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September 09, 2004

The Forgeries (?): Conspiring Coincidences or Enemy Action?

Goldfinger told Bond, "Mr. Bond, we have a saying in Chicago. The first time is happenstance. The second time is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."

Goldfinger's "Rule of Three Strange Events Makes Enemy Action" has never been scientifically proven, of course. But it seems like a good rule of thumb to me.

The documents in question have three odd features.

They're variable-spaced, something that was available on some hard-to-work with typewriters, but is of course common in word processors/inkjet printers.

They have "smart quotes" -- quotes that angle the right way, rather than the straight up-and-down dumb-quotes found on typewriters. Again, this is something word processors do (using a simple program for trying to figure out which way the quote should slant), but typewriters do not.

Yes, a special typewriter could be built featuring both forwards and backwards-leaning quotes, and yes, a typist could train himself when to use one or the other.

This is possible.

It is, however, unlikely.

The document also features small superscripted "th's" after numbers, like 187th. That is something that word processors do automatically when they see a "th" or "st" or "rd" or "nd" following a number. But typewriters don't do this. Again, one could put special font faces on a typewriter's ball -- a superscripted "st," "nd," "rd," and "th" -- and the typist could manually select these characters when called for.

But who the hell has ever done this? My guess -- no one, ever, except perhaps for typist-tinkerers and engineers working for IBM and Brother.

Now, one can say, for each of these objections, some typerwriter out there could have done all this. But it seems astonishingly unlikely that a military man would go to this effort to build himself a typewriter that so closely mimics typeset.

So: Do we have here a military man who had some inordinate lust for creating typeset-perfect pages?

Or do we have something much simpler-- a modern computer word-processing program which automatically does all these cool things?

Which of those is the more likely?

Check out, once again, Little Green Football's demonstration of what the "document" looks like when typed up in MS Word 97. It's astonishingly similar, no?

Where exactly did Dan Rather get these documents from?

Could his source have been, by any chance, a Democratic politician with a shady past -- involved in a bribery and stock fraud scandal in the 70's -- who shares the same initials as Barry Bonds?

The penultimate chapter of Goldfinger, incidentally, is titled "The Last Trick," if the James-Bond-trivia lobe of my brain isn't deceiving me.

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posted by Ace at 03:36 PM

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