Friday, 10 September 2004

Bias in academe

Steven Teles and Philip Klinkner have an interesting debate that’s worth a read on the proper role for ideology in the classroom: parts 1, 2, and 3 (so far). I tend to agree with Teles that the wrong approach is to follow the David Horowitz-style “anti-discrimination paradigm,” although I suspect Horowitz has adopted it not to truly encourage its use on matters of political and ideological diversity but to shame academics into abandoning its use on matters of racial and gender diversity.

Worst. Forgery. Ever?

Bruce Rolston notes that all four memos raising questions about George W. Bush’s service reproduce exactly in Microsoft Word (þ Colby Cosh). As he says, one could buy one memo looking exactly like a Word document on the basis of coincidence… but four? That seems pretty implausible to me, at least.

What about the Selectric Composer—could Killian have used it? That’s not very likely either. And, you too can be a handwriting expert for the day. (Both links to Jeff Harrell’s The Shape of Days.)

Update: Surely if CBS lies to its interview subjects they would’t also lie to the American people, would they? And surely CBS would tell us if the guy allegedly pressuring Killian had retired 18 months before the memo was allegedly written? Right? Bueller?


A senior CBS official, who asked not to be named because CBS managers did not want to go beyond their official statement, named one of the network's sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents' alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. He said a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone and Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time."

"These documents represent what Killian not only was putting in memoranda, but was telling other people," the CBS News official said. "Journalistically, we've gone several extra miles."

The official said the network regarded Hodges's comments as "the trump card" on the question of authenticity, as he is a Republican who acknowledged that he did not want to hurt Bush. Hodges, who declined to grant an on-camera interview to CBS, did not respond to messages left on his home answering machine in Texas.

So the “trump card,” Hodges, didn’t actually verify the documents’ authenticity (and CBS went out of its way to tell him the memos were in Killian’s handwriting), and Staudt was apparently only able to influence the Guard in 1973 via telepathy.

I suppose the good news is they didn't rig anything to explode (yet). And it's not like 60 Minutes has a record of basing stories on fake memos or anything:

In 1999, "60 Minutes" apologized, as part of a legal settlement with a Customs Service official, for reporting on a memo that was later found to be fake."

Oh, scratch that one then.


Dean Esmay wants to know if John Kerry has sat down for an interview with a journalist (Jon Stewart doesn’t count) since August 8th. I’m sure he’d appreciate any leads.

I’m not sure that represents “ducking the press” so much as a recognition of the increasingly marginal role that political journalists have in campaigns; why sit down with Russert or Brokaw if you can talk without a filter on the stump (receiving national coverage) and let surrogates handle the spin and the bad PR?

More invites

Like James Joyner, I have some more GMail invites to give away. Email me ( for yours.

Elitism 3

I get this odd feeling that if I were a committed Christian I’d be offended by lectures from non-Christians about my beliefs and the implication that my religious faith compelled me to support a particular party’s policies. Jesus may not have favored private property (or, rather, said the path to salvation was not through having worldly possessions, which isn’t exactly the same thing—having stuff was essentially orthogonal to salvation, although coveting more stuff was a distraction from that path), but I don’t remember anything in the Gospels about God’s will requiring the establishment of European-style welfare states either.

Sentiments repeated

I think Alex Knapp has a winner:

I’ve got no dog in this fight. As I’ve said before, I don’t think Bush or Kerry would be qualified to make sure that I got my fries with my drive-thru order. I don’t know who I’m going to vote for, and honestly I don’t really care. (Given that last time I looked, Bush had a 18-point or so lead in my state, it doesn’t much matter, either.)

But I will say this: the Kerry campaign over the past six weeks or so has shown the potential to wreck the Democratic party. This is what happens when the rallying cry is “Anybody But Bush” (a sentiment that I sympathize with) without much concern as to whether you’re actually electing someone better than Bush. In the race to find someone “electable,” the Democrats ended up with someone who really isn’t. And if Kerry loses, I fear that the result might be a substantially weakened Democratic Party as infighting among groups takes hold. The resulting fallout might be a decade or two more of Republican dominance over the government. I don’t want that. I want two competitive parties constantly battling for dominance. I want divided government, and I want it all the time.

I think the fundamental problem the Democrats have is that “Anybody But Bush” isn’t anybody; it’s John Kerry, a man with no meaningful record in politics to speak of that is unconnected with Southeast Asia, and who can’t figure out what the hell he wants to do when he’s elected—or at least can’t communicate that plan to the public in any sense other than “I’m not going to do what Bush does,” which is fine for the 35% of voters who will support literally “anybody” but Bush but hasn’t done a darn thing to impress the rest.

Not that being the “Anybody But Kerry” candidate does much for Bush, mind you, but at least Bush has something approaching a record—even if a lot of it is a series of complete cock-ups. What Bush does have on his side is the credible fear that turning over the country to John Kerry is a vote for capitulation on virtually all fronts—Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, North Korea, Iran, and Kyoto—to the more learned views of our European “allies” (on which they bat 0–6 in terms of having the right ideas) and a recipe to cripple our economy with the sort of massive entitlement programs that have France and Germany circling the drain. All Kerry has going for him, from the libertarian-leaning conservative perspective, is the possibility that divided government might lead to more fiscal conservatism and a more socially liberal Supreme Court (although the latter institution seems to be at a pretty sane point already, if you ask me).

It’s not just Alex saying this, mind you; there’s more on the same theme from von of Obsidian Wings and Hei Lun of Begging to Differ.

King for a day

Henry Farrell is hosting an interesting discussion of this Gary King and Kosuke Imai piece in Perspectives on Politics (who knew that journal was worth reading?) on the Florida recount in 2000. My general viewpoint is that, as an academic exercise, examining the recount is interesting, but I’d rather see people try to fix the broken voting technology than engage in recriminations over the highly politicized process followed by both major parties during the recount.

Then again, I’m on record as saying I really don’t care that much about politics, so you’d probably expect such a reaction from me.


I think this whole “forged documents” thing is taking off.

Meanwhile, Occam’s Razor suggests that the theory that the documents might not be forged (discussed by Gary Farber) is unlikely. I find it difficult to believe that by coincidence, someone would produce a document with a 1973 typewriter that would look essentially identical to the output of the copy of Microsoft Word 2002 on my desk, down to the inter-letter spacing [not the kerning - Ed.], superscripting of the ordinal “th,” and margins, or that someone would go to the trouble of purchasing a non-standard typewriter ball for a military-issue typewriter (were these golfballs even in the GSA contract with IBM?) and install it just to write memos about a particular officer for filing—but switch back to the standard one for other correspondence. (But Gary is to be commended for at least taking the time to seriously think about this, something a lot of people haven’t done.)

I think Colby Cosh nails it in a sentence:

If the reports are accurate, CBS—estimated annual news budget: one squillion dollars—has been taken in by a fraud that, roughly speaking, anybody over the age of 30 in the industrialized world could have spotted.

Of course, I strongly suspect the people doing the real legwork on this story either (a) are like my students and don’t remember an era before ubiquitous computing or (b) are folks like Dan Rather who haven’t touched a typewriter in 30 years. Speaking of Dan, CBS News is saying we don’t need no—investigation. That stand, er, does not seem wise.

Biggest game ever

The Majors shut out the Mississippi College Choctaws last night, nine to nothing. It wasn’t an offensive showcase by any means, but the important thing was that it was football!