Politics: September 2004 Archives

Conservative Karol has a conversation with the liberal Dawn Summers about Kerry's strategy for the rest of the campaign. The punch line is precious, and I would spoil it if I post even an excerpt here, so just go read it for yourself.

Wictory Wednesday: Alaska


BatesLine is now a part of the Wictory Wednesday effort, a weekly spotlight on a Republican candidate in a key Senate race, hosted by dozens of blogs.

The spotlight race this week is in Alaska, where incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Republican nominee, is up against Democrat Governor Tony Knowles. This race is currently rated by most observers as a toss-up. Here's what PoliPundit has to say about the race. The scenario will sound very familiar to Oklahomans:

In Alaska, incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is locked in a tight race with former Democrat Governor Tony Knowles. The race is tight only because Knowles claims to be a “moderate.” You know what that means, don’t you? If he gets to the Senate, he’ll raise your taxes, cut defense spending, block President Bush’s judicial nominations, hug Michael Moore, and run for re-election every 6 years as a “moderate.”

Don’t let this happen! We don’t need one more “moderate” Democrat in the US Senate for the next 30 years. You can help Murkowski by donating to her campaign today.

After the jump is the list of blogs participating in Wictory Wednesdays. If you're a blogger and would like to join in, e-mail PoliPundit (a prolific political blogger) at wictory@blogsforbush.com.

Find the forger


A reader calls my attention to William Safire's latest New York Times column, in which Safire points out that the forged Texas Air National Guard documents which were used by Dan Rather as the basis for a "60 Minutes II" story aren't just a dirty trick, they constitute a felony violation of Federal law, namely:

Whoever, having devised any scheme or artifice to defraud transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. " U.S. Criminal Code, Chapter 63, Section 1343.

Pointing us back to the "third-rate burglary" at the Watergate back in 1972, Safire says that we must not be satisfied with the political fallout -- like the Watergate burglary, this appears to be a violation of the law in an attempt to influence the outcome of a presidential election:

What should CBS do now? First, release Rather's interview with Burkett in its entirety; viewers are entitled to the outtakes now. Next, let Mary Mapes, at the center of all this, speak to reporters. Third, expend some Viacom resources to track down the possible original sources, including the man whose name Burkett says he "threw out" to mislead CBS.

Appointing independent reviewers should not be a device to duck all others' questions; that's Kofi Annan's trick to stonewall his oil-for-food scandal. But lacking the power of a grand jury's subpoena or testimony under oath, victimized CBS cannot put real heat on the perpetrator or conspirators. We have hard evidence of crimes by low-level operatives here - from wire fraud to forgery - as well as the potential of high-level political involvement. Is no prosecutor prepared to enforce the law?

Conservatives should stop slavering over Dan Rather's scalp, and liberals should stop pretending that noble ends justify fake-evidence means. Both should focus on the lesson of the early 70's: from third-rate burglaries to fourth-rate forgeries, nobody gets away with trying to corrupt American elections.

Who would investigate and prosecute such a crime? As a violation of federal law, it would come under the Department of Justice, through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U. S. Attorney's office. Charges would probably be brought in Texas, whence the forged documents were faxed. Congress couldn't do anything directly in this case, although they could bring some political pressure to bear on the Department of Justice to pursue the matter. A note to your congressman would be a way to ensure that the matter isn't ignored.

What's the difference?


An interesting point from Roger L. Simon:

What Do the UN and CBS Have in Common?

They are both conducting internal investigations - the UN of Oil-for-Food and CBS of Rathergate.

Second question: What's the difference between an "internal investigation" and a "cover up"?

Electoral vote projections


There are a couple of fascinating web efforts to track the polls in individual states, in order to put together a clearer picture of the presidential election as it is actually conducted, not as a single nationwide race, but as 53 separate contests. (That's 49 winner-take-all states, plus the District of Columbia, plus the state of Maine, where separate elections for elector are conducted in the state's two congressional districts, and two at-large electors awarded to the statewide winner.)

The Electoral Vote Predictor updates the electoral map daily with new state poll results. The "Votemaster" (I can't find anywhere on the site where he identifies himself) admits to being a Kerry supporter, but he seems pretty scrupulous about sticking with hard data. Right now he has Bush at 327, Kerry at 211.

The daily update includes analysis of the day's new polls, plus a lot of intelligent discussion of the challenges faced by pollsters, like today's update which deals with the impact of the increasing use of cell phones on phone polling. If you want to play around with the numbers yourself, you can download the raw data in Excel format. There's even a way to look only at the polls done by a particular pollster.

And the Votemaster has a projection of how the votes will come out on November 2nd, using linear regression to predict the outcome in each state. He cautions that the data is still pretty "noisy" and won't be very useful until October. At the moment, his model has Bush at 315, Kerry at 172, with 51 votes in states (New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico) that are projected to be exact ties. Again it's early, and his projection has Kerry winning Tennessee.

This site is an example of what the Internet can do so much better than the traditional news media -- provide a quick overview if that's all you want, but allow you to drill down as deep as you care to.

Election Projection is another site devoted to tracking individual state polls. Scott Elliott, the self-styled Blogging Caesar, is an unabashed Bush supporter. He updates his site's projection once a week, but you can subscribe to a daily update for $40. He also posts regularly to a blog on his homepage.

Electoral Vote Predictor links to a fascinating page on the comprehensive political website Politics1 which shows the ballot access status of all minor party candidates. Oklahoma has only one possible minor party ticket -- the Libertarians, if they win their court challenge to Oklahoma's very stringent ballot access law. The list of every known major and minor party and its nominees, with links to more detailed bios and analysis can be found here. The bottom of that page has links to many other useful and interesting political resources on the web.

I should also mention the site of University of Virginia polisci prof Larry Sabato, which covers races for Governor, Senate, and House, as well as the presidential election map.

And I can't close an entry on politics without reminding you of one of my daily reads: SoonerPolitics.com, by OU polisci professor Keith Gaddie. He is overseas and hasn't been updating lately, but if you haven't visited before, it's worth reading back through his archives.

Fake memos came from Abilene Kinkos


Kevin McCullough has done some digging and may have a lead on the forger. The suspect is one Bill Burkett. And Scott Sala has some perspective from his time working for Kinkos, and links to other stories.

Meanwhile, Tim Blair sympathizes with Dan Rather's lament:

Life is so unfair. Dan tries to bring down a President with some fake documents, and all these stupid people want to do is talk about the fake documents when the real story is the crucial information contained ... in the fake documents.

Bill Dyer, a Texas attorney who once defended CBS against a libel suit, says that Dan Rather and CBS are no longer victims of fraud in the Memogate case but have become complicit in fraud:

On Thursday, September 9th, I wrote a post entitled, "Burden now on CBS to authenticate its documents lest it become a co-conspirator in fraud."

In hindsight, I was clearly wrong.

I gave CBS News and Dan Rather the benefit of the doubt — the presumption that they did not know the Killian memos were forgeries when they ran their hit piece on "60 Minutes II" on the previous evening. I argued that because of the doubts immediately raised about the authenticity of the memos, CBS ran the risk of becoming a co-conspirator in the fraud perpetrated by whoever forged them.

But Dan Rather and CBS News had become co-conspirators by the time of their broadcast. ABC News has revealed that two of the experts whom CBS News consulted before running the broadcast — Emily Will from North Carolina and Linda James of Plano, Texas — could not and would not authenticate the fraudulent Killian memos, and expressly told CBS that. ...

Dan Rather and everyone else at CBS News who had direct managerial authority over, and supervisory involvement in, the production of last Wednesday night's "60 Minutes II" broadcast about the Killian memos must be fired. Not retired. Not pensioned off. Not allowed to resign. Not given 30 days' or even three days' notice.

They must be fired — instantly, effective immediately, "for cause" and "with prejudice," forfeiting all unvested future benefits from their employment. They should be escorted by security personnel from the building, with their belongings sent to them in due course after they've been screened for relevant evidence. All of their computers, files, and other items of potential evidentiary value must be segregated immediately and secured under lock and key with a tight and explicit chain of custody. There must be no spoliation of evidence permitted.

This must be done publicly — before the close of business on Wednesday, September 15, 2004, and preferably before noon.

If it's not, then the executives who failed to do the firings should be fired before the close of business on Thursday, September 16, 2004.

He also calls for Congressional investigations. I have serious doubts about this, because of First Amendment concerns, and because it would recast the issue as a partisan squabble and take the focus off of CBS's credibility. There are remedies for fraud, and there is always the power of the free market to discipline any wrongdoing.

You'll find thorough detail and rationale on Bill Dyer's website. Hat tip to Charles G. Hill for the link.

Catch me in two days


Robin Juhl had the great idea of contacting Frank Abagnale, world's foremost expert on forgery and embezzlement, to ask his opinion on the alleged Texas Air National Guard memos presented by Dan Rather on CBS's 60 Minutes II. Abagnale's early career as a forger and embezzler was the subject of the movie, "Catch Me If You Can". The reply from Abagnale's firm contained this tidbit:

I can tell you that [Abagnale] sent an e-mail to Neil Cavuto of Your World on Fox News Network (he knows him personally) that stated: "If my forgeries looked as bad as the CBS documents, it would have been "Catch Me In Two Days".

(Hat tip to Little Green Footballs for the link.)

Blogs bust CBS


I'm enough of a contrarian to resist writing about something just because everyone else is. And I'm lazy enough and busy enough not to want to duplicate what others are handling in such a thorough fashion.

But I feel like I've been neglecting my responsibilities to you, dear reader, by not saying anything about this huge story that has been dominating the blogosphere since the middle of last week, and has now made the leap into print and broadcast media. At least a part of my readership comes straight to this site and perhaps never ventures beyond, despite the long blogroll on the right-hand side of the home page.

In a nutshell: CBS's "60 Minutes II" presented what it alleged were memos written in 1972 and 1973 by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, George W. Bush's superior, in the Texas Air National Guard, suggesting that pressure was applied to give Bush a more favorable evaluation than he deserved.

Some noticed that the memos had some odd features for documents banged out on a typewriter over 30 years ago -- a proportional-spaced font, unusual in typewriters, was the first clue that something was amiss. Then someone noticed a superscript 'th' in an ordinal number and curly single quotes, instead of straight apostrophes -- the sort of thing that happens automatically when typing a document in newer versions of Microsoft Word. Closer examination revealed that the vertical pitch (distance between lines) matched the default in Microsoft Word, but couldn't be produced by a typewriter.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs went so far as to open up Microsoft Word, and without changing the margins, tabs, font, font size, or any other setting, he typed one of the memos and found that everything lined up perfectly with the document CBS claimed was an authentic typewritten 1973 memo.

There's a lot more to the story. Some defended authenticity of the memos by trying to come up with scenarios under which such a memo could have been produced in the early '70s. In response, people who worked with early printer and word processor technology, forensic document analysts, and other experts came forward to answer speculation with the reality of the technology of the time. Bloggers provided a focal point for relaying expert testimony. doing original research, and exposing contradictions.

I encourage you to dig into the details. Here are some places to start:

The New York Sun has a story on how this story developed and the role played by blogs.

Power Line has been all over the story from the beginning. And there's some great analysis as well, such as this item about the apparently new willingness of the mainstream media (MSM) to sacrifice its credibility for political ends:

So we have entered a new era. We now know that our richest and most powerful news organizations are willing to blow themselves up--to destroy their own credibility, once considered a news organization's most precious possession--to achieve a political goal. The landscape will never look quite the same again. Those of us who still value truth must look at the mainstream media in a new, more skeptical and critical way, taking nothing for granted. Because, like suicide bombers, the mainstream news organs will go farther to achieve their political goals than we ever imagined.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has a summary of all of his entries on the memo scandal to that point, although he has since posted more.

Bill of INDC Journal sought out a forensic document examiner, Dr. Philip Bouffard, to render an opinion on the likelihood that the documents were authentic.

AllahPundit has a plethora of links, commentary, and detail.

Hugh Hewitt has been all over this. And John Fund summarizes the story in the Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Joseph M. Newcomer, an expert in electronic typesetting since its advent in the '70s, came forward with a detailed analysis of the memos, with everything you could want to know about fonts and spacing.

Old-media op-ed titan William Safire weighs in here (registration required).

On the lighter side, Scott Ott has uncovered a suspicious 1972 e-mail, and Frank J. thinks he's discovered another forgery.

And a friend sends along a link to a Shockwave animation that puts the whole thing in a nutshell.

Tragedy of the Bunnies

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Ever tried to explain the important socio-political concept of the Tragedy of the Commons to your toddler? The Internet comes to the rescue with a Macromedia Flash game called the "Tragedy of the Bunnies". When all the bunnies are owned in common, the bunnies all get caught and sold in the first round, because it's in everyone's interest to grab as many as they can, while they can, without regard for the future. Then there aren't any bunnies When everyone has a number of privately owned bunnies, protected against bunny-thieves, each bunny farmer has an incentive to sell a few, but keep most around to multiply.

Hat tip to Iain Murray for the link.

Another Democrat for Bush


Dan and Angi (who have Something to Say) call our attention to an essay by another Democrat who is not only endorsing George W. Bush for re-election, but also endorsing a continued Republican majority in Congress (and citing conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in his rationale). The Democrat in question is science fiction writer Orson Scott Card:

Now, as a Democrat, what can I say to that except that, because my party has been taken over by an astonishingly self-destructive bunch of lunatics who are so dazzled by Hollywood that they think their ideas make sense, I have to agree that right now, any President but Bush and any Congress but a Republican-dominated one would be disastrous.

As a Democrat, I would hope that a solid trouncing of our fanatic-ruled party at the polls this November would serve as a wakeup call and remind Democrats that they only get to do the things that the Democrat Party exists to do if they get enough votes to control the White House and Congress. Which requires that you have serious candidates and embrace serious issues that most Americans, not just tiny pressure groups, care about.

Card goes on to make an interesting point about machine politics at the local level, and why he won't be voting straight party Republican all the way down the line:

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from September 2004.

Politics: August 2004 is the previous archive.

Politics: October 2004 is the next archive.

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