is certain that Bush will not make uniform gains in the states,  But it does illustrate a couple of points.  Gore won many states by small margins, which gives Kerry many states to defend.  And, there is a good chance that Bush will win a big victory in the electoral college this time.

I haven't spent the time looking at state polls to refine this rough snapshot, but will in the future.

(*There's a complication in Maine.  That state allocates 2 electoral votes to the overall winner in the state, and 1 vote to the winner of each of the 2 Congressional districts.   One of the districts is a little more Democratic than the other so a 3 point swing might let Kerry hold that district.  Or, Bush might lose the state, but win the other district.   So Maine could easily give 3 votes to one candidate and 1 to the other.  Nebraska uses the same system but is so Republican that Bush should win all of its seats, barring some catastrophe.)
- 10:58 AM, 14 September 2004   [link]


The American Spectator has an interesting suggestion about the origins of the forged National Guard documents.
Perhaps most troubling to the CBS News staff looking into how its story went off the rails is the timing of the memos' appearance.  "Some 60 Minutes staffers have been working on this story for more than three years off and on," says the CBS News producer.  "There have been rumors about these memos and what was in them for at least that long.  No one had been able to find anything.  Not a single piece of paper.  But we know that a lot of people here interviewed a lot of people in Texas and elsewhere and asked very explicit questions about the existence of these memos.  Then all of a sudden they show up? In one nice, neat package?"

This CBS New producer went on to explain that the questions 60 Minutes folk were asking were specific enough that people would have been able to fabricate the memorandums to meet the exact specifications the investigative journalists were looking for.  "People were asking questions of sources like, 'Have you ever seen or heard of a memo that suspended Bush for failing to appear for a physical?'  and 'Have you heard about or know of someone who has any documentation from back in the 1970s that shows there was pressure to get Bush into the National Guard?'  It was like they were placing an order for a ready-made product.  That is the biggest problem I have with this.  It's all too neat and perfect for what we needed.  Without these exact pieces of paper, we don't have a story.  Dan has as much as admitted that.  Everyone knows it.   We were at a standstill on this story until these memos showed up."
Now I would treat this as no more than a suggestion since the CBS producer is unnamed and the Prowler column is unsigned.  But it does explain why the source of the document insisted on secrecy, even though everyone, at least every honest person, would be suspicious of the provenance of the documents.  And it explains why CBS was suckered; they were given what they had been trying to find, for years.
- 9:22 AM, 14 September 2004   [link]


Dan Rather Keeps Digging:  And gets in even deeper.
Yet there he [Rather] was again, on "The CBS Evening News" last night, presenting even more experts to attest to the authenticity of several documents purportedly dating back to the early 1970's suggesting that Mr. Bush received favorable treatment in the Guard.
. . .
The controversy over the documents has been propelled by a volatile mix of fierce election-year rancor, daily disclosures pointing to potential weaknesses in CBS's report and the network's steadfast refusal to explain how it got the documents.

Even inside CBS News there was deepening concern.
Meanwhile, the liberal Boston Globe is backing away from the story.  USA Today agreed with Rather last Thursday, but now thinks he is wrong, and that the documents are forgeries.  They haven't confessed their error, but that should happen soon, judging by their latest stories.

The liberal Washington Post does a long article summarizing the evidence accumulated by bloggers and adds this crucial point.
The lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush's former squadron commander in the National Guard said yesterday that he examined only the late officer's signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.

"There's no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them," Marcel Matley said in a telephone interview from San Francisco.  The main reason, he said, is that they are "copies" that are "far removed" from the originals.
(As you may know, Matley has said, in print, that it is impossible to authenticate a signature from a copy, though you can sometimes prove a copy invalid.)

Rather's latest "experts" are not impressive.  One, Richard Glennon, supervised typewriter repair for IBM; the other, Richard Katz, is, according to the New York Times, "a computer software expert".   I doubt either would be allowed to authenticate documents in court.  Even so, neither unequivocally said that the documents were authentic.  So, at this point, CBS has no expert, on the record, support for its claim that the documents are authentic.

Here's my advice to Rather: Stop digging and apologize, so we can get back to the issues.   Like to tell CBS that?  Here's a useful email address for reporting scams to CBS: scams@cbsnews.com.

(The "RatherBiased" site has more analysis of last night's broadcast, just as you would expect.  They make this telling point:
Rather's report did not feature a single quotation from any of its critics, something that an objective news organization would do if it were covering the story of accusations made by political campaigns against each other.  For CBS Evening News viewers who have not been following the scandal, this must have been a strange spectacle.  To receive no background on the story and only one side of it. Update 08:40: On FNC's Fox and Friends, former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg remarks: "I've been watching watching television news since I was five years old or thereabouts.  I have never in my life seen a more one-sided piece, in the history--in the history, of television.  Everybody in that story backed up, to one degree or another, CBS News's position in this.  It was absolutely disgraceful."
Fans of Rather may also want to look at this comparison showing how Rather has treated Democrats and Republicans over the years.

I should add a point about the very expensive IBM typewriter that could do proportional fonts and superscripts like those in modern word processing programs.  Though it was technically a typewriter it was used, not for ordinary office tasks, but for typesetting and required extensive training.  If you believe that an officer who did not type (according to his wife) learned secretly how to use such a machine, and used it for private memos, you will believe anything.)
- 7:44 AM, 14 September 2004   [link]


The New York Times Is Late On Absentee Ballots, but they do understand the potential for fraud.
As both major political parties intensify their efforts to promote absentee balloting as a way to lock up votes in the presidential race, election officials say they are struggling to cope with coercive tactics and fraudulent vote-gathering involving absentee ballots that have undermined local races across the country.

Some of those officials say they are worried that the brashness of the schemes and the extent to which critical swing states have allowed party operatives to involve themselves in absentee voting — from handling ballot applications to helping voters fill out their ballots — could taint the general election in November.
. . .
But some experts say that concerns about a repeat in problems with voting machines is overshadowing the more pressing issue of absentee ballot fraud.

"Everybody was worried about the chads in the 2000 election," said Damon H. Slone, a former West Virginia election fraud investigator, "when in fact by loosening up the restrictions on absentee voting they have opened up more chances for fraud to be done than what legitimate mistakes were made in Florida."
Which is what I have been telling you for years.

Michael Moss and the New York Times will not tell you the rest of the story, however, that most of the fraud with absentee ballots is done by Democrats, usually in minority communities, or that vote fraud with absentee ballots is endemic in some communities.

We do not have time before the November election to correct the problem of fraudulent absentee ballots.  For now, all we can do is take the advice in the title of Hugh Hewitt's latest book, If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat, and try to win by a big enough margin so that fraud can not affect the result.  After the election, we should begin working to reduce the chances of fraud, which will require, in many states, sharply limiting voting by mail.

(Those in the Northwest will be interested to learn from the graphic that accompanies the article that Oregon, which votes entirely by mail, also has the weakest controls on absentee voting of any state.  The state makes vote fraud so easy that I expect thousands of fraudulent votes will be cast there this November.  Al Gore won the state in 2000 by just 6,765 votes.)
- 1:46 PM, 13 September 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  If, that is, you are interested in why experts on typography think the memos used by Rather were forged.  Dr. Joseph M. Newcomer, a pioneer in digital typography, is unequivocal.
There has been a lot of activity on the Internet recently concerning the forged CBS documents.   I do not even dignify this statement with the traditional weasel-word "alleged", because it takes approximately 30 seconds for anyone who is knowledgeable in the history of electronic document production to recognize this whole collection is certainly a forgery, and approximately five minutes to prove to anyone technically competent that the documents are a forgery.
Newcomer also explains how easy it is to forge a signature, either by tracing it, or by copying it and digitally pasting it into a document.
- 9:19 AM, 13 September 2004   [link]


A Bug Or An Infestation?  Software developers build and test programs a piece at a time.  These pieces have many different names, but generically are called modules.  There have been many studies of the bugs in these modules, and the researchers have found that they are not distributed randomly.  Some modules have no bugs, many have just one or two, and a few modules have many bugs.  The last group are, we can say, infested.

There is a lesson here for software developers that pest control workers would understand.   If you find one bug, a cockroach in your apartment or a mistake in a module, you should assume, not that you have a bug, but that you have an infestation.  Seeing one bug should make you search that area intensively for more.  You might also want to look for indirect evidence in both cases, particularly an explanation for how bugs might have gotten into the apartment or the module.

The "Rathergate" story, the use by 60 Minutes of forged documents to smear President Bush, is, I think, like a single bug.  The story should lead CBS to search for an infestation of stories with similar flaws.  When one plagiarized story finally led the New York Times to examine all of Jayson Blair's work, after many complaints, they found a whole body of plagiarized stories and invented evidence.  When Forbes demonstrated that one of the stories that Stephen Glass had written for the New Republic was false, the resulting investigation showed that many other stories he had written were false, as well.

What little I have read about the process that Rather and company used to construct this story strengthens my suspicions that they have an infestation, not a single bug.  There are reports, for example, that CBS deliberately excluded evidence that would cast doubt on the smear, including the testimony of Colonel Killian's widow and son.  There are other reports that suggest that they conned some of those they interviewed.  CBS should look at every story that Mary Mapes, the producer of this smear, worked on.  I would give long odds that they will find many more cockroaches, many more stories that are, at best, misleading.
- 8:15 AM, 13 September 2004   [link]


What Kind Of Producers Does Dan Rather Have?  One of them is Mary Mapes, who appears to have worked on the forged documents story.   Conservative talk show host John Carlson, who knew her at Seattle's KIRO years ago, described her, last Friday, as liberal advocacy journalist, or perhaps I should say, "journalist".   Then her father, who lives in this area, called in.  After saying that he was ashamed of his daughter, he summarized her this way:
She is a typical liberal with an ax to grind.
There are reports, which I have not verified, that Mapes interviewed people who did not back the fraudulent story — and chose not to include what they said.
- 5:49 AM, 13 September 2004   [link]


Yesterday, For A Break, I drove down to Mt. St. Helens.  The weather could have been better; it was cloudy with sunbreaks and a few showers, but we were able to see most of the mountain and nearly all of the area along the road to Johnston Ridge.  As always, I was impressed by the uneven recovery.  Some areas look almost normal, except that the trees are all the same age; others are still almost bare.  As always, there were surprises.  We saw many small toads on top of the ridge far from any ponds that I could see.  We also saw a lovely blacktail doe with her fawn, and very fresh elk tracks.  (The guides told us that elk love the area now that the mountain has cleared out pastures for them.)

Political point?  A small one.  The guides were exceptionally helpful and friendly, just possibly because the monument now draws most of its operating income, or so signs told us, from visitor fees.  And a small, funny bureaucratic point.  As I am sure you know, the eruption created immense amounts of ash, which blew all over.  Though there would seem to be no shortage of ash, it is illegal to remove any of it from the monument.  If I were running the monument, and the law allowed, I'd provide an area were kids could collect a sample or two.
- 5:26 AM, 13 September 2004   [link]


9/11 Fades:  Which is natural, and even desirable.  It is healthier to plan for the future than to obsess over the past.

About a month ago, I found a small piece of evidence that shows the fading; at a local Borders, I bought A Nation Challenged: A Visual History of 9/11 and its Aftermath, a collection from the New York Times, for $4.99 (plus tax).  Borders thought it not worth while to wait a month or so for the third anniversary of the attack, before selling the book at one seventh of its cover price.  Since they have sales data, I am sure that they are right, and that not many buyers are interested in these products any more.

(The book itself was worth what it cost.  It has superb photographs, much of interest on the 9/11 attack and the aftermath, and a revealing shift in the last quarter of the book, which covers the Afghanistan campaign.  The New York Times knows well how to cover victims, perhaps too well.  It no longer knows how to cover American warriors when they are victorious.  There is much about the Afghans in the book, but almost nothing about the brilliant campaign that drove the Taliban from power.  The editors did not even include a map of military operations, though the Times published many during the campaign.)

The book also showed me how quickly the "buts" returned, even in the United States.    You know the "buts" I mean, the ones that follow the routine condemnations of a terrorist attacks.   "Yes, it was a horrific attack, but . . "  Those accustomed to blaming the United States for everything in the world went back to that almost immediately after the 9/11 attack.

And in the last three years, some have drifted even farther away from grim reality.  The King County Libraries, which serve most of Seattle's suburbs, are celebrating — there is no other word for it — the 9/11 anniversary with the September project.  For activities, the King County libraries suggest:
Wherever you are, you can do something meaningful to mark September 11. read the Bill of Rights, draw a picture, write your ideas, play or listen to music, talk with friends — old or new.
Oddly, reading a book is not included.  Disgustingly, remembering the victims of 9/11 is never mentioned.  Contemptibly, there are no activities in support of the troops that protect them, as well as more sensible people.  And, if you look at the list of planned activities at the various libraries, you will see that most of them are devoted to far left propaganda, rather than such harmless activities as drawing pictures.  One local library is even pushing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

(We taxpayers here have a chance to gently remind the King County Library System of their moral responsibilities by turning down their request for more money at the next election.  I love libraries, but I know how I will vote on that question.)

Though my local libraries, along with many others, wish to ignore the grim reality, I will not.   We have enemies who will not rest until they destroy us.  The struck us again on 9/11 and would strike us now were it not for our armed forces and police.  Today, I will mourn the dead, honor those fighting against terrorism, and, in my own small way, take Lincoln's advice:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here so nobly advanced.
It is the same cause now as it was at Gettysburg.
- 3:41 PM, 11 September 2004   [link]


What An Odd Performance From Dan Rather!  I almost never watch network news, so perhaps what I saw on CBS News tonight was not as unusual as it seemed to me.  Dan Rather did an extended defense of his 60 Minutes piece attacking Bush's National Guard service, ignoring most of criticism and bringing back the same "experts" who made the original errors.  He provided, as far as I could tell, almost no new information and asked us to take his word on the provenance of the documents, without explanation.   Neither he nor CBS News seems to have asked for any independent checks on the documents, an elementary precaution, I would think.

One reason I don't watch Dan Rather is that I have never thought that his strength was logic.   Everything I saw tonight supports that view. I would have found his performance sad, if it were not for what he was defending, a smear supported by forgeries.

Finally, there was the weird ending.  Having gone on at length on how the original story was correct, he assured us that, if the documents did prove to be false, he would let us know.   Am I the only one to detect a note of desperation in that ending?
- 7:09 PM, 10 September 2004   [link]


Amazing:  The blogosphere, that is.  Last night, an immensely influential news organization, CBS News, attacked President Bush with documents that his commanding officer in the Texas National Guard had supposedly written for his personal file in the 1970s.  I was skeptical about the documents since they contradicted what the same officer had said in official military evaluations of Bush.  And, it seemed awfully convenient that the officer was no longer alive.   Nothing impossible there, but much to make one skeptical.

Less than 24 hours later, the documents look like forgeries and the story like a smear, thanks to the blogosphere.  The odds are strong that the documents were created, not on a typewriter in the 1970s, but with Microsoft Word and a laser printer very recently.   (Power Line and Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs have the facts for anyone who hasn't seen them.)  From Power Line I learned that even CBS is backing off a bit on the documents, saying that it trusts its still unnamed source, but not vouching for the documents.

The story is getting out.  I heard it on three separate talk shows this afternoon, and I believe that Fox has broadcast doubts about the documents.  (Hugh Hewitt did the best job, calling up a forensic typewriter expert and getting his opinion that the documents were likely to be forgeries on the show.)

With this example in mind, I took another look at what Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly said on Monday about how conservatives use the new media to influence the old, for the worse, he thinks.
Increasingly, however, the news media are moving away from their role as a truth seeker and finder of fact.
Unfortunately, he was not being ironic.  I would be fascinated to learn what Connelly thinks about this apparent scandal, or the AP's fake booing story, or any number of other matters in which the blogosphere and talk radio have caught those "truth seekers" and "finders of fact" in errors and even outright lies.  But I fear I know the answer.  I have pointed out errors in Connelly columns more than once.  To my knowledge, he has never corrected any errors that I identified.  Never.  (He pointed out one of mine — I had mixed up the names of two wire services — and I corrected it immediately.)
- 4:23 PM, 9 September 2004   [link]


There Is Not Enough Vote Fraud in American elections.  That is, in effect, the position of the New York Times.   Florida now requires photo identification for voting, but allows voters without IDs to fill out an affidavit at the polls.  In the primary election, some voters, or perhaps "voters" were turned away without being told about the affidavit alternative.  If they really were voters — something we can't know without identification — then this is unfortunate, but as much their fault as that of the poll workers.  A voter has an obligation to learn about the rules and follow them.  The Times does not agree with me on that.

Now that's assuming the Times has the story right, which I very much doubt.   They claim that, "Many people do not have photo identification; . . ".  Do you believe that?  I don't, at least not for people of voting age.  More likely, since this was "observed" by People for the American Way, these incidents were a set-up, with voters, or possibly "voters" being sent in to attack the photo ID requirement.

Why would People for the American Way (and other groups on the left) want to get rid of the photo ID requirement?  To make voting easier for illegal voters, especially non-citizens.   It really is that simple.

(There are two ironic points that the editorial writer missed.  First, two of the three counties named as having problems (Broward and Miami-Dade) are controlled by Democrats, and have long histories of fraud and confusion in voting.  (I don't know which party controls Osceola, or whether the county has a similar history.)  Nearly all the serious problems in Florida in the 2000 election occurred in counties controlled by the Democrats, something no one in the "mainstream" media knows or, perhaps, cares to mention.

Second, the Times mentions that in South Dakota, "Native Americans without identification were turned away in June", again without being told about the affidavit alternative.  They don't mention the strong evidence of illegal voting by Native Americans in South Dakota in the 2000 election, that may have tipped it to Tim Johnson.

Finally, just to be complete, I should add that there are some rural areas where people know each other so well that poll workers do not need to ask voters for identification.  But those are rare, outside of states like North Dakota.  Everywhere else we should require a photo ID for voting.)
- 1:37 PM, 9 September 2004
More On The 2002 South Dakota Election:  Here's a summary, taken from the 2004 Almanac of American Politics:
There was another blazing issue in October: fraudulent Indian voter registration.  The state Democratic party set up offices on each of the state's Indian reservations and paid bonuses to contractors who brought in signed voter registration cards.  One such contractor was fired in October and charged with submitting scores of illegally filled out registration cards, including one purportedly signed by a woman who had died two weeks before, and many more with mismatched birth dates and nonexistent addresses.
. . .
This election turned out to be one of the closest in the nation.  During most of election night and into the morning [Republican John] Thune led in the counting.  Then the last two precincts came in from Shannon county, which includes most of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Those two precincts put Johnson over the top, by a margin of 524 votes — in percentage terms, 50.1%-49.9%. . . . It was an Indian registration drive that was either very successful or partly fraudulent, or both. that reelected Tim Johnson. (pp. 1467-1468)
I am also suspicious about the late reporting from those two precincts.  As I have mentioned before, holding back precincts until you know how many votes you may need is a old, old tactic in stealing elections.  (Those who want to know more should search National Review, which covered this dispute extensively, unlike the New York Times.)
- 8:03 AM, 10 September 2004   [link]


Chuckle:  This is a routine article on the American election, but it does include this metaphor.
Watching Mr Kerry try to take on Mr Bush brings to mind a classic moment in that cult film of the 1980s, Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is trapped in a back-alley in an Egyptian souk.

A crowd closes in as a giant Arab steps forward wielding a scimitar.  Snick-snack it goes through the air, faster and faster.  The audience tenses.  Indie shudders.

Then he draws a pistol from his belt and shoots the Arab in the forehead.  Game over.
I wouldn't say that's an accurate description of what has happened to John Kerry, even metaphorically, but it is funny.  (I'm not a movie expert, but I wouldn't call Raiders of the Lost Ark a "cult film".)
- 12:47 PM, 9 September 2004   [link]


The Media Empire Changes Tactics:  As you probably recall, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas promised that the "mainstream" media would put a glow on Kerry and Edwards worth 15 percentage points in the polls.  That didn't work very well, did it?   And for the obvious reason, which Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi explains.   After going through the reasons that leftists dislike Bush, she admits that:
Even so, Bush the candidate is so far more successful than Kerry the candidate.
Which is what I have been saying since early in the year.  (In the same column, she also says that leftists have to hope that Kerry is lying about what he would do about Iraq, a remarkable admission from a supporter.)

So, if the mainstream media can't put a glow on Kerry, they will have to throw mud at Bush, or, I should say, step up the mud throwing.  60 Minutes, perhaps less optimistic about Kerry than Evan Thomas, has been throwing mud all year.   (They did do a couple of puff pieces on Kerry, too.)  Other news organizations joined 60 Minutes in inflating Abu Ghraib, a small, local scandal, into an enormous crime.  They stopped, not because they realized they had gone too far, but because readers and viewers were getting truly angry.

Now, to deflect attention from the SwiftVets attack, the mainstream media has revived the questions about Bush's National Guard service using a man, Ben Barnes, who has told different stories in the past, and is now one of Kerry's biggest supporters.  Part of the attack on Bush's record also relies on suspicious documents.   Conveniently, the man who is supposed to have written the documents is no longer with us.

And the mainstream media is giving unprecedented attention to gossip monger Kitty Kelley's new book.
With the author booked for numerous television interviews -- including three straight mornings on NBC's "Today," starting Monday -- "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty" is certain to generate media attention in the heat of a presidential campaign.
Three straight mornings!  That's not because Kelley has earned a reputation for accuracy.  The New York Times put another Kelley book on the front page and regretted it.
But none generated a bigger furor than her 1991 biography of Nancy Reagan.

The New York Times, which obtained an advance copy, gave the book front-page display, saying it "could forever shatter" the Reagan myth through "allegations of scandalous sexual behavior" by the "woman who ruled the White House with a Gucci-clad fist."  Max Frankel, then the paper's editor, said later that the story had been a mistake, and detractors accused the Times and other news outlets of retailing unconfirmed allegations.
(I may be wrong, but I think Maureen Dowd did the story, before she became a columnist.)

Kelley's latest book isn't out, but has already lost credibility, as one key source denies Kelley's biggest charge.

Let me be blunt: Many of the news executives giving Kelley this big splash know that she is not trustworthy, and that the smears that they will help her spread are false.  Nearly all of those pushing the stories about Bush's National Guard service gave Clinton a pass on his draft dodging.  As I noted a few days ago, Seattle Times executive editor Mike Fancher says that he wants to restore their credibility.  Smears and double standards won't do that.

(I'll try in my own small way to get back to the issues in the weeks remaining before the election, despite the mainstream media.)
- 9:16 AM, 9 September 2004   [link]