October 31, 2004  ·  Lessig

nasa.jpg

When this story broke, my reaction was the same as Begala’s on Crossfire: There was no way that Bush cheated like this in the debates. And just because Doonesbury believes it that doesn’t make it true.

But now Salon says a NASA photo analyst has concluded that he did. I know on the scale of things — unnecessary war, torture, trillion dollar deficits, the environment — this sin is tiny. But is there anything more pathetic than cheating in a debate? WBSH — George “radio man” Bush. Powerful and effective, so long as he keeps the channel in tune.

  • Steven Grimm

    Yes, there is something more pathetic: Cheating in a debate and *still* getting trounced by the other guy.

  • trygve

    I saw and appreciated that article too, as well as this other Salon article on the topic. And, as much as I’d love to see any smoking gun making Bush look bad (believe me, I’m no Bush fan, but I hate jumping to conclusions, especially after the CBS documents mess, it just makes his opponents look worse), both sources (and countless others) agree that there was definitely something there, but there is little to no evidence as to what the bulge in question is. This NASA analyst went out of his way to stress he doesn’t know what it is, just that something is definitely there.

    One thing I found really interesting about the earlier Salon article that I just linked to was the picture of a similar bulge under Bush’s tshirt in a shot of him on his ranch. That’s the most convincing evidence I’ve seen yet, and it also suggests that whatever it was may not have been there specifically for the purpose of cheating in the debate, though it may’ve been possible to serve that purpose as well. If it’s something he wears other times too, it may just be a Secret Service tracking and possibly communications device, and if that’s true, it’s entirely possible they’ve got one on Kerry too.

    And I still don’t understand why any device being worn would be placed in the middle of the back like that. It seems an odd place, I would expect a device being worn discretely to be clipped onto his belt at the base of his back, or possibly on his side.

  • Anonymous

    I assume this Nasa guy is also one of those people who plays with Photoshop until he can get the “face” on Mars to come out looking the way he wants it to as well…

    Actually, with all of the sharpening, contrast adjustment, pixel manipulation and other tricks being played, I have noticed something rather significant. Everyone talks about the bulge, and the apparent trail leading off towards Bush’s right shoulder. Why is it that no one has talked about the fact that there is a clear shot of Bush’s ear on that side and there is clearly nothing there?

    I think the guy got trounced in the debate, and will hopefully go down to flaming defeat next week, but the number of people who will latch on to any lie and try to spin it to fit their particular political persuasion are really starting to get annoying.

  • http://world.std.com/~mhuben Mike Huben

    I think that debaters should undergo a strip and body cavity search, as well as have to pass through metal detectors. They should be issued uniform prison garb, and be subjected to water boarding until they return non-evasive answers to questions. :-)

  • http://abknor.web-log.nl Branko Collin

    What detail is there supposed to be in the doctored photo on the right that isn’t there in the photo on the left?

  • Anonymous

    The best conclusion I’ve heard yet was when someone asked a speaker about it (the guy researched presidential speeches). He came to the conclusion that it was most likely a bandage and support for some exercise-related accident Bush had suffered; the lack of disclosure was due to the fact that ‘wounded’ Presidents don’t play very well in the spin room.

  • http://www.clipdude.com Chris Phan

    I have heard another theory which I find somewhat plausible: this is some sort of security device, perhaps to allow the president to be tracked if he were kidnapped. The lack of disclousre might be for security reasons.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Sigh. Let’s exercise some common sense. *IF* Bush were wearing a wire, it would not be a HONKIN’ BIG BOX!!! A cellphone is a tiny thing these days. And it wouldn’t be a suspicious item to have in his pocket either (as in “Yes, I had cellphone in an inner suit pocket, what of it?”). Then run a *thin* wire from the pocket to the collar, and you’re set. Not something that looks like a 1960′s spy movie.

    The best explanation I’ve heard is the one above which speculates that it’s a bandage of some sort. If he scraped his back raw in some minor accident, a gauze bandage on the worst parts, and some band-aids on a long scratch, would look like that. And note, this is something which would have to be there to guard against the risk that he’d open his scabs again on-camera.

    Either that, or it’s his alien puppet-master. You decide.

  • http://www.amurgsval.org/~slothman/ Max Kaehn

    The best candidate I’ve heard for the Bush Bulge is that it’s a medical device. Take a look at the LIFECOR LifeVest, and consider that Bush skipped his annual physical this year. This may be the equivalent of hiding FDR being stuck in a wheelchair.

  • Anonymous

    Professor Lessig, I continue to be amazed at your sheer desperation to prove that Bush is the devil incarnate. I can remember seeing a situation very similar to this in the recent months…I recall it had something to do with CBS news…

    First of all, your “NASA analyst” simply loaded the picture into photoshop and hit “sharpen” a few times. Hardly a task that would require an expert…

    Second of all, as a number of posters have pointed out (let me also point out that no poster yet seems to agree with you) if Bush, with millions of dollars at his disposal, couldn’t come up with a wire that was any less obvious than a frikin shoulder harness then he deserves to get caught. Look at it! If it is a wire, it has got to be 4 gauge at least!

    Third, what if it is some kind of back brace? One cannot see the other shoulder clearly in the picture, but one certainly can see very clearly that there is no microphone wire leading to Bush’s ear.

    Shame on you for spreading ridiculous assertions such as these. I would expect much more from a Stanford law professor.

  • Tayssir John Gabbour

    You’re all wrong. It’s like that device on The Simpsons that lets Karl send him an electric shock when he says something really foolish. You can imagine why it wasn’t used in future debates.

    Incidentally, it accounts for the nervous giggles in the next debates, because he was still conditioned to expect a shock.

  • Nate

    I agree that it’s more likely a medical device of some kind. I also noted that Bush refused to take a physical this year, hiding who knows what from the American public.

  • Max Lybbert

    Last night I declined to comment because I thought I couldn’t add anything useful to the discussion. Thinking things over, I can’t imagine what point this NASA analyst is trying to get across.

    Simply put, by hitting “sharpen,” he’s only proven that a “bulge” existed. We knew that, since it’s already apparent in the original photo. Knowing the bulge existed doesn’t prove anything sinister about it.

    If you look closely at the bulge, it isn’t a “T” and it doesn’t only go up to one ear. The thing is a “Y,” and it looks more like a shirt underneath than a state-of-the-art CIA-quality radio. Really, as already said (1) it is easier to hide something like this in the front of a business suit (especially a double-breasted suit — they aren’t tight in the front), (2) the wires that come with off-the-shelf walkmen wouldn’t make a bulge this large, (3) there is nothing that actually reaches the President’s ear, (4) people close enough to the President don’t report hearing anything like a small stereo, like you would expect if a small speaker were on his collar.

    Nope, it’s just a shameless attempt to spread a little uncertainty and doubt about the President. Nothing to see here. It’s pretty sad for the “intellectual” party to act like this.

  • Kyle R

    Has anyone else considered that it could be some type of bulletproof vest? Though I’m not sure exactly how the design of such a vest would show up through his suit jacket, it seems plausible 1) that the POTUS would wear such a flak jacket, and 2) the design of such an important device could be a bit unusual.

  • Rag

    I have just figured out what the rectangular lump on George Bush’s
    back was in his first debate with Kerry. Of course, since that first
    debate, Bush’s handlers have made several changes and that is the
    reason he seemed more alert in debates two and three. It is also the reason no rectangular device was taped to his back during the last two debates.

    It all started a couple of years ago when the drugs being administered to Bush to replace the loss of alcohol in his system began to exaggerate the twisted mouth and curled upper lip as well as that funny little snicker sound he makes when upset by being challenged with facts. Drunks can and often do suffer from early onset alzheimer’s and it can result in other physical changes like frequent blinking and mental retardation.

    His handlers instructed the Center for Infectious Diseases in
    collaboration with the CIA to remedy the condition quickly as the
    symptoms worsened and the debate schedule was upon them.

    They deduced, from their years with experimental investigation in torture methods for those who were non-believers, that electrical impulses to the right testicle could alter behavior for those with Bush’s condition and constructed a rectangular battery box capable of holding six AA batteries. The box sent impulses on a certain predetermined schedule to Bush’s right testicle. Further, they concluded the six battery rectangular impulse sending box would last a full day.

    In laboratory experiments it seemed to work reasonably well but
    without the time to test it completely they found themselves unable to verify the duration of the battery life. On that first debate night
    they wanted fresh batteries in the rectangular box taped to Bush’s
    back so they sent Dick Cheney out to buy batteries. He went to the
    Dollar Store, as any good right wing conservative would, in order to
    save as much government money as he could to give to the rich in tax cuts. The batteries he bought were in a close out bin, were out of date by three years but were very cheap.

    So, just before the debate they installed the brand new batteries in
    the rectangular box already taped to Bush’s back and connected to his right testicle. Two of the batteries were completely dead, the others about 30% of rated voltage but worked well enough for Karl Rove (a frustrated intellectual descendant of Pol Pot) to conclude they had found the right solution. As the debate wore on (after all, it was past Bush’s bed time anyway) Bush could not stand straight or talk in complete sentences and reverted to his twisted mouth and curled upper lip, snickering and drooling.

    We all know the results. They were obvious. Since then, however,
    Bush’s handlers have decreed Cheney should never be sent on so
    important a mission as purchasing fresh batteries. Besides, they have decreased the size of the battery box and now use a rechargeable lithium battery with more power but very small so it can be inserted into his anus saving the cost of all the wire needed to attached the electrodes to his right testicle from high in the middle of his back. It is now undetectable.

    So now you know.

  • http://expert-opinion.blogspot.com/ Mike Stiber

    It seems to me that the “wire trail” going up Bush’s right shoulder is the edge of his suit’s shoulder pad. the “T” shaped bulge below is less obvious. Some shirts have straps (I don’t know the tailoring term for it, but I believe the purpose is to increase freedom of arm movement) that are shaped like that, but I don’t see how they could leave a bulge that big. If he were wearing suspenders, his team would have just said that, so I’m assuming he was wearing a belt. Much as I despise the man, I’d have to say that I think its benign. We shouldn’t forget that this is absolutely nothing compared to the 100,000 Iraqi civilians we’ve killed. At this rate, we’ll soon not be able to say that Sadam was the worst murderer in the country.

  • Jardinero1

    I think it is either a coolant supply under his body armor or he is wearing a back brace or both. Watching him walk before and after stump speeches he has the walk of someone who suffers severe back pain.

  • Anonymous

    Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

    Number of dead might just as well be 8,000. But those headlines aren’t so snazzy.

  • rmandlerq

    Come on. This is ridiculous. What is the source for the claim that Bush skipped his phyisical?

  • http://sethf.com/infothought/blog/ Seth Finkelstein

    Just to describe what I see, the shape looks like a flyswatter to me. That is, it’s a rectangular patch with a tail. People seeing a wire going up his right shoulder seem to me to be seeing the right side of the rectangle.

    I’ve also heard suggested it’s a body-armor “trauma plate”. Seems located high on the body for that, but I’m not an expert.

  • http://www.sellke.com Adam

    I’ve just scanned the comments, but has anyone attempted to answer how this “cheating” device supposedly helped him actually cheat?

    I mean, I don’t see anything running up to his ears or his eyeballs! Or is there a super secret implant technology out there that is bulky under ones jacket, but totally invisible from the neck up?

    Pshaw. Don’t succumb to this sort of quackery, folks. Bury Bush on the answers he gave, irregardless of whether or not he was helped with ‘em.

  • http://www.sellke.com Adam

    I’ve just scanned the comments, but has anyone attempted to answer how this “cheating” device supposedly helped him actually cheat?

    I mean, I don’t see anything running up to his ears or his eyeballs! Or is there a super secret implant technology out there that is bulky under ones jacket, but totally invisible from the neck up?

    And if “wirelessly” is your answer, then why have any bulge at all?

    Pshaw. Don’t succumb to this sort of quackery, folks. Bury Bush on the answers he gave, irregardless of whether or not he was helped with ‘em.

  • Nate

    Max,

    The doubt was created by the Bush spokesman when he denied the bulge, then admitted it, then came up with the absurd excuse that it was the suit. Until then it was just curiosity as to what it was. After the doubt created by the Bush team, the questions got more interesting.

  • Max Lybbert

    Nate, do you wear business suits? They don’t always lay flat, since they aren’t spandex.

    I haven’t followed this story closely, because it always sounded like grasping at straws. I wonder if the Bush spokesman (Ari?) denied the bulge, or denied there was a radio device on Bush’s back.

    Have you followed the link to other Salon article that shows a similar bulge on Bush in a non-political setting?

  • Nate

    Yes, I wear suits, and no, they don’t bulge in that particular, very sharply defined way. They bulge in a more rounded fashion.

    They denied there was anything under the suit, then when pressed came up with the bad tailoring excuse (as if). And for the record, I also thought this was grasping at straws and refused to believe there was anything there. But as more stories came out with more detailed pictures, I realized there was *something* there. I don’t think it’s an ear piece type of thing, but it is something. So when it was denied utterly, I began to wonder just what it was and why were they denying it. Then I heard about Bush not getting his physical this year, and figured that was the reason, that it was related to some injury or another. Maybe one of his falls off his bike or something.

    So no, I don’t think it’s that significant that he has something under his suit. What I found signficant was the White House reaction to it.

  • Ian Woodsworth

    You are all a bunch of techno idiots. You don’t need a wire to be able to transmit to the ear. You can use the bone structure in anyone’s body to move the sound, so long as you have a reception unit that is powerful enough to receive the message and send the small electrical impulses through your bones.

    Of course, no one wants to deal with the fact that the president is a silly robot, incapable of speaking on his own, but that my friends is what we have. He probably did much better on the two other debates because he had a little more time to prepare and because, frankly speaking, it takes a long time to adjust to having someone speaking into your ear. It is hard to produce anything resembling a natural sounding statement when someone keeps whispering.

    To all the naysayers, do a little research or shut the fuck up.

  • Dimbleby’s

    Lessig has just reached the ninth circle; I was wondering how long it was going to take for this man, widely reputed to be a genius and worshipped by so many, to go on record with this which first emerged, after all, in response to the “Kerry pulled something out of his pocket” video that ran on some right-wing blogs and the Drudge Report after the first debate. In response to that attack on Kerry’s credibility, the mainstream media decided to smite the bloggers and Drudge with this story. The Washington Post ran it (tongue in cheek) and then the New York Times ran an online photo montage showing suspicious ‘bulges’ in the clothing of ordinary Manhattanites they surreptitiously photographed, in an attempt to quell the rumor they themselves had promulgated.

    Now Lessig is picking it up and running with it, on the basis of some Unsharp Masking in Photoshop. Oh, and yeah – Lessig is a wicked good programmer because of some “fiendishly complicated WordPerfect macros” he wrote, too.

    Stanford should revoke his tenure and let him apply for a job at Kalamazoo College.

  • Habadasher

    Hey, I can make a photograph of my grandmother look like she’s living tissue stretched over a hyperalloy combat chassis with enough unsharp masking, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

    On the other hand…we have referred to her as the Grammanator from time to time…so who knows?!?!?!

    [Key Twilight Zone track]

  • Mr T.

    It was an ipod, fools. (I pity the fool)

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  • http://www.johnralphcamerawarehouse.com.au/canon-slr-lenses-the-worlds-most-comprehensive-range-of-lens Richard Devlin

    You can use the bone structure in anyone’s body to move the sound, so long as you have a reception unit that is powerful enough to receive the message and send the small electrical impulses through your bones. Of course, no one wants to deal with the fact that the president is a silly robot, incapable of speaking on his own, but that my friends is what we have. He probably did much better on the two other debates because he had a little more time to prepare and because, frankly speaking, it takes a long time to adjust to having someone speaking into your ear.

  • http://photographytechs.com/category/camera-reviews-or-recomendations/ LARRY KING

    I also thought this was grasping at straws and refused to believe there was anything there. But as more stories came out with more detailed pictures, I realized there was *something* there. I don’t think it’s an ear piece type of thing, but it is something. So when it was denied utterly, I began to wonder just what it was and why were they denying it. Then I heard about Bush not getting his physical this year, and figured that was the reason, that it was related to some injury or another. Maybe one of his falls off his bike or something.