September 10, 2004

111th Keyboarder Group

The gout-ridden Gary Farber reminisces about his days in the 1970s with the 111th Keyboarder Group:

Amygdala: I was typing profusely in the Seventies, and while it's certainly true that they were a minority of typewriters, the IBM Executive C came out in 1959, and could be found in countless offices. Oh, yeah, it was proportional font. So was the Executive A, which came out in 1948. So was the B, which came out in 1954.... "The IBM Executive uses a unique system of letter spacing... instead of every character taking exactly the same space on the writing line, as on standard typewriters, thin letters get narrower space, wide letters get the wider space needed. So, each word, each line, is more attractive, and more legible, and the overall appearance is outstanding."

It doesn't take a typography expert to recall that the Executive typewriter model, made for decades, was highly popular -- though, yes, in less use than monospaced typewriters -- that millions were made and found in offices everywhere, and at prices commensurate with other upbrand models. They in no way cost "$20,000" or even $2000. They sold new for a few hundred dollars....

[A] Selectric, which most certainly did superscripts and subscripts. All you had to do is switch golfballs. Doesn't anyone remember actually using these things?... Conclusion: does this prove the document isn't a forgery? Of course not. Aside from it being difficult to prove a negative, it's early yet in the examination of these documents. We'll see. There remain valid open questions, and whatever one's desires are to Believe in a particular direction, that doesn't advance verification either of authenticity or falsification of these documents....
YET LATER: Avedon Carol reminds me of what I knew perfectly well, but had slipped my mind, which is that the Selectrics all had a little lever to pull (upper right, I think) to tighten the kerning when you chose. So that would strongly suggest a possible (though unproven) answer to the Mystery Of The Kerning.
It's also interesting that the White House has been spending the past two days sending out copies of the CBS memos, and discussing them at length, without challenging their authenticity, though that, too, of course, doesn't prove anything at all. If they are forgeries, though, and I were Bush, Rove, and company, I'd sure be mad at my press office for this cock-up in not challenging the documents as such.
Posted by DeLong at September 10, 2004 08:41 AM | TrackBack

More on this subject at .

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 10, 2004 08:51 AM

The amazing thing is that all those whining about the 'blatant kerning' seem not to have noticed the blatantly UN-kerned "CYA" at the top of the eponymous memo. The "A" should certainly tuck more neatly under the "Y" if Word were at play. Hell, it even does it on my Mac screen while typing this message (and I don't even need Microsoft to screw things up!).

Posted by: bushwahd at September 10, 2004 08:54 AM

The things that still bother me are the following:

- The Executive had proportional spacing, but I've seen no evidence that the typeface Aldine Roman (the font this seems to be) was available on the Executive.

-The Selectric had multiple typefaces (including Aldine Roman) and was widely in use in the military, but it couldn't do proportional facing, let alone kerning.

- The Composer could do all of this, but was a total nightmare to write with (you had to write everything TWICE) and was not likely to have been used for everyday memos.

- There are reportedly multiple formatting and protocol errors in the memos.

CBS got some 'splaining to do.

Posted by: Yermum at September 10, 2004 08:56 AM

Repeating myself from my previous, and second "final word" but the burden of proof is pretty clearly on those who claim the documents are real.

Yes, you COULD definitely type up a memo like this back then (at least with an IBM Composer and one golfball switch to small letters for the superscript). The font "Press Roman" would even come close to matching Times New Roman. But a much simpler explanation is that these are forgeries, and laughable ones. It's time to disavow these memos. They were never necessary, and pushing them now is a sucker's game.

BTW, nobody has yet explained to me why "P. O. Box 34567" (August 1 memo) should not be viewed as anything other than a bad joke. It's up there with "Klondike 5" or "Alan Smithee".

Posted by: Paul Callahan at September 10, 2004 09:06 AM

Paul Callahan,

P.O. Box 34567 is the address. See, e.g., the present assignment address box in Bush's transfer request here:

Posted by: Tom Bozzo at September 10, 2004 09:19 AM

Farber is joking, surely?

Or does he 'recall' how he mananged to produce curly apostrophes?

Adobe, by the way, does NOT seem to modify the font of a typed document in MY office.

Posted by: pouncer at September 10, 2004 09:27 AM

It should not be all that hard to prove a forgery, because unless the memos were printed on a machine emulating a typewriter (a Spinwriter? that really doesn't strike the paper that hard, I think... A dot matrix machine? that is too obvious), there should be indentations on the paper. Hence, 99% of all this balther is blather. There is no way that an IBM spinner ball would not create indentations. There was no inkjet or laser technology at that time.

I would suppose that CBS is probably correct if they think these aren't forgeries, unlesss they are very sophisticated forgeries.

Posted by: Carol at September 10, 2004 09:27 AM

Are any of these old Selectrics still around? If so, could the memo be rewritten on one of them and compared to the one produced by CBS?

Posted by: Rex Rowan at September 10, 2004 09:28 AM

balther of course being blather (SP!!!!)

Posted by: Carol at September 10, 2004 09:29 AM

Farber is joking, surely?

Or does he 'recall' how he mananged to produce curly apostrophes?

Adobe, by the way, does NOT seem to modify the font of a typed document in MY office.

Posted by: pouncer at September 10, 2004 09:29 AM

Typewriters, folks!!!! Typewriters! Not laserjets! Not inkjets!

Wake up!

Posted by: Carol at September 10, 2004 09:32 AM

> P.O. Box 34567 is the address.

Oh... huh... cool. I'll keep an open mind then, but if I were putting my money on it, I'd say forgeries. If CBS can produce an original with impact impressions, and a plausible story as to how Killian happened to have a proportional font typewriter, then that will be quite the coup for them. But given the shoddy state of journalism, I am not holding my breath.

BTW (pout pout) if you look at my comments in Brad's previous entry, you'll see that I was way ahead on tracking down the typewriter. I'm also particularly proud of these historical proportional font examples.

Most of the letters of boxer Gene Tulley after 1953:

Memos of Lucius Battle in the Truman administration, written in 1950. Such as this one: and this more official one:

Posted by: Paul Callahan at September 10, 2004 09:43 AM

Could someone please point out the supposedly 'kerned' pairs to me? The only ones I've seen referenced are 'my' and 'mo', neither of which is kerned by any reasonable definition of the term.

'Kerning' is special spacing applied to pairs of letters that would otherwise look oddly spaced. 'AV', 'Wo', 'fi' are common examples. What these examples have in common is that *both* the right edge of the first character and the left side of the second are irregular in some fashion: curved, slanted, nonexistent, etc.

With 'mo' and 'my', the first character -- 'm' -- has a straight right edge. A straight edge is the norm, the sort of edge that gets the widest spacing. 'my', therefore, represents the *widest* desirable spacing between 'y' and any preceeding letter. It is the default -- i.e., not kerned.

On at least one of the memos, the 'o' and 'y' do, in fact, appear to encroach on the spacing of the 'm'. That is, the leftmost edges of the 'o' and 'y' appear to break the plane of the defined by the tip of the serif on the third leg of the 'm'. That isn't kerning, however. It is the default spacing.

You see, defining the spacing for a character is an intrinsinc part of designing that character, and has been since back when each letter was cast on its own steel bar. When 'o' and 'y' are spaced, the irregularity of those characters' sides are taken into account: they get little or no spacing on their edges to compensate visually for their deviation from a straight edge. Where technology allows, and the character shapes of the font make it desirable, they may in fact get /negative/ spacing so they overlap the spacing defined for neighboring characters.

On a typewriter, where spacing is defined by the distance the carriage moves before the key strikes the paper, it is entirely possible -- even likely -- that the 'o' might have been made to strike a bit off-center so it encroached just a touch on the preceeding character. The 'mo' combination would represent the widest-spaced pair in the font that included 'o' as the right-hand character. There would be others spaced the same -- 'lo', 'no', 'do', etc. -- but none spaced wider. So there doesn't seem to me to be any reason to believe the 'o' (or 'y') couldn't have been made to strike a touch behind center so the left edge of the 'o' overlapped the plane defined by the tip of the right most serif on the preceeding character. thereby creating the impression of 'kerning' ( or more accurately, negative spacing).

So, what exactly is this 'blatant kerning' problem?

Posted by: setmajer at September 10, 2004 09:48 AM

Carol, you really think CBS got hold of the originals? Or maybe they got hold of copies only, huh? And that would explain why what we're seeing posted to the web appear to be pretty seriously degraded photocopies?

Dunno. Just a thought.

Posted by: setmajer at September 10, 2004 09:53 AM

If they got only copies, how would they be able to authenticate them?

Posted by: Carol at September 10, 2004 10:00 AM

> If they got only copies, how would they be able to authenticate them?

Probably the same way NYT used to "authenticate" Jayson Blair's stories. It's called wishful thinking, and I engaged in a bit of it myself recently.

BTW, tried the suggestion of printing out 187^th from a word document and indeed the "th" is up a little higher than on the screen, matching very closely with the memo.

None of this proves anything, but I'm with you that the only proof is going to be some aged paper (or carbon copy) with impact dents. If CBS can deliver the goods, more power to them. Not holding my breath.

Posted by: Paul Callahan at September 10, 2004 10:06 AM

It seems to me that even in the highly unlikely event that these documents are found NOT to be fraudulent, the real damage to the Kerry campaign has been done. If they fight back--"I won't STAND for it!--they'll be seen as reactionary whiners. If they don't they'll be seen as in cahoots with the idiots at CBS.

People aren't stupid, and they aren't going to forget this before election day.

Posted by: beloml at September 10, 2004 10:07 AM

Pouncer writes:

> Or does he 'recall' how he mananged to produce curly
> apostrophes?

OK, so the documents are forgeries (I wrote a lot more about this late last night in the first memos thread here). But let's lose the noise on left and right curlies. Take a look at this:

This would be a really great rejoinder to the forgery argument, except that the font isn't identical, I never did find what font would be identical on the IBM Executive, and then there's the high improbability of the superscript "th" key, And then there's the problem with typing 117th as "117 th" with a space some time. That's just plain weird...unless you were trying to get around MS Word's auto-correct for ordinals. If anybody can show me *any* unit name from that time with an ordinal that has a space in the middle of it, I'd be pleasantly shocked.
The odds that these are genuine are like really, really, really low. You certainly shouldn't take them at face value.

Posted by: Jonathan W. King at September 10, 2004 10:18 AM

Paul, Paul, Paul. Authenticating a document is different from authenticating a the one case you get to look at a physical something. In the other, you have to actually go and fact check statements, sources, and so forth, most in the intellectual realm. Anyhow, if CBS can produce the documents, it still won't prove they aren't forgeries(!). What a mess.

Posted by: Carol at September 10, 2004 10:19 AM

I used an IBM Composer back in the early 80s to produce simple, camera-ready copy for space ads in magazines and journals. The type ball can be easily swapped between different typefaces and fonts, and there were many from which to choose. You could do boldface, italic, proportional and non-proportional type, etc. It was somewhat difficult to become accustomed to at first, but after some practice, it was no more difficult than using an IBM Selectric.

Posted by: DRK at September 10, 2004 10:28 AM

Paul, very nice links there.

I agree with your point from the initial comment, above, that these memos are unnecessary. The point Krugman makes at the start of today's column, for instance, can be made entirely without reference to them.

For an example that arguably looks like an f-l ligature, look at 'flight' in the 8/1/72 memo:

The copying and scanning processes eliminate most or all of the information needed to distinguish whether the 'f' and 'l' are just closely spaced typewritten letters (Paul is exactly right that the originals would quickly resolve that issue), or if it's a true ligature. But there's clearly no f-i ligature in 'fill' in item 4 from the same memo.

Posted by: Tom Bozzo at September 10, 2004 10:34 AM

Appparently Dan Rather went on CNN defending the story they did vigorously. I sure hope it isn't the defensiveness of an organization that has been snookered, but rather the confidence of someone who does indeed have the original documents or very strong proof in their possession.

It may be that CBS relied more on people who said that Killian might have agreed with the sentiment in the memos than on actual physical evaluation of the memos. Or maybe they asked an expert in contemporary documents to look at it. But CBS has had the memos for several weeks now. They should know that this is an explosive topic in an election cycle, that CBS News will be scrutinized specially carefully because of its so-called liberal bias.

FWIW, 60 minutes generally has a good reputation for investigative journalism. I continue to hope that they've authenticaated the documents throughly and hope they will come up with some pretty solid evidence either of provenance or of the actual physical document (although its possible too that 1-2 of the memos are genuine, the others are not). But they will need to produce their evidence. We'll definitely know in 2-3 days, I think.

If the memos were forged, Rather will have to resign. Justifiably so, just as Bush should have resigned over the Niger uranium story.

Posted by: Pi Zeta at September 10, 2004 10:37 AM

FWIW I was typing on an IBM Selectric with fancy fonts at a two-man state park (that ran on a generator) in the middle of the Utah desert in 1977. That tells me that these devices were extraordinarily common just 5 years after the memos in question were drafted.

It seems implausible to me that someone would go to the trouble of making forgeries when there's already enough evidence to convict.

But, the good news is now that CBS's credibility is on the line there's even more incentive to dig deeper into this story. An incentive that will apply widely to the press. I'll bet Rove likes that.

So, indeed they're not just forgeries, they're crudely made laughable forgeries. How could CBS get taken in like this? Dan Rather should be fired. They better come forward with more evidence, ASAP, and repeatedly.

Posted by: dennisS at September 10, 2004 10:45 AM

OK, one thing I didn't think about is that they might have been microfilmed. That being the case, then they are much more difficult to authenticate.

Um, but on the other hand, why on earth would they microfilm copies of personal memos? Obsessive compulsive disorder?

Posted by: Carol at September 10, 2004 10:50 AM

DRK writes:

> I used an IBM Composer back in the early 80s to produce
> simple, camera-ready copy for space ads in magazines and
> journals. The type ball can be easily swapped between
> different typefaces and fonts, and there were many from
> which to choose. You could do boldface, italic, proportional
> and non-proportional type, etc. It was somewhat difficult to
> become accustomed to at first, but after some practice, it was
> no more difficult than using an IBM Selectric.

Excellent; somebody who has actually used one. (I've used Selectrics, and I'm pretty sure I even used one of those now so well-known IBM Executive models, but not the composer.) So the big question is: to get proportional spacing *without* justification, did you have to type every line twice, or could you just get proportional spacing in one pass? I ask, beause while the Composer would be great for pseudo-typesetting, it would be a stupid choice to do office memos on if you had to type everything twice. If you could "type once" to get proportional spacing on the Composer, there's still a 1 in 10,000 chance it was used for these. If not, then that probability falls by like 3 orders of magnitude anyway.

I have to say, I think these are forgeries as things stand now.

Posted by: Jonathan W. King at September 10, 2004 11:02 AM

The most ludicrous thing about this entire debate is the presumption that the alleged forger is competent enough to get a host of trivial incriminating details correct, yet incapable of finding a circa-1970s typewriter...

Frankly, if the docs aren't legit, I'll be eating my hat online.

Posted by: trevelyan at September 10, 2004 11:03 AM

re: Bush's transfer document (, note under Civilian Experience his role under 'George Bush For Senate' is listed as 'Surrogate Candidate.' This has no bearing on authenticity of any documents, but I found it highly amusing.

Posted by: Charles Kinbote at September 10, 2004 11:10 AM

> did you have to type every line twice, or could you just get proportional spacing in one pass


Well, heck, the manual IS online.

Page 20 describes how to get justification by typing twice. It is sort of clear that you would not have to type twice if you are happy with ragged right margins, but I can't find it stated as such.

That said, CBS would have to produce a lot more evidence to convince me that these documents were produced on an IBM Composer. The main thing that kept me thinking they had to be real was the non-denial from the White House. That in itself is kind of interesting, but I will be very surprised if these are legitimate.

Posted by: Paul Callahan at September 10, 2004 11:24 AM

They sure look like they were typed to me. The same letters look slightly different from keystroke to keystroke, and vertical alignment wavers. Anyone remember what an IBM typewriter
-sounded- like? Bang-BANG-bang-bang-BANG. And so on. They put little rubber feet on them to damp vibration, but vibration still occurred.

The IBM Composer (I can scarcely believe that I was so moved to read the manual this morning) was easily capable of producing these memos, ths and all.

Anyone thought of trying to look up Killian's secretary?


Posted by: Nicholas Mycroft at September 10, 2004 11:59 AM

"these memos are unnecessary"

Well, if you want to establish that Shrub missed a scheduled flight physical, you don't need the memos.

If you want to establish the somewhat more rigorous accusation that Shrub was directly ordered in writing to show up at a particular clinic for a particular appointment for that flight physical -- which order he then disobeyed -- then the memos would certainly be helpful ...

The seriousness of the charge sort of dictates the necessary quality of the evidence, I would think.

Similarly, the accusation that John Kerry and/or John O'Neill have spoken carelessly of where they served ("in", "near", "along the border of" or "illegally deep within" Cambodia) is pretty trivial. The accusation that, say, John Kerry induced David Alston to lie at the recent DNC is pretty serious. Sometimes the best way to discover the truth of a charge is to review the documentation. If you can find it. If you trust it. If it's consistant with other things you already know.

Has anybody suggested the documentation indicating David Alston served under Ted Peck instead of John Kerry might have been forged?

Posted by: pouncer at September 10, 2004 12:16 PM

Carol, I prefer the term "compulsive obsessive," thus listing the terms in alphabetical order.

Posted by: Tom at September 10, 2004 12:19 PM

One thing to keep in mind here is that it's very likely that these memos were created by someone who was not an expert typist, on a typewriter that was not very well maintained.

The conventional wisdom in those days was that if you found yourself in the military, and word got out that you could type at all, you would do nothing but typing in your military career.

And those IBM Selectric mechanisms were very complex and a bit finicky, and likely to be full of inky paper dust, cookie crumbs and evaporated coffee. Don't be surprised if the proportional spacing isn't exactly as IBM intended.

Hanlon's Razor

Posted by: Ted at September 10, 2004 12:22 PM

FWIW, these are faxed, scanned in documents. These are in terrible condition, so trying to figure out exact placement etc. from these copies is silly. I'm also a little skeptical of so-called "experts" in the media who would make authoritative statements about documents without the originals and without several days of analysis.

As far as Alston goes, I think he served with Kerry for 1-2 weeks. I'm not sure what the reference to forgeries there means.

Posted by: Pi Zeta at September 10, 2004 12:32 PM

It should be a very simple thing to determine whether the original documents were created by typewriter or computer printer. So I think this will be resovled. Strike marks are far, far more important than kerning and superscripts. Also a real document expert can use a microscope and other basic tools.

Much more interesting is how this became the story. Blog stories do not ordinarily dictate the front page of the Washington Post and the news cycle of CNN, the NY Times, etc. Salon points to Creative Response Concepts, Republican PR firm that has been active in promoting the "forgeries" line. How long did the White House have the documents from CBS? Probably before labor day.

Posted by: KevinNYC at September 10, 2004 01:25 PM

How were they able to change the story so quickly. It certainly did not happen when someone watching 60 min and then looked at the documents. It started way before then.

Posted by: KevinNYC at September 10, 2004 01:28 PM

FWIW, CBS stands by its story quite strongly. If the documents are indeed authentic, someone is going to have a lot of egg on their face. Ditto if they're forgeries, of course.

My guess: If CBS really is very confident, they'll release information in dribs and drabs, lettign the blogosphere and right wingers work itelf into a froth over these documents, then produce its physical evidence . Game, set and match, lots of free publicity to CBS.

FWIW, I know news organizations get snookered (Daily Mirror, Hitler Diaries). But 60 minutes has a good reputation and it defies my comprehension that something as simple as some of the matters described here would have been overlooked. I can understand a very subtle forgery being overlooked, but not something like this.

Posted by: Pi Zeta at September 10, 2004 01:44 PM

I don't see how people get the idea that the burden of proof is on those who say the documents are genuine. The question seems up in the air, and CBS hasn't made its case yet. (Even if CBS concedes, I won't be completely convinced, because management often undercuts good reporters for prudential reasons).

Some commentator somewhere said that the alleged forgeries have some traits characteristic of typed documents, e.g. on the lastr world of the line when the carriage returns. If true, that would put the Word theory to rest.

I think that people are misusing Occam's razor. It was a long complicated argument that got us to the place that we could meet the LGF attack and say that these documents might be genuine, but the process by which we say the documents were produced is quite simple and possible -- the right typewriter, a custom typeball or typeball switch, and manual "kerning", whatever the fuck "kerning" is.

Making a special effort to get a raised "th" sounds like the kind of thing that a fussy, bored stateside military typist might do. If you looked through Catch-22, it's probably in there somewhere.

And forgetting to do it the second time on one documents also sounds like something that a bores stateside military typist might do. The boredom just overwhelmed the fussiness. Or maybe the guy was bored, but his boss was fussy.

In order of importance:
1. Bush is the worst President in American history.

2. We have many reasons to believe that he National Guard performance was inadequate.

3. Among these many reasons are four possibly-forged memos from some guy whose name I've forgotten for the moment.

4. The world is full of flat-earther attack bots who will still be arguing this issue, as well as Clinton's penis, on the day they die fifty years from now.

5. Hi, Pouncer! Where are Patrick, Adrian, and Will?

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson at September 10, 2004 02:03 PM

'Blog stories do not ordinarily dictate the front page of the Washington Post and the news cycle of CNN, the NY Times, etc. Salon points to Creative Response Concepts, Republican PR firm that has been active in promoting the "forgeries" line. How long did the White House have the documents from CBS? Probably before labor day.'

But if the documents were genuine, the last thing the WH would want to do is to give them another news cycle of feeding frenzy over "fake"/"not fake" to chew over. It is possible that a Republican firm not in the loop pushed the response.

More likely is simply that the blogverse started generating doubts. Now, we know that wingnuts waste more of their lives on utter nonsense (for instance, obsessing over whether Zumwalt's signature on Kerry's Silver Star was genuine or nor). But here there were some grounds for doubt, tand some valid so-called exports. This reached a critical mass in the blogosphere. Prominent bloggers picked it up, and journalists who monitor the blogs the Kurtz picked it up, passed it on to the real journalists. some of the them looked at the blogs, foudn them superficically believable, and started writing messags. These were fairly late at night yesteday. No major controversy.

CBS may have the original documents. If they do, a lot of so-called experts should be ambarassed.

Posted by: rg at September 10, 2004 02:16 PM

No one mentioned the most obvious point that suggests a forgery. Using the *defaults* in MS Word when you type the memo as found, it lines up almost exactly the same. The idea that the font and spacing in a typewriter would be exactly the same as MS Word is pretty hard to swallow.

I can understand why people who hate George Bush want this to be true. But really... Thus far the evidence for it being a fake is pretty persuasive. Not just the font and spacing information, but also questions regarding manual numbers, phrasing and a lot else.

The real question is why Bush's guard duty is even relevant. By keeping this in the media the Kerry compaign distracts from their strong points they have over Bush. This is silly strategy all the way around. Further as more people hear about it the assumption by many will be that the Kerry campaign planted it. Not fair, I realize. But it'll swing public opinion around even more.

Posted by: Clark at September 10, 2004 03:14 PM

Amazing how many people have bought the "exactly the same as MS Word" trip. How many of you have actually run MS Word and typed in the message to see for yourself? Do you just take the word of random right-wing nutjobs at face value as a matter of course?

Things you would notice if you did: Lines breaks are different with Word's default document settings. Starting a paragraph with "1." triggers Word's numbered-list formatting, indenting the entire paragraph. (It's actually hard as hell to make it stop doing that, but the CYA memo has no indenting.)

The letter shapes and alignment are subtly different. The original CBS scan of the memos show uneven vertical spacing and uneven impressions top-to-bottom. These are things that typewriters almost always do, and inkjet or laser printers *never* do.

Most importantly, the inter-letter spacing in the memo scans is very different than MS Word's. The right-wing nutjob's superimposition graphic is small and heavily compressed so some parts of it look blurry, but look closely and you'll see that these are actually areas with ghost images. Someone went to a lot of trouble fudging the formatting and line-breaks, but even so the letters really don't line up well at all.


Posted by: timv at September 10, 2004 03:52 PM

I have spent years doing anti-fraud work of various kinds. We often speculate about this kind of stuff, is a signature like another, is this type-face like another and so on. Only once in my career was I right. We will not know if it is a forgery based on the kinds of analysis I see in the media, here and elsewhere in the blogosphere. Either the source is trustworthy, or not.

And for the rest of it, even talking about it is playing into the hands of the creeps from the right. Don't do it. Let them rage against the night. It makes them happy if we play the game. Don't even talk about it. Ignore them like you would Patrick R. Sullivan or Adrian Spidle or any other troll. Let them go play with each other.

Posted by: masaccio at September 10, 2004 04:10 PM

IF you can place one of these fabulously expensive IBM machines in the offices of Killian, and IF you can find a typist who typed the memos for Killian--who, according to his wife, didn't type--and IF you can find an explanation for why none of the documents released from the same period (at least one of them in the same month as two of the CBS memos)look like the CBS memos, THEN:

You can try to explain the obviously forged signature, that even Inspector Cousseau couldn't miss when he compares it to legitimate Killian signatures.

And, IF you can find someone on the air base who was in the habit of signing documents for Killian, THEN you can try to explain why Killian was ordering Bush to contravene Air Force policy by having his annual physical not in the month of his birth (July), but two months early.

THEN, you can try to explain how Killian, in Houston, can know, on Aug 1, 1972, that Bush's request to transfer to the 9921st in Alabama, was disallowed on July 31st by headquarters in Denver. In an age without Fax machines.

Sounds like a lot of work to me.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan at September 10, 2004 04:29 PM

Jeezus flipping christ, they weren't "fabulously expensive." The Executive was a standard office-model IBM electric typewriter through the 50's and 60's, until the Selectric became more popular.

Learn to use Google for crying out loud. Thousands of typists remember them, and always mention the distinctive fact that they had proportional spacing.


Posted by: timv at September 10, 2004 04:50 PM

Since Pat isn't responding to my arguments down on the "Asking the Wrong Questions" thread, and since his ridiculous little name-calling blogsite doesn't allow responses ("I won't listen; you're all just picking on me"), looks like I'll have to follow him up here:

(1) "...None of the documents released from [Killian's office] in the same period (at least one of them in the same month as two of the CBS memos) look like the CBS memos". OK, Pat: name them. That's always been one of the most important points.

(2) His site refers to Killian's son "calling the documents fakes". Actually, he said that he thought at least one was authentic. The only one he calls a probable fake is the famous "sugarcoat" memo, and his reasons for doing that in Thursday's AP interview seem to me seriously subjective and shaky.

(3) Pat refers to Denver's disallowal of Bush's transfer to Alabama "being stamped July 31, 1972" (the magazine and newspaper articles on it to be found on Google date it variously as July 31, July 21 and May 31, and the original as printed at has no visible date on it) -- and says that, if it really WAS dated July 31, Killian's August 1 memo grounding Bush must be a fake because "the Fax machine hadn't been invented yet" (although facsimile machines had been around for a long time, the telephone even longer, and the authenticated document at mentions the frequent use of "verbal orders of the commander [to ground Guard fliers], exigencies of the Service having been such as to preclude the publication of competent written orders in advance."

(4) He asks "why Killian was ordering Bush to contravene Air Force policy by having his annual physical not in the month of his birth (July), but two months early." Please. The supposed May 19 memo specifically says "We talked about him getting his flight physical situation fixed beofe his date. Says he will do that in Alabama if he stays in a flight status." May we not assume that Killian might simply have wanted Bush to get his physical before leaving for Alabama, which Killian thought would be "before his date" (e.g., his birthday)?

In short, the ball's still in your court right now, Pat.

It's also appropriate, at this point, to stick in Kleiman's and Drum's latest comments. Kleiman:

"So it turns out that the purported Killian letters don't use kerning. And it turns out that the proportional spacing and the 'th' character were both available on not-very-expensive IBM typewriters of the relevant period. The fact that the line breaks in the document are the same as the line breaks produced by MS Word just shows that someone at Microsoft correctly reverse-engineered the algorithm used by typists to even out the margins; a skilled typist would have done so automatically.

"So, as a non-expert, I ask: What characteristic of the documents remains unexplained?

"That the documents could have been produced on contemporary equipment doesn't, of course, prove that they are genuine. And it does appear that CBS was less careful, or at least is now being less forthcoming, about their provenance than it might have been. I'm not wedded to the proposition that they're genuine.

"But the loud guffaws from the Right Blogosphere about 'obvious forgery' -- one of my dittohead readers compared accepting the documents to accepting a Shakespeare manuscript in ballpoint -- now seem unjustified. Obviously, Bush-lovers and Rather-haters are as eager to believe the memos are false as some Bush-haters are to believe they're genuine."


"In the Killian memo dated August 18, 1973, Killian says this: 'Staudt has obviously pressured Hodges more about Bush....Harris gave me a message today from Grp regarding Bush's OETR and Staudt is pushing to sugar coat it.'

"Forget for a moment whether the memos are genuine or not and just ask this: did Walter Staudt pressure Bobby Hodges about Bush back in 1973? Both men are still alive, and when CBS read the memos to Hodges over the phone he agreed that 'these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time.'

"But why ask Hodges about KILLIAN'S state of mind in 1973? Why not ask him instead if he himself got pressure from his superiors to go easy on Bush? It's a simple question, and Hodges ought to have a simple answer. If he values the integrity of the military, he should tell his story instead of hiding from reporters."

Ditto for Staudt, who is also still hiding. And to repeat: the continuing flat-out refusal of the White House to denounce these documents as fakes looks VERY peculiar unless you assume that the White House knows, from its own inside knowledge of Bush's activities, that the things they state are correct and that the memos therefore may well turn out to be authentic. As I've said before (and I'm hardly alone): this is the elephant in the room at the moment.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 10, 2004 06:05 PM

Oh, and Pat: it's Gary Farber's original statement at the start of this thread that points out that the IBM Executive was both cheap and very common. Remember? ("Hunter" over at "Daily Kos" says they were "very common in government offices", and that the addition of the "th" superscript to military typewriters was also very common, for painfully obvious reasons)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 10, 2004 06:39 PM

And, on the subject of the Elephant in the Room, Matt Yglesias ( ):

"Reading what other folks have to say in comments this still looks inconclusive to me. CBS didn't come up with a slam dunk defense, but seeing as how the White House hasn't bothered to allege that these are forgeries -- George W. Bush being someone in a position to know, for example, whether or not Killian ever ordered him to take a physical, and George H.W. Bush (at a minimum) being someone in a position to know whether or not pressure was brought on Killian regarding the write-ups -- I don't see a reason why CBS should need to produce a slam-dunk case. To have a real 'he said, she said' situation, she actually has to say something.

"Killian aside, there are plenty of other reasons (just lately, statements from Ben Barnes and Bobby Hodges) to believe that Bush's behavior during the Vietnam War was dishonorable; so if whether or not Bush served honorably is of crucial importance to you in making up your mind about who to vote for, you shouldn't vote for Bush. If you're me, this isn't a huge deal, but Bush's dishonorable service is a useful characterological sketch and a shorthand for his cavalier attitude toward questions of war and peace."

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 10, 2004 07:27 PM

Nothing from Patrick yet, I see, so let's sum up the situation as it currently stands.

(1) Let's begin by restating the obvious: the White House would have a tremendously stronger case right now if its spokesmen weren't hemming and hawing and trying to change the subject every time a reporter asks them whether the memos are true. Unless, of course, the White House knows that the facts stated in the memos really are true, and is afraid that there may be proof of it out there.

(2) The course to be followed by CBS and non-CBS reporters at this point is obvious: keep pushing Hodges and Staudt to say what really happened. And compare the style of other provable memos from Killian's files with the style of the memos. And, oh yes, keep pushing Scott McClellan and the President himself as to whether the events stated in the memos really happened. One would tend to assume that Mr. Bush remembers. (I suspect that during the past few days there has been many a tinkle from the White House to the homes of Staudt and Hodges, and that all three parties are currently being quiet as mice because they don't yet know how much more CBS may have -- but that really is speculation.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 10, 2004 09:40 PM

This just in: two very big stories have now come in (no thanks to Patrick) which really do call the authenticity of the memos into serious question:

(1) The Dallas Morning News ( ) confirms that Buck Staudt really did retire as Guard commander fully 17 months before the date of the "sugar-coat" memo.

"A CBS staffer stood by the story, suggesting that Col. Staudt could have continued to exert influence over Guard officials. But a former high-ranking Guard official disputed that, saying retirement would have left Col. Staudt powerless over remaining officials." And, indeed, the key sentence in the memo -- "Harris gave me a message today from Grp regarding Bush's OETR and Staudt is pushing to sugar coat it" -- certainly sounds as if Staudt was supposedly exerting the kind of sustained pressure that he could only have done as an acting commander, not as a former one.

(2) ABC reports that Bobby Hodges has now told them flatly ( ) that CBS is lying about him:

"HODGES SAID HE WAS MISLED BY CBS: Retired Maj. General Hodges, Killian's supervisor at the Grd, tells ABC News that he feels CBS misled him about the documents they uncovered. According to Hodges, CBS told him the documents were 'handwritten' and after CBS read him excerpts he said, 'well, if he wrote them that's what he felt.'

"Hodges also said he did not see the documents in the 70's and he cannot authenticate the documents or the contents. His personal belief is that the documents have been 'computer generated' and are a 'fraud'."

Next question now, of course, is whether CBS admits it was lying -- in which case it is in very deep manure -- or whether it insists that Hodges is lying now. The latter is quite possible, however: Hodges and Staudt have both made it clear they're very much on Bush's side politically, and it remains interesting that they were both totally silent for several days after the story broke. (Indeed, the Dallas Morning News says Staudt is still refusing to comment.) And, as I say, it remains fascinating that the Bush Administration itself was steadfastly refusing to say that it knew the memos must be false, or that Killian must have been lying, because the events recorded in them never happened. So: the whole damn story is still wide open. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 10, 2004 10:31 PM

Well, Bruce, it is nice to be needed. However, the typewriter issue is now settled beyond any shadow of doubt by:

As the above article makes clear the only machine capable of coming even close to reproducing the memos cost about $4,000 1973 dollars. Even the less expensive Selectric and Executive models (which couldn't have produced the memos) were substantially more money than other typewriters. I don't need Google for this, I remember how pricey they were.

And I repeat, Bruce, there are documents online with Killian's signature that are definitely not from an IBM Selectric typewriter. One, signed on May 26th, 1972, is Bush's fitness report.

George W. Bush is a very fortunate man to have as his enemies people as stupid as the usual suspects.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan at September 11, 2004 10:15 AM

Assuming that the memos are bogus (I think they are), what is the most likely explanation? Here's what we know: The upcoming Ben Barnes interview was known about a week or so before it actually aired. Sometime before it aired, CBS "obtained" these memos, did some minimal research to corroborate them, and appended this story to the Ben Barnes interview. Net effect: the alleged (or actual) bogosity of the memos has totally defused the impact of the Ben Barnes interview. Once again: what is the most likely explanation? Some zealot armed with MS Word and fueled with excessive irrational Bush hatred? Or, the best PR Billions can Buy?

Posted by: jjohnston at September 11, 2004 02:52 PM

Bona fide - In good faith

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Replying to TIMV posted 9/10/04 at 3:52PM, it's true that Word numbering is tough to turn off once it's started and then it indents the whole paragraph. However it's perfectly possible to number the paragraphs w/o using Word numbering simply by plugging in the numbers and inserting a space after them. Then you will have paragraphs from Word looking exactly the same as those in the Bush memos supposedly done on typewriters, i.e., with only the first line indented. Assuming the forgers knew how to use Word numbering, there was no reason for them to bother with it for the sake of two paragraphs. Probably also they knew enough to want the paras to look like typewriter work.

The facts on kerning and superscripts are equally devastating. I've been around military and police forms all my life and I still get a jolt when I see a superscript. We just didn't have them on our typewriters. I've been at pains to eliminate them when using Word because they simply don't look right to me. As for kerning, I took one line of mine done in ten-pitch kerned type in Word, then did it in ten-pitch typewriter type and it ended at a point where it had a content that was only 75% of the kerned line. The margins were the same, one inch left and right.

I just tackled the first line of the 8/18/73 memo and found that out of the 81 characters, including spaces, on the CBS memo, I could only get 65 on a typed line using my modern Smith Corona electric. I would have to end the line by hyphenating the word "having".

One way to prove the case for forgery would be to subpoena all the TANG records of the early 70's and see what they look like. They won't look like the CBS version. They probably have their old inventories on file too, listing the typewriters they owned.

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