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November 22, 2005

Comments

If true...

as much as i'd rather not, i'm going to assume it's simply not true until someone more credible than the Daily Mirror has something on this.

Ditto. The source isn't credible enough to comment on at this point.

Reagan: "We begin bombing in ten minutes."

Still, fun to watch them expain it away.

Good; I hope it's not credible. I hope it's completely and utterly false. Possibly if I had found it in my heart to wait ten minutes before posting, I would have thought better of it, but what's done is done.

I don't know much about English papers other than the Times, the Independent, and the Guardian. Oh, and the Sun. I have just realized that my vague sense of the Daily Mirror, about which I don't think I have ever actually thought, derives in part from the fact that it has been around long enough to be in a Flanders and Swann routine ("O tempora, o mores, as they say: O Times, O Daily Mirror...), which is obviously no guarantee of anything.

If any Brits are reading this, could you post a quick guide to major UK papers?

just for the record: my bet is that Bush actually said it, and Blair actually said No, but the whole exchange was a joke - like Bush joking about looking for the WMDs under that chair. Bush probably said "Hey Tony, that Aljazeera is a real pain in the ass. Can we bomb them? heh heh heh." and Blair said "Ho ho ho. No, that wouldn't be good. not good at all, you little scamp."

the idea that it was a serious discussion is probably just hype slathered on by the D.M. to sell papers.

hilzoy, why bother with this, when there's this!

In the latest sign that Antonin Scalia has completely given up on the reality-based community, the Supreme Court justice suggested yesterday that the high court did not inject itself into the 2000 presidential election.

Speaking at the Time Warner Center last night, Scalia said: "The election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble."

I think the real issue here is you read it, and you can't reject it out of hand.

This is the President of the United States we're talking about, and we can't actually rule out -- without need for discussion -- the possibility that he might have wanted to do something so bone-headedly stupid.

In other Scalia news, Al Franken walked up to him the other day and informed him that abortion wasn't illegal when the country was founded. Scalia disagreed, apparently not having read Roe.

Hilzoy, without giving a full rundown of the British papers: the Daily Mirror is what you might charitably call a sensationalistic left-wing tabloid. They were the ones who ran with the false detainee abuse story last year, for example. That is to say: take this with a pillar of salt and hope someone more credible looks into it.

Fyi, msnbc and bbc news are both reporting the same story.

Aha, and abc. Looks legit.

all the other reports i've seen (Yahoo, ABC, etc) are quoting the D.M.. there seems to be no confirmation for any other source.

Posting anonymous sources from the Mirror? Um.

It gives an unfortunate comeback when mocking this sort of thing. Was the National Enquirer site down?

I should say that part of the reason I thought it wasn't just random, idle speculation was the claim that someone had been charged with leaking the document they describe:

"According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Keogh was charged with an offense under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act relating to "a damaging disclosure" by a servant of the Crown of information relating to international relations or information obtained from a state other than the United Kingdom. (AP"

But if the Mirror is a left-wing tabloid, I'm more glad than ever that I updated the story to add doubt.

no confirmation for any other source

"...no confirmation from any other source."

prepositions are not interchangable.
prepositions are not interchangable.
prepositions are not interchangable.
...

It should be easy for the msm to confirm whether the two people mentioned, David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, are indeed being charged with violating the Official Secrets Act.

If they are, the next question is what did they leak?

But Scott McClellan's response sounds weak to me: "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response."

I do not think that word means what you think it means, Scotty. :P

Times: less right-wing than the Torygraph, but only slightly. Grauniad: infamously left, but really leavened with a variety of takes.
Independent: centerish, somewhat left by U.S. standards.

I'd get into the differences between broadsheet and tabloid formats, the Graun has recently mucked that up with the Berliner format, although others were confusing the lines earlier.

The Sun and Mirror are tabloids.

The Sun and Times are owned by Rupert Murdoch. The Mirror tends to take the opposite stance of whatever the Sun says. The Sun editor tends to beat up people.

They all tend to be even far more careless than U.S. papers -- no, that's not quite right -- they have a very different standard in Britain as to what to print as declarative fact. It's ultra common to simply assert things (such as above) with no named source at all, and to assert that so and so is doing such and such and this British ministry will be doing that for X reason, and they never source, and they're more often wrong than not.

It's rather important to keep this different standard in mind. (And, no, I'm not claiming anything positive for American papers, save that they do at least profess some allegiance to a slightly higher level of named sourcing, from time to time; in Britain, they don't even pretend, and I'm talking about the respectable papers, let alone the bleeding Mirror or Sun.

Should I be talking Page 3 now?

Death to italics!

"Fyi, msnbc and bbc news are both reporting the same story."

"Aha, and abc. Looks legit."

Yes, everybody reported last night that the Mirror story says what it says.

That multiple people are reading this as "confirmation" of the claim indicates a deeply alarmingly widespread inability to understand how to read a news story.

Geez, a million newspapers reported that Wen Ho Lee had been charged with espionage by the government. Did that confirm that he was guilty?

God, no wonder people can't agree on what is a fact and what isn't.

Incidentally, ABC didn't even say anything at all; it was an AP piece.

"Death to italics!"

Your wish is our command ;)

possibly I would not have posted had I waited ten minutes

Why, then just choose a new topic and rewrite your remarks--I hear that's all the rage these days.

I'd take unsourced allegations from the Daily Mirror, with a very large salt pill, too. OTOH, however, I wouldn't have believed in American torture or the suspension of habeas corpus 4 years ago, either.

It's rather important to keep this different standard in mind. (And, no, I'm not claiming anything positive for American papers, save that they do at least profess some allegiance to a slightly higher level of named sourcing...

There is a more fundamental reason for the different standard, and that is because journalists are not fed the notion that they are some sort of neutral arbiters as they are in US journalism schools. I don't believe that there is the notion of a journalism degree in the UK as there is in the US, and people who go into the field do so from other degrees. This is not slagging off on either US or UK journalism, but it does make it difficult to simply take UK/US news stories and put them side by side.

Also, my impression is that in the UK, like Japan, tabloids function to drive a wedge into stories that are then reported by the more sober media. I imagine this is the niche that Drudge and others are hoping to fill, except it seems to be rather one sided.

The MSNBC story is also mostly the A.P. story.

And the BBC report cites the Mirror.

Yes, we've confirmed that an A.P. story is more true the more newspapers it appears in, apparently, and that it is true that the Daily Mirror printed a story, and that others confirm that the Daily Mirror has, in fact, printed that story.

Beyond that, it appears true that:

Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh has been charged under the Official Secrets Act of passing it to Mr Clarke's former researcher Leo O'Connor.

Both men are bailed to appear at Bow Street Magistrates Court next week.

How this "confirms" and makes "legit" the claims that Hilzoy posted about and weighed forth about, I couldn't say. (Perhaps Bush was unaware that he was proposing bombing near CentCom HQ, or perhaps he was, indeed, joking, or perhaps it's All Absolutely True; I couldn't say. Which is why I wouldn't say, myself.)

Gary: That multiple people are reading this as "confirmation" of the claim indicates a deeply alarmingly widespread inability to understand how to read a news story.

Guilty as charged. Didn't read through, just looked quickly at the ABC link. Just did so now, and yes, reporting what the Daily Mirror said.

Gary, you have our permission to see what the Page 3 women are saying about this.

d-p-u, wouldn't that make you guilty of carelessness (not caring?), not "a[n] inability to understand how to read"? At the very least I suspect you're able to understand how to read a news story if given sufficient training.

The Mirror.

Don't worry too much about posting hastily and regretting it, though, Hilzoy. Pretty most of us have been there and done that, and we're lucky if a whole week goes by without a visit.

Visit other descriptions here. I forgot entirely about the Express, the Standard, and the Mail. And keep in mind that the Sunday version tends to be an almost entirely different paper, in Britain.

Gary: yes, but I hate doing it, and it makes me feel all squirmy and unclean. I think I might have to write something seriously wonky, just to get this out of my system.

Either that or try cleaning off my dining table.

"Gary: yes, but I hate doing it, and it makes me feel all squirmy and unclean."

I would never presume to project anything from my own interior experience onto someone else -- particularly since that seems to be a pandemic practice -- but my own experience when I publish something that embarrasses me is to immediately want to sink into a hole, as my stomach heaves, and I begin to mentally shout epithets at myself at how stupid I am, what an idiot, a moron, how could I be so stupid, you twit, Gary, and then I agonize for days, and have flashbacks for a long time to come, sometimes years.

When other people whom I think poorly of post embarrassing things, I think "how typical."

When other people whom I think well of post embarrasing things, I think "well, that's dumb." And my opinion of them is utterly unchanged, unless they proceed to post strings of such posts for weeks or months on end, whatever amount of time is necessary to cancel all the positive opinion I've stored (it's much more complex than that, of course, but that's the essence).

And five minutes later I've forgotten they said something silly.

And certainly don't care, in the least. We're all human and imperfect, even the most impressive and admirable and smart of us. (But the latter get a particularly large amount of slack, and, Miz Hilzoy, you got slack by the Jupiter-full.)

"Perhaps Bush was unaware that he was proposing bombing near CentCom HQ"

Perhaps he figured our hi-tech missiles and bombs, combined with the righteous power of Jesus, would guide them to their targets without harming anything else.

This is the President of the United States we're talking about, and we can't actually rule out -- without need for discussion -- the possibility that he might have wanted to do something so bone-headedly stupid.

That's to say, you guys can't rule it out.

Says something about you, no, and the assumptions you are bringing to the table?

I think there are quite a few people who have no problem in ruling it out the minute after we read it.

I love cleek's little moment of self-revelation there at the top.

If true...

as much as i'd rather not, i'm going to assume it's simply not true until someone more credible than the Daily Mirror has something on this.

Precisely. You'd all rather believe it is true, because it flatters your perception of how stupid you believe George Bush is. "I mean, gosh, if he really said it, he's as stupid as I thought all along." Chimpy McHalliburton, indeed.

Eyeroll.

Even the BBC doesn't believe it's true - for the most part. although it is like pulling teeth to make them admit it.

BBC News website world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds said: "An attack on al-Jazeera would also have been an attack on Qatar, where the US military has its Middle East headquarters. So the possibility has to be considered that Mr Bush was in fact making some kind of joke and that this was not a serious proposition."

notyou is precisely right.

Think Reagan: "We begin bombing in ten minutes."

hilzoy, I think you posting this is a direct result of the discussion on your prior post on Scanlon. Bushco makes you feel all squirmy and not quite clean, and if you could just put his ghost to rest, you'd feel better.

Except we can't, not yet. And now you say you feel foolish. Wishful thinking has led you astray. OMG! You are human.

Personally, I am glad. I was wondering if you weren't a goddess or something. :)

I think the telling point here is that we have to ask ourselves "is this really true?" followed up immediately by "I wish it was/I wish it wasn't". Was because it's more confirmation that our deeply held beliefs (all bad) about Bush are true, and wasn't because who wants the president of the United States to be an idiot?

In all probability, your instincts about what is worth discussing are better than you realize.

Jake

Gary: thanks. The 'I wish the earth would swallow me' reaction is, um, very familiar. I get over it, usually, by recalling Embarrassing Episodes From My Past, which I somehow survived. E.g.:

I was off at a summer academic thing when I had just turned 15, and I had a monstrous, horrible crush on this guy, and he came by my table one late breakfast and said something innocuous like: Hi, what have you been doing? And I thought: lying around, and: sleeping, and said: Oh, sleeping around.

I can still feel my immediate total and complete horror and misery, decades later.

What does not kill you makes you stronger. Or whatever Nietzsche said. I was horribly shy then, much less so now, in part because I can think of any number of episodes like that that did not, in fact, kill me.

An exercise for alcibides

Count the number of unique commentators in this thread. Determine the number who jumped on this story as true. Calculate that number as a percentage of the total regular commentators. Now reconsider your phrasings
'That's to say, you guys can't rule it out.'
and
'Precisely. You'd all rather believe it is true, because it flatters your perception of how stupid you believe George Bush is.'

Eyeroll

Why am I thinking that Alcibiades is a perfect handle?

alcibiades: it would also be worth asking how many instances of the phrase "Chimpy McHalliburton", or "BushitlerCo", and so on, you can find, excluding those due to people like yourself attributing them to the rest of us.

I'm betting it approaches zero.

This is the President of the United States we're talking about, and we can't actually rule out -- without need for discussion -- the possibility that he might have wanted to do something so bone-headedly stupid.

That's to say, you guys can't rule it out.

Says something about you, no, and the assumptions you are bringing to the table?

Are you under the impression that Morat -- someone I don't recognize as a frequent poster much more than I recognize "alcibiades" as a frequent poster here -- has a mouse in it/her/his pocket? Or is speaking for anyone other than Morat?

If so, why? Speaking of bringing assumptions to a table.

"You'd all rather believe...."

I beg your pardon? Could you please present your Mindreading License? I want to check if the seal from Psi Corp was up-to-date. Yeah, I didn't think it was.

The reactions to Hilzoy's granting credence, above, were uniformly negative. First response, second response, third response. This is evidence of credulity? On what planet?

"Chimpy McHalliburton, indeed."

I must not read the right sites; the only place I ever see this used is by rightwing folks claiming it's a popular usage on the left. If you can find someone here who has used that phrase, have at them. Until then, kindly don't make stuff up to throw at people, please.

Look, you clearly don't know the people you are addressing, yet you feel entitled to dress them down for what they think, even though you have that wrong. And you choose to not address any individual, but instead you choose to sweepingly address everyone here with your slurs, no matter their inaccuracy. At the best, you are indifferent to the possibility of slurring people without any more cause than the chip on your shoulder and your pre-conceptions.

This isn't treating people courteously as individuals whose opinions stand or fall on their merits. This is is treating people as cardboard stand-ins for some hallucinogenic stereotype in your head that you're annoyed with, and you're looking for a stand-in for to unload your frustration on.

Are these the manners your mother taught you?

Did she teach you that rudeness, and making accusations about perfect strangers, is okay if you assume you have political differences with people?

Or did she teach you that if you type out sneering rudeness, that's not at all like doing it to their face? Would you have the nerve to stride into someone's living room and declaim aloud what you've written above?

I suspect none of the above. Best suggestion: go out the door, and come back in again, and we'll all politely pretend the first entrance never happened.

J-bnto: "OMG! You are human. Personally, I am glad. I was wondering if you weren't a goddess or something. :)"

Jake: hilzoy is a goddess.

A very human goddess.

Oh how we wish it was true :(
By the way, Stewie, on Family Guy, said that Jeb Bush was eating a live puppy! Let's not rule that out quite, yet...

Look it's not really about me, but making it about me is a good way not to have evaluate your own set of reactions when you saw an absolutely inane headline and story, and reacted to it as though it were true - or as though there were some honest possibility that it might be true instead of absolute piffle.

I'm not familiar with your blog - I linked from memeorandum - which is what it exists for - although I did note the little note on top about how "this is the voice of moderation". If that is meant to be a true statement, and this is your honest reaction to "news" of this order, we are in sad shape.

No doubt I should have used more careful language when I said "you guys can't rule it out." Though I didn't notice anyone arguing forcefully with the poster that I quoted, btw. So I assumed that position was within the conversational norm, an assumption backed up by the original posting itself.

Perhaps I'm guilty of eliding nuances on the left. Forgive me, then. But from where I'm standing, someone who has a positive desire to believe a story of this ilk because of its self affirmation qualities would have to believe that Bush was an utter idiot. If not Chimpy McHalliburton, then his intellectual peer in more sober dress.

In which case, what that amounts to is not using the satiric languague itself but still having the thought as a related base belief.

And I do believe, as a barometer, that says a lot more about the people so responding than about a serious analysis of the Bush administration's policies in this war.

After all, there are far more attractive targets out there than Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar - oh, say, Iran or Syria. And if I recall correctly, we haven't been bombing those targets recently, with far more provocation to do so.

I believe that's called restraint.

This post is illustrative of the dangers of jumping in a blog midstream.

I'm also confused how one can not know the culture of a blog yet still suggest it represents a barometer.

At the risk of being self-aggrandizing, I think this comment could be referred to as taking on the qualities of restraint.

"Look it's not really about me, but making it about me is a good way not to have evaluate your own set of reactions when you saw an absolutely inane headline and story, and reacted to it as though it were true...."

Could you kindly specify whom you are addressing, please?

One also wonders how anyone could have read any, if not all, of Gary's comments in this thread, then assert that nobody had "argued forcefully" that the story might not be true.

As far as this: " . . . someone who has a positive desire to believe a story of this ilk because of its self affirmation qualities would have to believe that Bush was an utter idiot.

Five years ago, I would have immediately ruled out a story of this nature. I would also have ruled out a story telling me that the Bush Administration would imprison a US citizen on suspicion of terrorism, keep him incommunicado for several years, allow the Attorney General to insinuate that there was a slam-dunk case implicating this person in a plot to set off a radioactive bomb in a major US city, then quietly slink away and finally charge him with some baloney conspiracy charges. And yet . . .

While I absolutely think Bush is stupid enough to say something like this - stupid enough that to him I can believe it would have been a funny funny joke - I wouldn't take the Daily Mirror's word for it.

The tabloids in the UK (the Mirror, the Sun, the Record, the Mail) are in a position where they can report in screaming headlines on rather dubious stories, and never have to publish any noticeable retraction, because they're only semi-serious. It is an odd kind of status, and one that I'm not sure really exists in the US.

The Times and the Sunday Times are broadsheets, and have a history of being serious, but not since they were bought by Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch is fun

The Telegraph is right-ish (center, by US standards: the Independent is center (left-ish, by US standards): and the Guardian/the Observer is left-wing (very left, by US standards). The Financial Times is more-or-less right-ish, but has a reputation for independent thinking: in 1997, they supported Labour, but made clear they were doing so because the Conservatives were irresponsible and unfit. All four, though, are serious newspapers, with serious reputations to protect.

alcibiades:

You seem comfortable making broad assumptions based on cursory evidence, yet are criticizing this post for making assumptions based on...cursory evidence.

So, are you being deliberately ironic, or completely earnest in your apparent quest to prove that lib'ruls are teh suxx0r?

I do believe I meant to write "Murdoch is fundamentally unsound", not "Murdoch is fun". As far as I know, no one thinks Murdoch is fun.

While I absolutely think Bush is stupid enough to say something like this

"stupid" should be read as meaning "insensitive, thoughtless, and impulsive", not actually "of low IQ".

Just wanted to make that clear. Clearer.

alcibiades, since you seem to be a newcomer, welcome.

"Moderation..." well there is some disagreement about that here. I myself am not moderate (at least not any more).

I have no comment to make on this story, but as for what one may believe about George W. Bush, I can only say that I identify with a sentiment I read posted by someone else, somewhere else: I hate the fact that the Bush administration makes me feel like a conspiracy theorist.

"...although I did note the little note on top about how 'this is the voice of moderation'. If that is meant to be a true statement, and this is your honest reaction to 'news' of this order, we are in sad shape."

This is a group blog, which is really more of a group discussion site with blog entries serving as jumping off points for discussion.

It is "moderate" insofar as it has (at present; posters have come and gone over the years) two posters from the left -- Edward and Hilzoy; three from the right -- Sebastian Holsclaw and Charles Bird and Slartibartfast (I'd say that Sebastian was slightly more libertarian, and that Slart was a bit more apolitical/skeptical, but defaults towards center right, but these are my subjective impressions and nothing more) and von as a sorta-centrist (I'd say slightly right tilted).

The commenters these days tend to be rather strongly anti-Bush and towards to the left, although the constantly expressed refrain from almost all is a desire for more contributions from courteous conservatives, for whatever that is worth.

"... So I assumed that position was within the conversational norm...."

Try going to the main page, and reading some posts by Charles, Sebastian, and Slart.

The coversational norm here is to be open, though not necessarily welcoming, of all courteous points of view that adhere to the Posting Rules (see top right sidebar -- please).

If you would care to join in at least vaguely respectful conversation and debate, I will be presumptuous enough -- in this case only -- to think I speak for effectively all in saying that you will be more than welcome, and even enjoyed, if you are the sort of person who enjoys such, and will play by the rules. When people get overheated and out of line, we tend to whack-a-mole them (god knows my head throbs enough).

Are you the poster at Kesher Talk, btw, or just same nom de plume?

The Ronald Reagan flashback is an interesting point. I recall a number of interesting pieces at the time explaining precisely why the mike test line was problematic (and coming at a time when the internet was rather undeveloped, seem to be impossible to find online).

Ironically, the fact that Reagan had the question of Mutually Assured Destruction on his mind quite possibly led to the achievements of his second term in working with Gorbachev. However, I can't see how, if this joke demonstrates that Bush considers the possibility of silencing Muslim media voices humorous (and given the invocation of the Official Secrets Act, there does seem to be something there), this is going to lead to some sort of resolution of any kind

And, lest I become too nostalgic for Ronnie, here's a speech to remind me of why I disliked him so.

Well, Gary Farber's and LJ's excellent admonishments aside for a moment, my impulse is nearly always to become what the accuser believes I might be, which is to say that I figured that, yes, probably the story was wrong about al-Jazeera.

In fact, the President was hot to bomb the New York Times, but they couldn't alert Judith Miller to the plan, despite her contacts. So they bagged it.

Really, Alcibiades, read some of the posts by all the front-pagers going back a couple of years and you'll see that Obsidian Wings is not nearly as formidable as, say, Lysander was.

Except for those of us who are defeatists/losers and might have given up on chasing Geronimo back to his slot-packed canyons. That, of course, is a pity.

As Hilzoy pointed out in the Abramoff post, her mind boggles. She probably should have waited for the boggling to stop, but it's tough for some of us to find space between the boggles lately.

They're all running together.

Hell, read Peggy Noonan's "A Separate Peace" at WSJ.com dated Thursday October 27 (cited by Leon over at Redstate recently), or read Christopher Hitchens column in the latest Vanity Fair (that you must wade through the thick glossy celebrity ads of the that magazine to get to his particular subject is very delicious), or read about Tim LaHaye and company in the same issue of the same mag.

Their three minds are boggling like you wouldn't believe. In fact, the world as we know it is in the midst of its final boggle.

Hilzoy has not yet begun to boggle.

Now, go have a drink. Because the kitty on your side of the jungle is a sabre-toothed tiger and he's about to eat all of us.

Off to the bar.


P.S. For those (maybe two) who noticed that I mentioned my wife having multiple MRIs to figure some stuff out, I'm happy to report that the pictures came out perfectly normal. Thank you.

P.S.S. What about you Slart? Since I'm headed for the bar to celebrate the news on my wife, it would be handy for me to celebrate some good MRI news for you, too. Before the real drinking starts over Noonan, Lehaye, etc.

The Ronald Reagan flashback is an interesting point.

Might be worthwhile bringing up a counterpoint. During SALT discussions in the Kremlin at some point during a soiree in the negotiators' honor, one of the US personnel happened to notice an ornamental gavel in the room, and picked it up to take a closer look. A loud alarm went off immediately, and one of the Soviet negotiaters sighed and said "Oh well, there goes New York."

Funny is funny. I laughed at that, and I laughed at Ronald Reagan's open mike blunder as well. Let's not read too much into statements meant to be amusing for fear that politicans never be human in public.

Oh, and for the record, my favorite joke along these lines (IE politicians making funny at things that make you gasp) was Stalin to Churchill after a few drinks. Stalin was insisting that, after the war, the USSR be allowed to exact tribute to its enormous number of war dead by executing 50,000 German prisoners of war in retaliation. Churchill was horrified at the demand, and after a short nasty discussion, got up and strode from the room. Stalin hurried after him, and said something along the lines of "No, no, I did not mean to make you angry. We are flexible. No more than 49,000 executions." At that point, Churchill realized his leg was being pulled.

"I recall a number of interesting pieces at the time explaining precisely why the mike test line was problematic (and coming at a time when the internet was rather undeveloped, seem to be impossible to find online)."

Well, it did contribute to the Russian politico-military apparatus becoming even more nervous about Reagan and U.S. military intentions -- really, you can look up the decrypted cables and such -- but only in a relatively trivial way admidst a sea of signs and signals that they interpreted, generally, in a very alarmist way. (How realistically or not I won't get into just now, particularly since a serious consideration of the question would require going through a long list of incidents and reports and whatnot; the CIA has some excellent historical papers on all this, though, at the Studies In Intelligence site.)

Perception always does have an effect, even if it's utterly unrelated to the actual truth of a report, or to the intended meaning of a statement. (For instance, I don't think anyone serious believes that President Bush intended to set off clanging alarm bells throughout the Arab world when he said, days after September 11th, that we were on a "crusade," but that's the effect his choice of words had, regardless.)

I feel incredibly embarrassed & guilty just reading this thread, and apologize to the President and alkibiades and everybody else for the bad unjustified thoughts I might have had.

I only read commented blogs, so all my knowledge and facts are multiply sourced. I am actually not kidding. Think of all those who caught the television reports only, and compare them to those who read this thread.

Woo hoo. That was unexpected. Soon bob m and I will trade places.

the Daily Mirror is what you might charitably call a sensationalistic left-wing tabloid. They were the ones who ran with the false detainee abuse story last year,

the photos? The Mirror editor was sacked for publishing those. There was of course detainee abuse and there were photos of it, but the ones Piers Morgan published were fake (maybe they were a sting?). I was sorry: he obviously had to go, but he'd been a good editor.

Oh sorry, the italics should of course end after "year,"

Italics begone.

"If this joke demonstrates that Bush considers the possibility of silencing Muslim media voices humorous (and given the invocation of the Official Secrets Act, there does seem to be something there)"

That's still a leap. We have absolutely no idea what's actually in this memo, assuming that reports of it are correct. Stipulating that it might say Whatever about a Bush-Blair conversation involving combustion and al Jazeera, it may also name three undercover agents, and the True Facts behind Henry Kissinger's alliance with Queen Elizabeth to sell drugs, as well as the fact that Kim Il Sung rose from the dead and killed Vince Foster. That a memo is classified tells us nothing whatsover about why.

(Not that it matters, but I do not find the idea that President Bush might have made some sort of joke about bombing al Jazeera to be shockingly unthinkable, for the record.)

"Churchill was horrified at the demand...."

"Furious," is a word frequently used. And it may have taken more than one round of explaining for Winston to get with the program.

Stalin's "humor" tended to run along these lines, and I find it hard to detach myself enough from my knowledge of what lay behind it to "appreciate" it, but I suppose that was one of his more boffo quips. He was such a kidder, and he was there all week.

(My most recent look at gelastic Churchill anecdotes, by the way.)

John Thullen, glad to hear the images are clear.

P.S. For those (maybe two) who noticed that I mentioned my wife having multiple MRIs to figure some stuff out, I'm happy to report that the pictures came out perfectly normal. Thank you.

Great! Nice to head out the door on a good note. Maybe I won't blow up at the faculty meeting today. :^)

On preview, I note Gary
Well, it did contribute to the Russian politico-military apparatus becoming even more nervous about Reagan and U.S. military intentions

I wasn't thinking of that, but the pieces that discussed why it was problematic and how it provided an insight into Reagan's mind.

Can you tell I don't want to go into work today?

"At that point, Churchill realized his leg was being pulled."

And I should point out, it occurs to me belatedly, that Stalin was perfectly serious, and executed far more Germans than 50,000. And Churchill knew that Stalin intended to do that. Which is part of what was problematic in getting that at that particular dinner, he was also being "playful."

Here's a version:

Teheran Conference Nov. 28-Dec. 1

[...]

FDR willing to accomodate Stalin; Churchill was isolated; Stalin joked at dinner that Churchill was soft on Germany and that it may be necessary to execute 50,000 German officers; Churchill replied that he would never agree to such "barbarous acts" but FDR joked that perhaps 49,000 would do.

(This is a good discussion of Allied consideration of treatment of the Germans, by the way.)

GF: I really admire your Sunday, Oct. 30th Amygdala post on Churchill. Fabulous annecdotal review. Thanks for the link!

Also, I admire your very measured and thoughtful response/invitation to alcibiades.

And u rite gud, to.

Note to eds: this post appears to have contracted avian italics...

aaagggghhh!!

Not directly relevant, but one of the things that makes me want a direct and concrete answer from the right about what constitutes victory in Iraq is the widespread hatred of Al Jazeera. Wake up, guys - that's what a free press in the arab world looks like. If they are the enemy, then the victory condition has to include a muzzled press. Throw in the fact that France (almost as evil as Osama) is a representative democracy, and you really have to wonder if the rhetoric about freedom and democracy isn't really a code for "make them exactly like us, or maybe like Canada."

A free, stable, prosperous, and secure Iraq will have multiple Al Jazeeras in TV, print, and the Web. They will regularly vote to do things the US does not like, including things we believe threaten our national security, just as our allies in France, Israel, Pakistan, and elsewhere have done.

Mirror, Schmirror. There's history to excuse anyone not dismissing this possibility out of hand. The U.S. bombed Al Jazeera's Kabul offices in 2001 and its Baghdad HQ in 2003, both times claiming it was a mistake.

Precisely. You'd all rather believe it is true, because it flatters your perception of how stupid you believe George Bush is

them's some pretty good mind-readings ya gots there. can ya tell me what i'ma thinkin right now ?

"I really admire your Sunday, Oct. 30th Amygdala post on Churchill."

Thank you, and for your other kind words. I enjoyed that post, too, but, then, I usually do. Of course, I wrote all those anecdotes, myself, and they were all about me, so I take full credit.

Churchill was spiffy at generating anecdotes, but I suspect that they were likely often far more pleasant for him to live through than for anyone around him.

"The U.S. bombed Al Jazeera's Kabul offices in 2001 and its Baghdad HQ in 2003, both times claiming it was a mistake."

You're saying the plan was to bomb Qatar and claim it was a mistake?

oh, and just for reference: 70% of the people on the current CNN poll think Bush talked about bombing al-Jazeera.

clearly the country is full of moonbat Bush-hating loser-defeatists.

@ Gary: No, only that it's entirely plausible that Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera. Maybe the plan was to make it look like retail terrorism, not with F-15s. Who knows?

Quite a few times over the last five years, I've pushed myself to give this regime the benefit of the doubt, each time to have what would have been my natural suspicions confirmed (or worse). I'm done with that for a while.

The person who passed along the purported memo relating the Bush-Blair conversation is already being hauled up for violation of the Official Secrets Act. Is he in for worse if someone makes the document public? I.e., is there any chance of the document itself coming to light?

@ Gary: No, only that it's entirely plausible that Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera. Maybe the plan was to make it look like retail terrorism, not with F-15s. Who knows?

Quite a few times over the last five years, I've pushed myself to give this regime the benefit of the doubt, each time to have what would have been my natural suspicions confirmed (or worse). I'm done with that for a while.

The person who passed along the purported memo relating the Bush-Blair conversation is already being hauled up for violation of the Official Secrets Act. Is he in for worse if someone makes the document public? I.e., is there any chance of the document itself coming to light?

Apologies; got an error the first time.

A deal, Hil. I promise I won't cite a serious news stories from Newsmax or op-eds from Dick Morris.

Hey, thanks.

Charles: OK. Plus, I intend to make up for this shortly with full-bore wonkiness.

"I promise I won't cite a serious news stories from Newsmax or op-eds from Dick Morris."

How about something sourced only to Drudge?

I'll trade you Consortiumnews, antiwar.com, and any John Pilger piece, plus a site to be mutually agreed upon. (I must confess this offer comes easily to me, because I don't recall ever yet linking to any of the folks I've named, save for excoriating a couple of pieces.)

Brevity being the soul of wit, I think that's the funniest thing John Thullen has ever posted.

heh

no one ever expects the space cowboy. May understandably be evoked by the Spacey Cowboy.

Nell beat me to it. I found this story plausible on first reading--on second reading I wondered, but still don't find it implausible that Bush might have proposed this, as I don't have any reason for thinking the man is intelligent, let alone moral. The story might be totally false, of course. But there's a history of al Jazeera being "accidentally" bombed by this Administration--I just refreshed my memory of the two incidents, one in Kabul and one in Baghdad, by looking at the index entry for Al Jazeera in Robert Fisk's latest book.

Regarding news sources, I don't see why one would single out antiwar.com or consortium news as particularly disreputable. I find the "reputable" sources far too willing to give credence to US government spin and would rather read both the NYT and then antiwar.com as an antidote. I don't think Judy Miller was an aberration.

I didn't say a word about "disreputable," or characterize any of the sites I named at all.

However, my concern with antiwar.com isn't reputability, but with Justin Raimondo, neo-proto-fascist.

I don't like Buchananites.

Jim: I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by people who actually do run the country. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country. The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about people who read the Sun?

Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country as long as she's got big tits.

Stephen, I don't know how true your analysis is, but it's damned well put.

FWIW: Daily Mail threatened with Official Secrets Act

via The Grauniad

Okay, Gary, I misunderstood. I don't know anything about Raimondo (I just tried clicking on your link, but the download was too slow and I'm about to go to sleep), but I visit antiwar.com fairly often and find it to be a useful collection of articles. Not that I'm endorsing everything I find there, or Raimondo's own opinions, whatever they might be.

That should read Daily Mirror. Sorry.

While I enjoyed your penitent wonkiness, hilzoy, it appears as though your penitence (like perhaps your original posting) was premature...

alcibiades says:

...you saw an absolutely inane headline and story, and reacted to it as though it were true - or as though there were some honest possibility that it might be true instead of absolute piffle.

and:

...there are quite a few people who have no problem in ruling it out the minute after we read it.

Hypothetical question: If the memo goes public, and validates the story, will you then concede that perhaps your reflexive denial was premature? Would you perhaps even re-evaluate "the assumptions you are bringing to the table?" Will you still be able to summarily dismiss such "inane headlines" in the future?

Or will you fall back to the rationalization that Bush was only joking around (and besides, the memo must be a forgery anyway)?

Our hilzoy, she was wrong once because she thought she was wrong but found out she was right.

Frank Gaffney was on newsnight last night and he basically said that he didn't know if it was true, but it would be OK if it was 'cos, you know, Al Jazeera gives aid to 'our enemies' so at the very least the usual suspects think this would be all right behaviour.

"Stephen, I don't know how true your analysis is, but it's damned well put."

It's Yes, Minister's famous analysis, actually. (There are carbon copies for America and elsewhere that have gone around for years.)

"(I just tried clicking on your link, but the download was too slow and I'm about to go to sleep)"

There are five links, actually. At 49k, I time them out as averaging a load time of 12 seconds. I do urge people to read them, and find out more about antiwar.com; those who have the delusion it's a leftwing site are, ah, unfamiliar with it and making seriously erroneous assumptions. Anti-Semitic proto-fascist Charles Lindbergh isolationism is not, in fact, leftwing. They are, as it has been put, the Old Enemy of the left.

I note that alcibiades produced something from her hunt.

No comment from her on this spotted yet.

Perhaps she'll be back for conversation. I suspect a drive-by is a more likely way this will turn out, though.

No denial from the British and non-denial denials from the Bushies.

CNN

hilzoy may have some penance saved up for the next occasion.

What is interesting is that 70% of people responding to the CNN poll (not scientific of course) belief Bush spoke about bombing al-jazeera.

My take is that he was probably joking, but with Bush, I tend to believe that his jokes often express something deep in him about how he wants the world to be.

There is of course the rather inappropriate joking about finding WMD under sofa cushions, and the "joke" about how much easier his job would be if he was a dictator.

The response to this report, whether it is accurate or not, says a lot about how people view our intrepid leader.

I think that what I was wrong about was posting without thinking nearly hard enough about the nature of the source. I try not to do that.

I did think about the nature of the story, and one thing that struck me as a piece of hard data that I didn't think any paper would just make up (and besides, it was on the BBC) was that someone was actually being charged with leaking this memo.

I remain clueless as to whether it's true or not.

Bombing them in Qatar seems ridiculous, but al-Jazeera's office in Kabul was hit by a US missile in 2001. Hit them a couple years later in Baghdad, too.

Crooked Timber is taking the story seriously -- not so much that Bush necessarily meant any such thing, but that there seems to be support for the proposition that a memo exists showing that he said it.

Now picked up by Reuters. If Labour [Tony Blair wing] wanted the story to die, all they would have had to do is, you know, keep quiet.

Throwing around the draconian Official Secrets Act is gasoline on the fire. Now everyone is cooing and clucking and wants to know more. Perhaps this is Tony's revenge? Who can say.

So my italics went away (my thanks to whoever banished them!). As spartikus and others show, there's something here Blair badly wants to hide, or

Perhaps this is Tony's revenge?

good thinking. But I think Tony's a blustering bully who wants to scare people off this story.

Hilzoy, I agree, there was corroboration (of a kind) that _The Mirror_ wouldn't have made up. (I have an affection for _The Mirror_: it was the first national large-circulation paper to support Labour in a General Election, it housed Paul Foot; and Piers Morgan refused to give in to major advertisers who attacked John Pilger.)

What seems odd to me is that if it was a joke (as I strongly believe) why it would have gotten recorded. I assume anyway that stenographers tacitly amend Bush's speech into standard English and omit idle chit-chat.

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