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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

MASTERING THE OBVIOUS 

There aren't a lot of straws for the left end of the blogosphere to grasp at in the Dan Rather memo debacle. A particularly flimsy one is the piece in PC Magazine where Edward Mendelson shows that one can use Microsoft Word to mimic text typed on an IBM Selectric Composer. The point of this exercise?
A great deal has been made of the fact that some documents that are claimed to have been typed in the early 1970s look very much like documents prepared in Microsoft Word in 2004. This fact proves nothing, because (1) a document may well have been typed on a typewriter in the 1970s and (2) virtually the same document can be prepared on a computer in 2004.
This is about as wide as a non sequitur can gape. Of course you can use Microsoft Word to mimic a typewritten document--if you're trying to. But that's not the issue. The issue is whether someone dashing off memos on a typewriter in the early 1970s could produce documents that precisely matched what you get if you type the same content into Microsoft Word in 2004 using Word's default settings--i.e., without trying to mimic a typewritten document. The answer to that is an equally and thunderingly obvious NO. Indeed, the biggest mystery about these forgeries is why they are so transparently anachronistic when it would have been almost literally child's play to make them look, er, chronistic.

I mean, sheesh, what is it with you lefties? Just because you hate George Bush with the white-hot intensity of the center of the sun doesn't mean that you have to defend to the death every last piece of dung that gets pitched at him. This one's a loser--let it go! It's OK--we won't think any less of you. And besides, the way things are going with the Kerry campaign, you're going to have another four years of Bush to deal with, so you'd better pace yourselves.

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