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September 09, 2004

The Ace of Spades Forged-Documents Recap

A lot of information has been unearthed today. I can't contribute anything new, so at least I'll try my hand at recapping where the forgery-scandal now stands. Most of you probably get all of this, but I'll try to explain mono-spaced fonts and smart ordinals for those who've never played around with their computers' AutoCorrect and fonts.

The documents in question were "discovered" by CBSNews and relied upon for this report suggesting that Bush "discussed his options" for getting out of drilling, that Bush's evaluations were "sugar coated" due to political pressure, and that he was specifically ordered to appear for a medical evaluation, which he did not.

The problem is that these documents, relied upon Dan Rather for making serious charges against Bush, appear to be forgeries.

There are four main reasons to suspect forgery:

1) The font used in the documents appears to be Times New Roman, a newer font not available in 1972 (but usually the standard, default font for most modern word-processing programs).

2) The typing on the documents is variably-spaced, rather than mono-spaced.

Mono-spaced fonts -- the sort normally found on mechanical or electric typewriters -- use the exact same spacing between all letters, no matter how fat or how slender. An "i" gets the same spacing as an "m." That's why typewritten documents look less professional than typeset pages that you might find on a book (or documents produced on a word-processor).

Typesetters and word-processors space characters at a variable width depending on the fatness or slimness of the character. The font you're reading right now, for example, is variably spaced.

One of the few fonts on your computer that is mono-spaced is Courier. A sentence written in this font looks like this:

Pay special attention to both the length of this sentence as well as the specific distances between characters of varying fatness.

On the the other hand, normal computer-created text looks like this:

Pay special attention to both the length of this sentence as well as the specific distances between characters of varying fatness.

Now those are different fonts, of course, but they are the same size or "pitch." The characters are similarly sized; it's the spacing that's different.

You can do this on your own computer; just compare sentences written in mono-spaced Courier to sentences written in Times New Roman. Quite a difference-- a screenplay or manuscript written in Courier (the standard font for both scripts and manuscripts) will be around 25-30% longer than the exact same work written in Times New Roman.

I know. I've done both.

Now, here's the problem: Conventional typewriters always use mono-spacing, no matter what the font, because the mechanics of the thing dictate that the ball moves a set distance after each character. There is no computer algorithm determining the correct distance until the next character, as in a word-processing program.

While there were some typewriters available that did type in proportionally-spaced characters, they were fairly rare, used for high-end documents, expensive, and requiring special training to use. It seems unlikely that a military man would be using such a high-end typewriter to compose routine memos and orders.

3) The documents use "smart quotes." Smart quotes are angled quotes. Your word-processor types in smart-quotes, using a simple program to determine whether a quote should be an opening-quote (slanting from left at the top to right at the bottom) or an ending-quote (slanting from right at the top to left at the bottom).

Dumb quotes just go straight up and down. The quote at the beginning of quoted language looks exactly like the quote at the end of that language.

The quotes and single-quotes in this post seem to be dumb, so you'll have to check your computer to see what I'm talking about.

If you want to see the difference, type a sentence using quotes and contractions. You'll see that the computer usually guesses correctly which quotes and single-quotes (or "pop marks") should be opening and which should be closing.

Now, go into your AutoCorrect feature. Different programs use different terminology, but try using your help feature. Ask the question, "How do I turn off smart quotes"? Follow the directions and type the same sentence again. You'll now see all of your quotes go straight up and down, no matter where they are in the sentence.

Manual typerwriters of course had only dumb-quotes. Standard keyboards only have the one button for both double- and single- quotes; there is simply no place on a conventional keyboard for both opening and closing quotes (and single-quotes).

Now, a typewriter could have been built that had both, but that would seem a custom-job, and furthermore the secretary or person writing a document would always have to decide, consciously, between the opening and closing quote-- no computer program would be figuring that out for him, of course.

So why on earth does "typewritten document" feature not one but two uses of a correctly-angled smart single-quote?

4) Finally, the same document features a superscripted, small-size "th" following the number 187, as in 187th. Once again, this is a "smart feature" which computer word-processors do automatically, but which manual or electric typewriters do not.

Your word-processing program looks for instances where you write "st," "nd," "rd," or "th" after a number, as in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (or 187th). When your program finds such an instance, it realizes it's an ordinal number, and puts the two-character "st" or "th" into smaller-font, superscripted (above the line). (Note that Moveable Type, which you're reading right now, does not use smart ordinals, so you'll have to compare on your own computer.)

Again, this is a computer word-processor feature-- not a typewriter feature. I typed on regular typewriters as a kid, and I have never seen special buttons for these special double-characters. Furthermore, even if these characters were available on some special typewriter, the user would have to consciously train himself to strike the special key rather than just writing 187th with the normal keys.

It actually gets a little worse. The easy (and stupid) way to defeat your computer's determination to put "st" into a small-font superscript is to insert a space between the number and the st; your computer then won't read the two as part as one ordinal, and will just leave the characters as "1 st."

In this document, that appears to be precisely what the forger did to avoid that suspiciously superscripted st. Compare the "st" there to "th" here.

Is it mere coincidence that these "typewritten documents" seem to superscript or not superscript ordinals just as modern computer word-processor would?

We are therefore confronted with documents that have four characteristics not associated with standard typewriters -- a modern Times New Roman font, proportional spacing, smart quotes, and smart ordinals.

However, all four characteristics are available, by default, on computer word processors.

The evidence strongly suggests that these "1972" memos were in fact written sometime in the late ninteties or even in the past year.

Add to this one bit of circumstantial evidence: The Dan Rather Factor.

In his legendary book on the 1972 presidential campaign The Boys on the Bus, author Timothy Crouse relayed how many of Rather's rivals on the White House beat resented him for his gung-ho approach to the facts.

"Rather often adhered to the 'informed sources' or 'the White House announced today' formulas, but he was famous in the trade for the times when he bypassed these formulas and 'winged it' on a story. Rather would go with an item even if he didn't have it completely nailed down with verifiable facts. If a rumor sounded solid to him, if he believed it in his gut or had gotten it from a man who struck him as honest, he would let it rip. The other White House reporters hated Rather for this. They knew exactly why he got away with it: being handsome as a cowboy, Rather was a star on CBS News, and that gave him the clout he needed. They could quote all his lapses from fact, like the three times he had Ellsworth Bunker resigning, the two occasions on which he announced that J. Edgar Hoover would step down, or the time he incorrectly predicted that Nixon was about to veto an education bill."

Windows 65?: Right on Red wants to know where Mr. Killian got his cool-ass time-travelling word-processor.

Ooops, I forgot about this: Check out "the typewritten document from 1972" and the same text written on MS Word half an hour ago. And then check out one overlaid on the other.

Forgive my blasphemy, but Oh My God.

They have destroyed themselves.

They have destroyed themselves.

digg this
posted by Ace at 06:01 PM

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