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A Public Service Message For Users of Microsoft Word

[WARNING: If you're tired of hearing about Dan Rather and 'old' memos, skip the first three or so paragraphs, but you may want to read the rest of this, since I'm outlining a handy feature of MS Word that might save you some time. OK, it's not an exactly hidden feature, but hey, some seem not to have heard of it. Just click here to skip to the useful stuff.]

Wow, the whole Rathergate story is getting quickly ridiculous. We could solve this whole thing quite easily: CBS could put up a very high definition scan (say, in TIFF format instead of PDF) of their 'original' photocopies for casual consumption, and invite in the experts currently critical of them to review the actual physical evidence. Not tough at all, but it ain't gonna happen. Meanwhile, the guess, counter-guess, and speculation continue apace.

Ok, I'll admit, watching Dan Rather get his arse handed to him by a bundle of 'guys in pajamas' gives me a great big internet-inspired grin. In the meantime, though, the wild guesses and counter-accusations are getting absurd. I'm only going to join the fray insofar as it's useful to teach my readers a handy little trick in Microsoft Word 2002, especially nifty if they ever want to fake old documents. From Dan Rather's defense tonight (from the transcription at Ratherbiased.com, since I can't find one on CBS's website):

RICHARD KATZ (Software Designer): If you were doing this a week ago or a month ago on a normal laser jet printer, it wouldn't work. The font wouldn't be available to you.
RATHER: Katz noted the documents have the superscript th and a regular sized th. That would be common on a typewriter, not a computer.
KATZ: There is one document from may of 1972 which contains a normal "l" th at the top. To produce that in microsoft word, you would have to go out of your way to type the letters and then turn the th setting off or back over them and type them again.

Katz is described as a 'software expert.' Well, so am I, at least when it comes to features of Microsoft Word. So for his sake and yours, I'll show you a shortcut that can eliminate the pain of a lot of 'automatic' features of MS Word 2002. (This ain't brain surgery, and most of you will have seen it before, but since 'software designers' are missing it, what the heck.)

The most common explanation for how to get around 'auto-superscripting' is also one of the most annoying. Say you want to type '187th' without a superscript. Wizbang, among others, has suggested that what you should do is type '187', then a space, then 'th', and then go back and delete the space. Well, this is annoying, and in my impatience, it normally doesn't work: I do all that, then hit 'end' to go to the end of the line, and having forgotten to put a space after 'th', hit space. Which as many frustrated Word users know, just superscripts the thing again.

OK, superscript isn't normally where I have this problem. It's where I'm typing something like U.S.C. §185(c), and the (c) becomes a ©. But the solution's the same. Try it with me.

Open a document in Word 2002 or later. Just type '187th', hit space, and if you still have the autocorrect function on, it'll transform to the infamous th. Now, hold your mouse over the '1', and if you let it hover for half a second or so, you should see a little blue bar underneath it that looks like this:

Pull your mouse over the blue bar, and a little lightning bolt should pop up. Press the arrow next to that, and a menu drops down. The whole thing looks sort of like this:

The cunning among you will notice that the first option--Undo Superscript--does exactly what it says on the tin. Click the button, and the likelihood of you getting caught at a forgery goes down by... well, a bit, anyway.

The really cunning among my readers will note that the next option, Stop Automatically Superscripting Ordinals, will keep this little 'helpful' feature from ever darkening your door again.

Does this bear upon whether the documents are forgeries or not? Well, no. To really tell if they were forgeries, you should test the paper for age, give documents that are as close to the original as possible to real experts, hand them over to your opposition for verification, and... well, all the things that someone who hopes to learn about the truth would do. For that, go gripe to CBS, who really are the only people who could settle this problem. But unlike their 'software expert,' I know that you can easily turn off or stop Autocorrect on an occurence-by-occurence basis. And now you do too.


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Oh for pities sake they're genuine. Really. I mean why would anyone fake something in MS Word? Serious forgers would probably go to the trouble of aquiring vintage typewriters and paperstock, and you can bet your bottom dollar the editors at CBS will have made sure their arse is covered here (not wanting to follow the recent example of Piers Morgan). Still, thinking about this made me realise. I have no interest in whether Bush showed up for work thirty years ago. I'm much more interested in why he doesn't show up for work this year (longest presidential holidays since Nixon) and in making sure he doesn't show up for work anytime after November 2.
You can also just go to Tools->AutoCorrect, and under the AutoFormat tab uncheck the ordinals tab. You can turn off other annoying Word features that way too. Or just use WordPerfect, as I prefer : )
You've got me thinking about this now. Right, as I understand it before the show aired various news agencies sued the Whitehouse claiming that there were unreleased documents. The Whitehouse said there weren't. Shortly before the documentary aired the Whitehouse found four of the six pages under discussion and released them. (must have been down the sofa all that time). The documents released by the Whitehouse match those of CBS and USA Today who also had copies. If they didn't CBS would be looking very very silly right now. So. Either a hypothetical forger replaced the documents in the White House (or if we believe they couldn't find them introduced them to the White House) and then released them to the press, or he had such accurate knowledge of their contents that he was able to produce passable fakes of real documents. Moreover the content of the other two pages must have been sufficiently close to the truth that the White House felt no need to issue a denial - after all they know the definative truth and would be confident of their ability to expose any forgery based on this alone. I'd also point you to this rather well researched piece ( http://web.morons.org/article.jsp?sectionid=8&id=5542 )noting that Times Roman has been a font since 1931, Typewriters have done proportional spacing since at least 1954 and while it might be odd for a colonel to have a fancy typewriter it would be not at all odd for his *typist in the typing pool* to have had one. Especially in a 'champagne unit' like this one. All in all, when you ride with the wingnuts, you ride with the wingnuts. Personally I'm surprised you like the company.
Martin: The White House has already stated, and CBS confirmed, that it released copies of the memorandums that were faxed to it by CBS the day before. So that's one mystery solved then. Secondly, why would the White House issue a denial? No rule of journalistic evidence, and especially no legal obligation of the president, would seem to indicate that's necessary. And, if confronted with four--not six--memos which are supposed to be the 'personal' files of an obscure Lt. Col. that you don't seem able to find, why would you deny them? They might turn out to be true. Note, incidentally, that this is why the burden of proof regarding authenticity--legally and journalistically--lies upon those who produce them. It's unfair to ask the defendant to have to prove whether data not under their control are reliable. As for the Times Roman font being around since 1931... well, you know as well as I do how stupid that is. Sure, a family of fonts called Times Roman has existed since that point. But Times Roman--the New York Times font from 1931--is not the same as Microsoft Times New Roman, or even Adobe Times New Roman. Each is slightly different and identifiable. But what the heck: let's settle this in the traditional manner. I'm in England this weekend. If you are as well, and this has broken by then, how about the winner buying the loser a beer? We'll see about the 'wingnut' thing. (Cripes, where did that term come from?)
Hmmm. I just hit the backspace key one time and it eliminates the auto superscript (assuming you don't actually want to turn it off).
Denise: For some reason I can't fathom, that doesn't seem to work on my computer, at least not for (c) and ©.
Ctr-Z (the undo command) is really all you need.
Josh: Only works if you haven't already written half the memo before you realize the autocorrect function did its dirty deed. Oh, sure, you could CTRL-Z all the way up to the autocorrect, but I mean, if you've only got ten minutes to get to Kinkos and fax the thing off to Dan Rather... well, y'know, it's a bit inefficient. Nah, seriously, CTRL-Z works if you catch things in time. Again, though, I just wanted to point out there's a way to do this on a case-by-case basis.
While CBS was stuck with 4 forged memos, USA Today received them as well (and also fell for the forgery) but received 6, not 4. I think many are asking whether CBS also received 6 but only dealt with 4, raising its own set of questions. I'd note that I think USA Today dealt with the issue quite well and had CBS done accordingly there wouldn't quite the same level of scandal.
Precisely. The WH didn't deny them because they might have turned out to be true. Look, if the President had any knowledge that such an accusation that he skipped his duty would be false---say, if the President had fulfilled his duty and therefore remembered it---he wouldn't need to wait to find out whether they were true or not. The suspicion that arises from radio silence in the West Wing is that the President's team had to wait, and indeed assume that they could have been real, because nothing the President could have told them could have assured them that the documents were false. They assumed they could have been legit because their content jibed with what the President's team already knew about his service. I.e., that he didn't do it. But nevermind that rather circuitous argument. Does anybody actually believe that the President served? Come come now. While we're at it, does anybody actually believe the documents are fake? Or is all this focus on what _Rather_ should have done, rather than what the President should have, indicative that the President's defenders would rather shift the spotlight to so-called liberal media bias? TtP
TtP: Yes, I actually do believe they're fake. And bad ones, at that.

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