ChuckB's blog

'El Pais' apologizes for its WTC ad

Barcepundit has the story, and Southern Watch has a translation.

'El Pais' Ad Trashes Memory Of 9/11

Southern Watch points out an ad for the Spanish newspaper El Pais. It shows two views of the Manhattan skyline: one with the WTC towers, and one without. The caption:

Un día para mucho. Imaginese lo que puede suceder en tres meses.

I leave the translation as an exercise for the reader.

Two liberal bloggers deconstruct the assault weapons ban

Matthew Yglesias:

The crux of the issue, however, is this. "Assault weapon" does not denote a natural kind. There is not, in other words, some clear definition of what is and is not an assault weapon by which we can tell whether or not some novel firearm fits the criteria. Instead, the ban is on a fairly ad hoc collection of firearms. This has the benefit of maintaining the legality of a variety of widely used long guns, but it comes at the cost of making the ban entirely pointless. Slight alterations to banned guns rendered them legal, or people can substitute a similar, but legal, model for a banned one. ...

Fundamentally, crime control would be much better served by stepping away from this sensational, but ultimately unimportant, corner of the gun regulation universe. The main bit of federal gun regulation right now is aimed at the notion that there are certain classes of persons -- in particular, convicted felons -- who should not be allowed to own firearms. The logic behind this is very clear. At the end of the day, I'd feel much safer standing next to a law-abiding citizens [sic] carrying an assault weapon than to a recently recently felon holding some other more menacing sort of gun. If you keep "assault weapons," and pistols, and hunting rifles, and whatever other kind of firearm you care to name out of the hands of criminals, you'll have accomplished the vast majority of what gun regulation can achieve on the crime control front. (Probably not a great deal, incidentally, but that's another story).

Commenting on Yglesias's post, Mark Kleiman writes:

Matt Yglesias thinks the assault weapons ban is silly, bad politics, and irrelevant to crime control. He goes on to say that "gun control" focused on weapons, rather than on individuals, is likely to be a mistake both substantively and politically. ...

I entirely agree with the latter point. The evidence that crime can be prevented by restricting weapons availability to those without prior criminal histories simply isn't there. (That even applies to concealed-carry permits.) [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

Yglesias also has a follow-up post on the relative merits of further efforts to control crime versus efforts to mend the healthcare system.

Die Welt: Syria tests chemical weapons on Sudanese

Captain Ed points to a Channel NewsAsia report on an article appearing in the German daily Die Welt, claiming that western intelligence services have evidence that Syria tested its chemical weapons on Sudanese living in the Darfur region, as part of Syrian-Sudanese cooperation in chemical warfare. Here is my translation of the article.

UPDATE: Expatica has a story in which German intelligence sources apparently express skepticism about the reports, saying they know nothing about such reports.


Syria tests chemical weapons on Sudanese
Intelligence services: dozens of victims

by Jacques Schuster
[translated by Chuck Bearden]

Berlin - Syrian units employed chemical weapons against the black African population of Darfur in June of this year. The action, in which dozens of people were killed, was carried out with the agreement of the Sudanese government. Western intelligence services have reached this conclusion. They are supported by eyewitness reports that have been published in various Arab media outlets.

According to the documents of western intelligence agencies in possession of die Welt, Syrian officers met in May of this year with representatives of the Sudanese army in a suburb of Khartoum. Their conversations dealt with how to expand military cooperation. According to intelligence information, the Syrian delegation offered Sudan closer cooperation with respect to chemical warfare. According to the sources, it was suggested that the effects of chemical weapons be investigated on rebels of the Sudan People's Libaration Army (SPLA). Because Khartoum was engaged in peace negotiations with the rebels in May, the Sudanese delegation apparently recommended testing the weapons on the black African population. To that end, at least five airplanes of the Syrian civilian airline Syrian Arab Airlines flew from Damascus to Khartoum, carrying specialists from the Syrian academy for chemical warfare with technical equipment on board.

It cannot be precisely determined when the use [of the chemical weapons] in Darfur began. However, in an article on the Arabic website "Ilaf" from August 2, Sudanese eyewitnesses tell of strange goings-on in Khartoum's Al-Fashr Hospital. In June, dozens of frozen corpses were quite suddenly brought to the hospital. They displayed mysterious injuries over their whole bodies. After a short time, Sudanese soldiers blocked off a wing of the hospital. If one is to believe the witnesses, access was thereafter permitted only to an unknown team of Syrian doctors. After [some] days, Sudanese forces removed the bodies.

Military experts have for some time possessed information about Sudanese-Syrian cooperation in the area of chemical weapons research. Reports continue to surface from Syrian opposition figures of chemical weapons tests on prisoners.

Article appeared on Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Rather's story is crumbling

Story in the WaPo: Expert Cited by CBS Says He Didn't Authenticate Papers.

The story starts off:

The lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush's former squadron commander in the National Guard said yesterday that he examined only the late officer's signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.

"There's no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them," Marcel Matley said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. The main reason, he said, is that they are "copies" that are "far removed" from the originals.

The story, which seems based on sound reporting, cites three classes of evidence that tell against the memos:

  1. Apparent use of word processing techniques in the CBS memos, as distinct from the clearly typewritten nature of the other Bush TexANG documents;
  2. Factual errors (e.g. incorrect address for Bush in one memo);
  3. Stylistic differences (abbreviations and other stylistic elements inconsistent with military guidelines, and with known genuine memos).

The one expert noted by the story as supporing CBS & Rather, Bill Glennon, contends that "IBM electric typewriters in use in 1972 could produce superscripts and proportional spacing similar to those used in the disputed documents." Note that this is a weak claim. In order to support the claim of the documents' authenticity, it must be shown that a typewriter of that era could produce a memo that matches the CBS documents at least as closely as the efforts to mimic them in Word (e.g. see here).

Here is another, more specific claim on the other side:

Thomas Phinney, program manager for fonts for the Adobe company in Seattle, which helped to develop the modern Times New Roman font, disputed Glennon's statement to CBS. He said "fairly extensive testing" had convinced him that the fonts and formatting used in the CBS documents could not have been produced by the most sophisticated IBM typewriters in use in 1972, including the Selectric and the Executive. He said the two systems used fonts of different widths.

Let's see how this pans out.

Just one man's opinion

Joseph Newcomer, who describes himself as "one of the pioneers of electronic typesetting":

Profiles in courage

Eamonn Fitzgerald, daily Irish blogger living in Munich, reminds us of what people who take the initiative in the face of unexpected events can accomplish.

I pray to God that I will have such presence of mind and courage as the passengers of United flight 93 demonstrated on 9/11/2001, should I find myself in an analogous situation.

Dan Rather defends himself

NY Post editorial on Dan Rather's on-air defense of the memos he used in his 60 Minutes show on Bush's alleged preferential treatment in getting into the National Guard. Here's a good bit on Rather's use of experts:

Rather did interview a handwriting specialist, Marcel Matley--who asserted the signatures were real, but who never addressed the possibility that a genuine signature could have been scanned into a computer to produce a forgery.

Nor did Rather ask him about that.

Matley was, however, the sole "expert" to appear last night. Nobody else lent a name--or reputation--to substantiate the original CBS report.

This was consistent with CBS' steadfast refusal since Wednesday to disclose the names of experts it said had verified the documents' authenticity.

Here's the deal: when serious questions are raised about the genuineness of the evidence used to back up a claim, Rather's/CBS's answer is "Take our word for it! You don't need to verify. You don't need to know the names or qualifications of the experts we used. Our word should be good enough for you." If Rather were a scientist defending his research, this approach would be tantamount to denying the need for his results to be repeatable in order to be considered valid

(Above links via Wizbang. These links are not offered an argument against his qualifications (although an examination of his CV bear on them)).

Typography expert Bouffard: The Boston Globe misquoted me

In an article titled "Authenticity backed on Bush documents", Boston Globe reporters Francie Latour and Michael Rezendes report that they interviewed forensic document examiner Philip Bouffard, who concluded that the documents could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer of that time.

However, Bouffard claims in an interview with INDC Journal that the Boston Globe reporters misquoted him:

Ben Barnes's Daughter: Dad Lied

Ben Barnes is the former Texas House Speaker who claimed on 60 Minutes to have helped W get a spot in the Texas National Guard at the request of a friend of the Bush family. Many also believe him to be the source of the documents used by Dan Rather in the 60 Minutes story.

Pro-war left: Harry's Place

One of the odd things about the complex of events arising out of 9/11 is that there have been a number of "defections" from the standard left anti-American and anti-war camps. A good example of this in the blog world is Harry's Place. Harry and his co-conspirators are pretty clearly socialist and social democratic in their politics, as you can see from this and this posting. Yet they also object strenuously to what they call "the unconscionable, knee-jerk anti-Americanism that characterizes much of what passes for political debate in Euro-centric circles these past 36 months." One of today's posts on their blog is titled Letter from America, and it contains the text of Alistair Cooke's letter from America from December 2002. Here is the conclusion of that letter:

And so thus in a speech at Harvard General Marshall came to plead for the rescue of Europe from hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.

An unwilling Congress - scared of the huge, conquering Soviet army and its threat to western Europe - was barely convinced by passionate testimony from Dean Acheson.

General Marshall followed. He was a dull, monotonous speaker - an unheroic, middle-sized, stolid, plain soldier.

But what won them over to vote a staggering $13bn investment was simply his presence. It was the presence of character.

I don't believe there's a statue of General Marshall in Europe.

There ought to be as a reminder of the American aim to restore the fabric of European life, of its giving Europe 50 years of peace in which to go it alone, to become prosperous, to forge a common economy and in other ways to be free to challenge and even despise its old benefactor across the ocean.

Aftenposten (Norwegian newspaper) covers the forgery story

Instapundit points to an article in the Aftenposten (big Norwegian daily). Here's my translation of it from the Norwegian. Corrections and suggestions to improve the translation are welcome.


"Bush documents may be fakes"

The 32-year-old documents that were used on the TV program "60 Minutes" to show that George W. Bush refused to carry out orders while he was in the National Guard may turn out to be fakes. That is the opinion of typography experts.

Erik Tornes [by-line]

On Wednesday's edition of "60 Minutes", documents from 1972 were used to support allegations that President Bush had received help to get into the National Guard, which was considered a way to avoid the Vietnam War. The documents also assert that Bush refused to undergo the annual physical test that was necessary to maintain one's status as a pilot.

There was speculation Thursday on many websites that the documents could be fakes. The writing in the documents that "60 Minutes" says are authentic is very similar to the writing you get when you type in the same text with the font (typeface) Times New Roman in Microsoft Word.

Three typographic experts tell CNSNews that they are skeptical about the documents, among other reasons because it uses a proportional font, which was not common at the beginning of the 1970s. Furthermore, there are characteristics in the documents that one can also find in Microsoft Word [sic the style].

None of the three experts could tell directly which font was used in the documents from 1972 or 1973. None of them could conclude that the documents were falsified--or that they were genuine.

But Allan Haley at Agfa Monotype in Wilmington told CNS that "it was highly unusual for an organization, even the Air Force, to have proportional fonts".

In one of the documents, a raised font is used for the letters "th" ("111th F.I.S"). All three of the typographical experts took note of that.

"That wouldn't likely have been possible with a typewriter (...) from that time", says John Collins, vice president at Bitstream, Inc.

"It is extremely surprising to see a letter with that date (May 4, 1972) with that kind of typography. There is no doubt that it is surprising. Does that cause you to conclude that it is a fake? No. But it does make you raise your eyebrows", says Collins.

The experts allow that the documents could have been written on a type of IBM typewriter that came onto the market in the first half of the 1970s.

"They had proportional fonts. But they weren't very widespread", says Haley, who adds that he has some doubt as to whether it would have been possible to get raised letters [superscript] on that typewriter, as it was done withe letters "th".

The man who signed the documents, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, is dead. "60 Mintues" has not revealed how they came into possession of the documents, but the program says that they have been in contact with a writing expert and a document expert who believe that the documents are genuine.

[Note: it's not clear if the "writing expert" mentioned in the final paragraph is a handwriting expert or a typography expert.]



The debate rages on the Internet as to whether or not the documents used by "60 Minutes" are genuine. This is a facsimile from the website

More forgeries?

Are these real or fake? I just don't know what to think any more.

How forgeries like this get their start

Now that it's seeming more and more likely that the documents on W's National Guard service aired on 60 Minutes were faked, we have to ask how this kind of thing could happen.

Fortunately, Kevin at Wizbang! is on the case. Look here for the results of his investigation.

Moderate, measured opinion

From the list of comments on a Matthew Yglesias post on Arnold's childhood experiences:

What Schwarzenegger really means, as all Republicans mean when they raise the spector of Socialism, is that they will abolish the I.R.S., defund Medicare and, generally speaking, destroy our government because they don't want to pay taxes.

Bush back Blair, snubs Tories

I'm not posting the following for any partisan reason--in fact, I'm not sure that it reflects all that well on the White House. I just think it is interesting. From The Independent:

Michael Howard last night accused George Bush of seeking to protect Tony Blair in an extraordinary row sparked by news that the Tory leader has been banned from the White House.

Hooray for France (seriously)

Syria May Face U.N. Resolution (WaPo):

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 1 -- The United States and France introduced a Security Council resolution Wednesday demanding that 20,000 Syrian troops "withdraw without delay" from Lebanon and that Syria stop meddling in the country's November elections. It threatens to consider unspecified "additional measures" against Syria to ensure compliance.


A media research organization called Media Tenor has a cute Slant-o-meter illustrating the coverage of the two candidates by ABC, NBC, CBS, and FoxNews. Be sure to read the text below for a description of how they arrived at this measure. I have to wonder why only Brit Hume's show was considered on FoxNews. Are the other shows in that time not news shows at all? I don't know. I'm just not familiar enough with their programming.

Bush is stoopid

Interesting article comparing W's SAT and academic record with Al Gore's. Here's an excerpt:

Commercials I hate (2)

The two McDonald's commercials for their "Chicken Selects." One has a woman in a stocking cap sitting on a sofa in a rather formal-looking living room, defending her chicken from invisible (imaginary?) foes. The other shows a man at a workplace copier, telling all in sight to back off and keep their paws off of his chicken. Both are utterly assinine.


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