Friday, September 10, 2004

Are the memos fakes or not? All of the mainstream news admits the possibility. Even CBS has a story on it. The right-leaning blogs are popping the Champaign. The left-leaning blogs are, naturally, not convinced. Let's take a closer look at their defenses.

First, let'd get the Selectric out of the way. The Selectric only printed mono-spaced fonts so it doesn't matter what tricks were possible to get the raised "th" to print. The Selectric Composer could have done it but it was difficult to use. No one would willingly type memos on it and, since the memos had different dates, you cannot speculate that the regular typewriter was broken or other unusual events.

So what are we left with?

IBM offered proportional font typewriters as early as the 1948 under their "Executive" line.

It was possible to order these with "th" keys. This was a special order but not unusual.

The Executive might have offered a Times New Roman font. So far no one has come up with an example of this that I know of.

So it is possible but unlikely that Killian might have owned a typewriter capable of creating such a memo.

Let's look closer.

The typewriter linked above has three fonts: Bold, Secretarial, and Mid-Century. Bold looks a lot like Times Roman but it is impossible to say from the tiny sample shown how close they actually are.

I made a survey of some of the more prominent left-leaning blogs. The Daily KOS goes into the most detail. He addresses Little Green Footballs directly.

What he then discovered is that Times New Roman typeface is, when viewed on
a computer monitor, really, really similar to Times New Roman typeface. Or
rather, really really similar to a typeface that is similar to Times New Roman

Um, OK then.

You see, a "typeface" doesn't just consist of the shape of the letters.
It also is a set of rules about the size of the letters in different point
sizes, the width of those letters, and the spacing between them. These are
all designed in as part of the font, by the designer. Since Microsoft Word
was designed to include popular and very-long-used typefaces, it is hardly a
surprise that those typefaces, in Microsoft Word, would look similar to, er,
themselves, on a typewriter or other publishing device. That's the point
of typefaces; to have a uniform look across all publishing devices. To
look the same. You could use the same typeface in, for example,
OpenOffice, and if it's the same font, surprise-surprise, it will look the

KOS does not have a lot of experience with exacting word processing. I do so here are my observations.

It used to be that a font was the physical set of print slugs used or the mold that they came from. There were no "rules". Each letter printed according to the size of the slug.

When this was transferred to computers, programmers came up with ways of describing fonts so that they would look like the real thing. This includes enough information to reproduce the font no matter the medium. A font should come out looking about the same if you see it on a CRT or flatscreen display or printed on a 300x300 dpi (Dots Per Inch) laser printer or a 300x600 dpi ink jet printer or even a 180x160 dot matrix printer. The software that does this is known as the rendering agent.

Different rendering agents will produce different results. If you take the same text and font and print it with Notepad, Wordpad and MS Word, you will get different results because they go through different rendering agents. The lines will be slightly different lengths. This has caused problems for me when clients upgrade their print driver and complain that they letters they created no longer line up right.

It is an amazing stretch that the rendering agent for MS Word would line up so exactly with a typewriter. Remember, the Microsoft font is very similar to Times New Roman but it is not identical (this is so they can avoid paying royalties). IBM's bold font was created the same way. There is no reason for the two to have exactly identical spacing.

Add it all up and the odds of the memos being genuine are probably in the million to one range.

It would be different if CBS could produce the originals and let independent experts examine them. Laser and ink jet printers spray on their ink as tiny dots. Typewriters hit a solid slug against an inked ribbon or a piece of mylar covered with carbon. Typewriters leave an impression that can be felt. Computers do not.

Where did these documents come from anyway and why are they such poor copies?

Powerline has its own answers to the Daily KOS. He points out that the CBS document also has kerning (moving letters left or right tiny amounts to make words look better). Typewriters do not do this.

He also points out that Killian's wife and son think that the documents are forged and insist that he never kept personal files like these. (The far-left says that "they got to the widow and son.")

So, it is unlikely that the documents are what they say they are. What else do we know?

There are the above-mentioned denials by the widow and son. There are other documents written by Killian that praise Bush. In fact, there is no supporting written evidence.

Dan Rather has personally vouched for the documents. His reputation is on the line.

A Democratic pollster says that:

...If documents aired by CBS newsman Dan Rather Wednesday night turn out to be forged, as alleged by experts, the presidential race "is over."

"It would be the end of the race," Caddell told Fox News Live. "It would be the end of the race," he repeated.

Are things that dire? Even if the Kerry campaign gave the documents to Rather which is the rumor (the link is down after Drudge posted it), it is not enough to sink the Kerry campaign. There are still 50+ days to the election. Plenty of time for Kerry to sink on his own.

Can he do it?

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