Saturday, September 18, 2004

San Francisco

OK, the Bay Area is over-crowded and over-priced and it has bad traffic, bad politics, and bad Mexican food. But the other food is great and here's what I see when I take a walk near my office:

Those rocks are usually a good five feet above the water. This is the highest tide I've ever seen in the Bay.

Friday, September 17, 2004

projection as political position

The leftwing reaction to the CBS memos underscores a point that I and others have often made about the left: many of their attacks against the right are actually projections of their own faults onto us. How often have you heard leftists criticize George Bush or other conservatives for being too "certain", too unwilling to "examine their beliefs", too "close-minded"?

Never has any of these critics made even the slightest effort to show how they are less certain, more willing to examine their beliefs or more open-minded than their opponents. Is Ted Kennedy more likely to change his mind on an issue than George Bush?

When the Swift Boat Vets came out with their story, the left immediately declared them liars. This was before any investigation (and even before getting Kerry's reaction). They didn't need any evidence because their ideology defined the truth. Evidence was irrelevant. Meanwhile the right tended to believe the Swift Boat Vets, but they did so on the grounds that the Vets are a credible source. The Vets had no reason to lie about it (and good reason to keep their mouths shut).

The left tried to damage the credibility of the Vets by implicating them with the Bush campaign. The theory evidently was that you can't trust a political partisan not to lie for his side. (Actually it turns out that wasn't the theory, more on this later.) The left came up with some pretty lame connections and some Navy documents that contradicted the Vets and they declared the issue settled --in the direction they had already settled it before any investigation started. Oddly enough.

Meanwhile the right points out that we don't even know who wrote those Navy documents or provided the information in them (most likely it was Kerry himself) so we don't know if they are trustworthy. Meanwhile we have several men who have come forward by name as eye witnesses to dispute the documents. Which is inherently more credible? The answer to this question shouldn't depend on party affiliation.

Contrast the reactions to CBS's airing of the TANG memos. I saw no one on the right who --with no investigation-- said CBS was lying. No one. Several conservative bloggers impeached the testimony of Ben Barnes, a long-time Democrat and a major fundraiser for Kerry who has changed his story several times. Then the stuff about the forged memos came out. Throughout all this, the right has naively expected CBS to see the obvious error of their ways and to admit it. They expect it because that's what they would do if they were wrong.

By contrast, the leftist bloggers jumped all over the memo story and Barnes's latest testimony, completely disregarding his earlier testimony and the problems with the memos. They were certain the story was true. They clarified their theory of partisan credibility for us: it turns out that simple partisanship isn't any reason to doubt someone's testimony; the credibility gap only comes with Republican partisanship. A lifetime of political activism for the Democrat party, that's just a sign of good character.

As the memos become less and less credible, the leftists became no less certain of the truth of their contents (and revealingly, the same is true of Dan Rather). When leftist blogger Kevin Drum was willing to look at the evidence and take the path of least miracle he was savaged for it. Rule Number 1: No truth that helps Republicans shall be admitted, no matter how obvious.

Atrios defended the memo by picking at minor terminology mistakes by some of the non-experts who were examining the document. He also points to a document from the previous decade that looks partly typewritten and partly typeset. How this is relevant, he doesn't explain.

Of course there never was a question of whether it was possible to have produced those documents in the early '70s. Typesetting has been around for centuries. The question was whether it was plausible that someone had used such expensive and clumsy technology to write memos to himself, and whether it was plausible that the result would match exactly what Microsoft Word does by default. The answer to both questions is "no".

Yes, there is always the faint possibility that by some quirk of fortune, Killian had access to a rare, expensive type-setting typewriter and used it for no other purpose than to type his personal memos to himself. And that he took a lot of extra time to get the centering right on a document he never intended anyone to see. And that the typewriter used exactly the same point size as TrueType fonts. And that he used non-standard and incorrect terminology. And that he was feeling pressured by a retired former superior officer who had no authority any more. And that he thought it was a good idea to document the fact that he was falsifying official records for political reasons.

All of that is not strictly impossible, no. But implausible? Certainly. So implausible that any unbiased observer would discount it. But the left, as the evidence became overwhelming, dug in their heels, resorting to more and more outlandish theories to back up a belief that they wanted to be true.

You see, the memos never were a foundation for their beliefs; when the foundation is destroyed, the entire building collapses. No, the memos were merely the impetus of the beliefs, like the hot gases escaping from the tail of a rocket are the impetus of the rocket's motion. When the gases are gone, the rocket keeps moving forward happily without them.

What does all this say about the ability of these leftists to be open minded and question their own beliefs as they are always urging conservatives to do?

Atrios as news source

On Thursday at 1:31pm, 1:43pm, and 2:24pm, Atrios posted notes based on the fraudulent CBS memos. He never bothered to post updates when the authenticity was brought into dispute, even though he was aware of it by at least 3:39pm when he posted a cryptic note on the history of typewriters. This note showed some research --probably at least a half-hour worth. So it seems that he found out sometime around 3pm that there were serious questions about the authenticity of the notes and never bothered to update the relevant posts from the previous two hours to warn his readers that they may be getting wrong information.

In the typewriter post Atrios didn't tell his readers why the typewriters were important. If you were a leftist who knew about the problems with the memos and came to Atrios for help in backing up what you wanted to believe then he was there for you. But if you came to Atrios for news on what was going on in the world, he left you in the dark until Friday morning. And then you only find out what is going on if you follow a link in another cryptic and mysterious post about typewriters. Atrios readers that were interested in these new damning Bush memos but not typewriters had no warning that the memos might be fake until the afternoon, 24 hours after Atrios first found out there were serious questions about them.

So my question is, who benefits by Atrious keeping his readers ignorant? Not his readers, surely.

on being the same as

There is a house on the beach with a large pile of sand in the yard. One day a guest visits the house to find the pile gone and asks the owner what happened to it. Consider the two following scenarios:

1. The owner says, "a bulldozer pushed the pile against that wall." implying that the pile against the wall is the same as the pile that was in the middle of the yard.

2. The owner says, "the wind last night blew it away and built up the pile against that wall." implying that the pile against the wall is not the same as the pile that was in the middle of the yard.

Now in both cases the pile against the wall contains the same grains of sand, the same parts, the only difference is in how it came to be there. There are several possible responses to this story. First, we could say that the owner was simply mistaken in one or another of the scenarios the pile against the wall was the same in both scenarios, either it was or it wasn't the same as the one in the yard. But which? What reason can there be for preferring one answer over the other?

Another possibility is to simply accept that the identity of a pile of sand actually depends on how it was constructed. There is some intuitive appeal to this answer and it will be discussed later. A third possibility is to suggest that the identity of the pile of sand is a relative matter, that there is no objective truth of the matter, it just depends on how the observer chooses to construe the situation.

I build a toy robot out of legos, with claws for hands. Call the toy A. Now I remove the left claw and call the resulting toy B. Is A=B? There are two possible answers:

1. Yes. The toy is an enduring perceptual whole according to our physical intuitions, and removing the claw does not undo the physical identity of the remainder.

2. No. The toy consists of its parts, and when the parts change the identity of the toy changes.

Answer 1 is the most natural because if you take 2 seriously it has odd consequences such as the fact that when you change a tire on your car, you have a different car. However, 1 has the problem that because it relies on an intuition of physical wholeness, its application is limited by our intuitions. What happens when you take off the whole left arm? What about when you take off both arms and both legs? What happens if you take away everything except one block? At some point you no longer have the same toy, but it is not clear when this happens.

Therefore each answer is true in some sense, but there is no single sense in which both are true. I'm not suggesting that we can simply believe what we want. If you construe the toy as in 1, then it is an objective fact that A=B. If you construe the toy as in 2, then it is an objective falsehood that A=B. The only subjective element is in how you construe the identity of the toy.

Since it is impossible for A=B and A=/=B both to be true at the same time and in the same way, it must be the case that there are actually multiple identities for A. Just by saying that A is "the toy" you do not unambiguously describe A. I claim that there are at least two individuals involved here: construing A as in 1, we get A1 which is numerically the same as B. Construing A as in 2, we get A2 which is numerically distinct from A1 (and B).

Notice the consequence of this: we have two different objects occupying the same space, and both objects are physical. Now what do we say about A? Is A=A1 or A=A2? Apparently not, because if one of those numerical identities held, then the original question (A=B?) would be objectively settled.

Now we might be inclined to say that A does not exist at all as an object, but rather that "A" is just an ambiguous name for A1 or A2.
But then we have similar arguments for showing that "A1" and "A2" are ambiguous. Suppose that I take the pieces of the toy apart and put them in a bag, and call the contents of the bag C. Is A1=C or A2=C? There are two choices for the question if A1=C:

3. Yes. The material of A1 is the dominating criterion, so A1=C.

4. No. The structure of A1 is the dominating criterion, so A1=/=C.

There are also two choices for the question of A2=C:

5. Yes. The collection of objects is a set, so A2=C.

6. No. The collection of objects is a structured set, so A2=/=C.

If any of these answers is rejected, I claim that I can come up with an analogous situation where many, if not most speakers would choose that answer. If I'm right, then all answers are equally valid, and we have four more objects to consider: A3, A4, A5, and A6. Furthermore, I believe this process can be continued indefinitely, if not with this particular example, then with other examples. So I claim that A, A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, and A6 are all legitimate physical objects.

It is not that the name "A" that is ambiguous, it is the concept of A. A1 and A2 actually represent two different concepts that have the same extension in some circumstances but not in others. This should not surprise us since we deal with indeterminate concepts all the time in normal thought. When I get hungry, I sometimes get in my car and just start driving (I often eat out). I'm thinking that I want to get something to eat, but I don't have anything particular in mind. The concept of “something to eat” is indeterminate. And since I am neither producing nor thinking the words "something to eat", there is no possibility of linguistic ambiguity.

The point is the invalidity of one of the typical arguments against idealism. The argument goes like this: when two people look at a tree, are they seeing the same object or not? If they are, then the tree must be a public object rather than a private one, so it cannot be mental. If the two people do not see the same thing, then how can they both refer to the same thing in communication?

The problem with this argument is that it assumes that the two answers are mutually exclusive when they are not. The idealist can say that there is a tree1 which is private to each individual and tree2 which is public, and the two are intimately related in the same way that A1 and A2 in my example are related.

Just something to think about.

what media bias

David Limbaugh writes the tale of the two scandals that I was going to write when I got time. His conclusion:
As to the respective charges against Bush and Kerry, it's undeniable that those against Kerry are far more serious, supported by much stronger evidence and much more relevant to the question of fitness for commander in chief.

Yet the Old Media ignores the claims against Kerry and investigates to death the ones against President Bush. The Old Media richly deserves its diminishing fate.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

who benefits

La Shawn Barber has some harsh words about abortion and who it benefits. Her take is a bit different (and more chilling) than mine (last paragraph).

CBS expert #4

Tim Blair tracks down one of the new "document experts" that CBS is using. This guy's only expertise is that he used to repair IBM typewriters. Truth to tell, he seems to be sane (compared to Kos and Atrios, for example) but is clearly not impartial. He has some interesting points to contribute, but ultimately his claims are rather sloppy and slipshod. He states baldly:
I can tell you that the Model D can produce those documents, not only did it do proportional spacing, you could order any font that IBM produced AND order keys that had the aftmentioned superscripted "th."
There is no hint that he even knows that point sizes vary between different printing systems. An expert would know that.

blogging and cheap shots

At some point over the last month or so the average readership of Doc Rampage jumped about fifty percent. I'm not sure what caused it, but it may have to do with the fact that I've been posting more often. It's cool to have more readers but unfortunately it's putting pressure on me to post more. I was happy with my readership before, but now I feel that if it goes back down then I'll be unhappy. People are weird.

I was discussing this problem with a friend of mine and he cautioned me not to get carried away. "What if you push yourself to write too much and your quality suffers?" he asked me. "Your readers will lose confidence in you and you'll be down to even worse than you started. What then?"

"Then," I responded immediately, "I'd be Dan Rather."

Now this was clearly a cheap shot and inapt besides --no one has accused Dan Rather of blogging too much. I feel bad about saying it, which is why I'm mentioning it on my blog. Just so you all know I feel bad about it.

Also, I needed to get a post up today.

two points

Marvin Olasky:
That's why the dispute about the Kerry military record is more important than the dispute about the president's. John Kerry received his party's nomination because of his youthful activities; George W. Bush was elected despite his.


If those with immaculate lives vote for Kerry and those who messed up but are now doing better vote for Bush, it will be a GOP landslide.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


SF Weekly had an article in their last issue about District Attorney Kamala Harris refusing to prosecute for prostitution. I should warn you that some of this post is going to be a bit coarse. Please don't read any further if you are likely to be offended.

Basically, the police went into a place that offers "lap dancing". This means the man sits in a chair and a woman dances for him in various states of undress. It's called lap dancing because she spends a substantial part of the dancing time either between his legs, rubbing up against his groin or straddling him. That's not illegal. What is illegal is that once the women have danced for you and detected your level of excitement, they often ask if you would like to go in the back and get a blow job or have sex. That's illegal.

Bay area police arrested nine dancers for prostitution and three men for running a house of prostitution. The district attorney announced that she
had no intention of prosecuting any of the people who had been arrested. "Prostitution and regulatory violations at the clubs raise complex issues involving worker safety, exploitation of women, equity, and fair notice," she said in a statement dismissing the arrests. Until she had time to examine these issues more carefully, she said, she was not about to invest her office's time or money on anything as inconsequential as lap dancing. She announced the formation of an "Adult Clubs Working Group," co-chaired by her office and the office of the city attorney, to examine issues related to the lap-dancing clubs and "develop enforcement options" for the future.
Let's leave aside the fact that one of the states main law enforcement officials has decided unilaterally not to enforce the law. That's clearly only a problem with conservative judicial nominees. When leftists ignore their responsibilities, that's just fine.

Let's talk instead about this alleged concern that Harris has for women. She doesn't want them exploited. So, what about all those women who just want to give lap dances and don't want to have sex with twenty different men a day? Do they count?

Does anyone think it is remotely possible that these women, dancers who don't want to be outright prostitutes, are now going to suffer far more pressure to perform? Isn't that sexual harassment? Hasn't the SF district attorney just given a green light to all the customers and the men who run strip clubs to pressure women into prostitution? Isn't that exploitation?

For all Harris's high-sounding rhetoric, the truth is that women who work in strip clubs just don't count for her. If those low-class women (who probably don't even vote) get pressured into having sex with twenty men a day because --now that it's safe-- all the other women do it then that's just fine. Meanwhile, if a woman who actually matters (because she votes) is offended because someone in her office tells a dirty joke, I'll bet Harris is all over that one.

The truth is that no one wants to legalize prostitution for the sake of women. Some libertarians genuinely think the government should just stay out of personal matters, but they don't want laws against sexual harassment either. At least they are consistent.

Democrats who want to legalize prostitution aren't consistent. A person who chooses to smoke, or wants to buy a car without a seatbelt, well, they are being victimized by ruthless corporations and they need to be protected. A woman who is struggling to raise three kids by herself or suffering from drug addiction, a man offers her a hundred dollars to suck him off, well that's her personal choice. No pressure there. Free enterprise for everyone.

It's a lie. There is one group that benefits from prostitution: men with money. If prostitution is easy and legal, that means unattractive middle-aged guys with money can screw beautiful young women. Without legal prostitution, such a thing is impossible or extremely expensive.

Meanwhile, many poor families are devastated as young women gravitate toward the easy money of loose morals. How many young women become drug addicts because they were deliberately targeted for their beauty?

Prostitution is like no-fault divorce, abortion and gay rights. The left finds that in this one area, sex, they are all for personal freedom over social restriction. And this view always seems to disproportionately favor rich white men. Imagine that.

NRO party

Cool, I'm going to get to meet Ramesh Ponnuru:
... I'm inviting NRO readers to come by the Gordon Biersch Brewery at 2 Harrison Street in San Francisco between 7 and 10 pm on Monday, Sept. 20. ...

an ode to storms

A surprising number of bloggers I know are in danger of hurricanes this year. Or maybe it's not surprising since I tend to lean slightly conservative and God is always pelting the most conservative part of the country with hurricanes and tornados. Don't know why.

I'm jealous. I love a good storm. I love hearing the wind rush by like a jet plane, rain slam the windows like a sledge hammer. I love it when I'm on a hill and I see a streak of white fluorescence suddenly appear, connecting the sky above with the earth below, bathing the clouds and the valley in a white glow as from a huge car headlight. Then I count the seconds till the BOOM.

I like hearing the house creak ominously with the force of the wind (as long as it doesn't creak too ominously). I like it when I get home just before the worst of the storm and I'm all wet. I dry off, put on some comfortable clothes, and sit there watching the storm through a window drinking hot chocolate. Nothing's ruder than having a storm drop in unexpectedly when you don't have any hot chocolate for it.

I like driving in storms. That's when you get to really see it. That's when you aren't in the audience, you are a player. Tucson has great storms for driving, much better than the Bay Area. The storm directs traffic by flooding some streets and leaving others just a rapidly-running stream a couple of inches deep.

I've seen actual tumble weeds flying through the middle of the city. In light winds, they tumble. In storms, they fly. The rain sometimes slams your windshield like it's trying to get at you. Your windshield wipers become vain gestures, like waving away a charging rhino, so that you have to come to a complete stop. You can only hope that the guy behind you has sense enough to stop too.

Motorcycles are fun if you are dressed right. You get splashed with the two-inch deep water and smell the tar and oil and road-waste. If driving a car makes you a player, driving a motorcycle makes you the ball. You have to be alert. Cars can't see you very well and any quick turn or stop is likely to take your wheels out from under you. I can tell you from experience: that's no fun.

I've never been in a hurricane but I've always wanted to see what it's like. I hope the bloggers have fun.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

kos writes:
Weve lost this war. We've literally lost entire swaths of Iraqi territory to the insurgents. We've empowered Al Qaida and Islamist militants with new recruits and pictures of prison torture and rape to fuel their cause. We''ve stretched our military thin, hurt recruitment, made it impossible to respond to actual threats.

In short, this is the biggest political and military blunder this country has faced since -- I'll let the historians decide when. But as things are going, this is going to have worse repercussions for our nation than Vietnam ever did.
Uh, Kos? I hate to have to point it out, but the pictures of prison mistreatment (not torture or rape) weren't a "blunder", they were a deliberate attack on American troops and security by American news media. The purpose of broadcasting those pictures was to rile up the Middle East, get American soldiers killed, and help the Democrats win the next election. That's not a blunder, it's a deliberate strategy.

going stupid

Milblog on the latest, uh, hard-to-understand campaign ploy. Did Karl Rove, Evil Genius manage to get a mole into the Kerry campaign to talk them into all the suicidal strategies?

You know, I honestly think at this point that the Swift Boat Vets hurt Kerry a lot more by making the Democrats all go stupid than they did by hurting Kerry's reputation directly.

Let me repeat: No Brer Democrats! Pleeeeease don't attack Bush on irrelevant trivialities from thirty years ago! Have mercy, Brer Democrats, anything but that!

vets against Kerry

Adrian Spidle reports on the gathering in DC.

evil plots

Rich Hailey speculates that the Democrats know what they are doing in Rathergate: they want Kerry involved in a scandal that will let them replace him on the ticket (link from Instapundit).

One major problem with this theory is that the Democrats couldn't expect that most states would allow the change. Not all states have supreme courts like New Jersey's that think the law is theirs to make up. Well, not to that extent, anyway. Well, or at least some of them wouldn't be interested in helping the Democrats.

But here is a minor variation in the plan: the Democrats could exploit the elective system to have the same effect. They leave John Kerry on the ballot, but tell everyone that the electors will actually vote for Edwards (or Hillary, if you are willing to go that far into tinfoil-hat land).

Problem: how many states have laws requiring the electors to vote for the guy on the ballot? How many of those laws have real teeth? How many of the states with laws with real teeth have prosecutors and courts that are likely to do anything about it?

The theory has another big problem that I can't answer: why would Dan Rather defend the memos? I don't see how this serves the speculative nefarious purposes. If he were part of a plan to replace Kerry, he would already be out there saying he was had by the Kerry campaign and he wants an investigation into who knew about it.

more sword-falling-on discussion

Stanly Kurtz discusses my theory that CBS is falling on the sword for John Kerry (uncredited, I might add). Kurtz disagrees. He argues instead that the MSM is trying to please its main audience, liberal Democrats, and that they are actually working to maintain their market share, not to elect Kerry.

The problem with this argument is that it requires enormously poor business acumen from all three networks. The three networks divide up the available news audience along fairly arbitrary lines because they are practically indistinguishable. If they really did believe that they were losing all of their audience except liberal Democrats, there would be a huge advantage for one of them to go conservative (or at least genuinely unbiased).

This would give the defecting network about forty percent of the potential audience (conservatives). Another twenty percent (non-liberals) would begin to view the network news world as a duality: they could watch the defector or they could watch one of the other two. Either/or. So the defector would get another ten percent. That leaves the two remaining networks to divide up the remaining fifty percent among themselves. The history of Fox News shows that there is a real market for a defector.

The fact that none of the networks has defected in this way suggests that they don't really see what's going on. They still think they are unbiased. They still think people who are attracted to Fox News are partisans that prefer Republican propaganda to real news.

If they saw things the way Kurtz does, and if they were really interested in market share, they would defect.

Monday, September 13, 2004

foreign policy differences

It is the usual case for the left and right to be strongly divided on foreign policy issues. Sometimes the left wins and sometimes the right. Here is a list wins/loses and the consequences. It's off the top of my head, so take with a grain of salt (researching all of this would be a pretty major project).
Eastern Europe: After WWII, the right wanted to confront the USSR and demand their withdrawal from Eastern Europe. The left wanted to make nice with Stalin and let him keep a little security zone. The left won. The result? Thousands trucked off to slave labor camps. Eastern Europeans lived in slavery for nearly five decades. Their economies were so ravaged by communist policies that they are still not fully recovered.
China:During Truman's administration, the right wanted to strongly support the nationalist Chinese against the communists under Mao. The left wanted to dialog with the communists, and reduce support for the nationalists. The left won. The result? The communists won a civil war and enslaved the entire country for five decades. Tens of millions of Chinese were starved to death or killed for political crimes. Today the average Chinese have more rights, but there are still active, and very brutal slave labor camps.
Korea: The right wanted to escalate the war and free North Korea from it's communist masters. The left wanted to dialog with the peaceful agrarian reformers and not antagonize the peaceful slavers of China. The left won. The result? Five decades and counting of brutal slavery, abuse, and starvation for the citizens of North Korea.
Vietnam: The right wanted to continue to support the South Vietnamese against the North Vietnamese invaders, and the Cambodians against their Communist rebels. The left wanted to get of the "colonialist" war and let the Communists take over. The left won. The result? A million Vietnamese people trucked off to slave labor camps, another million fleeing a similar fate in rickety boats across dangerous waters. Over four decades of slavery (and counting) for the entire country. Millions murdered in Cambodia.
Iran: The right wanted to continue to support the Shah against the Islamofascist rebels. The left wanted to abandon him and let the rebels win. The left won. The result? Iranians living under a cruel dictatorship for thirty years and counting. A year of humiliation for the US that convinced many Islamisists that the US was a paper tiger and encouraged terrorists. And Iran has been one of the largest backers of Islamisist terrorism.
the Cold War: The right wanted to strongly oppose any Russian aggression, including putting missiles in Europe to counter Russian deployments. The left wanted to unilaterally disarm. The right won. The result? The Soviet Union broke up without a major war. Millions of people were freed from slavery, and the possibility of world-wide nuclear war has been largely eliminated.
El Salvador: The right wanted to support the anti-Communist government against the Communist rebels while pressuring the government to liberalize. The left wanted to support the rebels. The right won. The result? El Salvador is now a mostly peaceful, democratic country.
For a movement that claims to be obsessed with humanitarian impulses, the left has a pretty dismal record.

nastiness on the right

Just so you know, I don't think all the rotten people in the world are voting for Kerry. Here's a Bush supporter that needs a slap on the back of the head. (link from SpaceMonkey)

Clinton's heart surgery

OK, I know I'm skirting the tinfoil-hat area, but I wonder how much the timing of Clinton's surgery was planned with the election in mind. First of all, it's hard to imagine that the president or even a former president could have gotten 90% blockage arterial blockage with no warning. Second, many people have speculated that Clinton finagled to get a really bad candidate on the ticket this year to make a dismal showing so that Hillary would benefit.

Third, if he suspected that the Kerry campaign was going to be a miserable failure, he would have wanted a good excuse to stay out of the campaign during it's waning months --a time he would expect the Dems to beg him for help in bailing them out. The surgery gives him an unimpeachable (pun intended) excuse to avoid campaigning for Kerry and getting part of the blame for the loss. This stays a strictly non-Clinton campaign. Next year, Hillary comes into the race lily-white.


The very first Storyblogging Carnival is up! I haven't had a chance to read any of them yet, because I wanted to get this announcement out right away. I'll post an update after I read some of the stories.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


Whatever you do, DON'T go to this site! And if you go there, for heavens' sake, DON'T download the new Windows port. This game will suck your life out through your fingers into the keyboard. It is the most adictive game ever created. STAY AWAY.

more memogate ... sorry ...

Milblog has some interesting reader comments on memogate. Most interesting is a comment to the post: "I would think that the executor of LtCOL Killian's estate could sue CBS for possession of the memos..." Hmm.

consistent copying errors

Neil Uchitel has another strong case against the authenticity of the Bush memo. The only remaining difficulty for those who think it is a fraud is to explain the consistent differences between characters in the memos vs. those in a Word document. Some of the letters in the forged documents seem to be off the baseline a bit and some of the letters appear to be different in the memo than in a Word document. This is easy to explain with mechanical errors on a mechanical typewriter, hard to explain on a laser printer.

I'm only concerned with consistent morphing of the underlying letters. Clearly, the process of copying or faxing is going to produce artifacts, but the question is, can they produce artifacts that are consistent within a figure (seeming to move the whole figure) or between different figures of the same type (changing the shape the same way for each one)? I haven't seen the typographic experts like Neil comment on this, so I thought I'd take a stab at it.

Clearly it is possible for one line to move up or down (especially a horizontal line), depending on where the picture elements are in the printer (or fax), but is it possible for an entire figure to move up or down? I can imagine mechanisms that would allow it: To move up, the figure would have to have real top and bottom lines that both lie about the same distance below a scan line in the device. In the copying process, the scan line just above the correct position would be darkened to represent the figure, and the figure would seem higher.

I tried an experiment where I printed out four lines of "e"s in Word then photocopied the result for four generations. There were persistent changes in the letters within one line, but no movement up or down. In retrospect, I don't see any mechanism that would move the same character on the same line different amounts.

One commenter on Neil's post claims that the capital "M" and "A" and the "8" are clearly different. I went into word, set the point size to sixteen (to match the size in the pdf on the CBS site) and wrote several lines of each letter. Then I printed it out and compared the result on paper to the pdf on screen. I wasn't sure whether there was a real persistent difference or not because the characters in the memo are so fuzzy, but it looked like the "A" in the memo was a bit more symmetrical and the "M" a bit less symmetrical than the printout. Also, in the pdf, the eights have a smaller top loop than bottom loop, but there are two eights right together where one has a much smaller bottom loop than the other.

It's important to realize that Times New Roman at sixteen point is not just a scaled version of Times New Roman at twelve point. If the document was produced at twelve point and magnified by the scanning process, that could change the results. One could try this experiment with a bunch of different points sizes to see if there is an exact match, but I didn't do that. Instead, I just photocopied my printout four times to see if persistent errors were possible. They are. The fourth generation of the printout had some fairly consistent, but very slight differences from the original: some lines were thinner and that made some angle appear slightly larger.

I made two more copies of the fourth generation at a darker setting, then one copy scaled 129% and one copy scaled 78%. This 8th generation shows some persistent differences, though not the same as the memos. The bottom loop of the eight is distinctly triangular, the "A" has thicker serifs at the base lines, the cross bar o the "A" is slanted up to the right, and the "M" is more symmetrical.

So although I didn't reproduce the features of the memo, I convinced myself that copying can produce consistent morphing of letter shapes. (Especially within one line, as the similar experiment with lowercase "e" showed).

Translation from the baseline is still unresolved to my mind.