Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Press: Ben Bradlee On The Record

If you've got an hour or so to listen to Jim Lehrer's interview with Ben Bradlee, well, it's an education not only in the letter, but the spirit, of journalism as it should be.

This front page, by the way, is from the summer I started working at The Washington Post. - C.D.

French Protests: The Cuban Connection

Took this picture at Place de la Madeleine today. It was blocked off entirely so the CGT could protest against privatizations of state utilities. There were more cops than demonstrators, but the protesters were having a better time. Click to enlarge and check out the pink sign for one reason why. - CD Posted by Picasa


Another new word, thanks to Ron Suskind and Time Magazine: "mubtakkar," which means "inventive" and is supposed to be the infernal machine that Al Qaeda planned to use on the NY subway in early 2003.

As an antidote to the hype, I'd suggest reading my colleague Mark Hosenball's report on the Suskind book. And for a very, very skeptical but well reasoned appraisal, I'd propose a curious blog called "Dick Destiny," which critiques not only the Time story, but the whole culture of hyperbole that has grown up around Al Qaeda's still futile efforts to conjure weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, of course, it appears North Korea is getting ready to launch a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States and, oh darn, the Bush administration can't quite figure out what to do.... - C.D.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bush: Screen Saver

If you haven't seen it already, this animated screen saver of President Bush tumbling ever downward is, well, interesting. If he gets stuck, you can move him with your cursor:


From Department of Defense,
INSTRUCTION NUMBER 1300.18, December 18, 2000:

E2.1.1.16. Duty Status - Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN).
A temporary designation, applicable to military members
only, used when the reason for a member's absence is
uncertain and it is possible that the member may be
a casualty whose absence is involuntary, but there is
not sufficient evidence to make a determination that
the member's actual status is missing or deceased.

The acronym DUSTWUN is an old one for the American military, but a new one for most of the American public. Sadly, it may soon be translated into "hostage."

This is the official Defense Department press release about the events near Yusufiyah south of Baghdad on Saturday:

DoD Identifies Army Casualty and Soldiers as Whereabouts Unknown
The Department of Defense announced today the death of one soldier
and the identity of two soldiers listed as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown
(DUSTWUN) who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. On June 16, in
Baghdad, Iraq, the soldiers were manning a checkpoint when they came under
enemy small arms fire. All three soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion,
502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault),
Fort Campbell, Ky.

Killed was:

Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass.

Reported as DUSTWUN are:

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, Texas

Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore.

According to some unconfirmed reports, the U.S. military, searching intensely for the two, has offered residents of the area up to $100,000 for information leading to their release. But it's unlikely this is a money deal.

Last Wednesday, I met with a British friend who runs one of the many private security companies in Iraq. He predicted that American and British soldiers would be taken hostage there and possibly in Afghanistan as well. He suggested that the most likely propaganda goal would be to accumulate several hostages taken in ambushes, then to carry out serial executions over time. It looks like he was right about the first part of the program. Let's hope he was wrong about the second. - CD

Monday, June 12, 2006

Iraq, Enron and Marla Ruzicka

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On a flight from Jordan back to Paris today, I watched the 2005 documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," which I hadn't seen before. It's a great reminder of the kind of BS "out-of-the-box" thinking and macho posturing that not only bankrupted a huge company, but helped drag the United States into the quagmire of Iraq. Afghanistan, after all, just wasn't a big enough war for tough guys like Dick Cheney and the neo-con clique at the Pentagon.

About two-thirds of the way through the movie, there is a chapter on Enron's rape of California in 2001, and a sequence in which protesters disrupt a conference with Enron CEO Jeff Skillings at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. One throws a blueberry tofu cream pie at the guy, or smears his face with it. That precise moment, alas, was not captured on tape, and I'm not sure who the intrepid pastry tosser was, but in the next scene we see Marla Ruzicka being dragged out of the room by a security man, shouting protests all the way.

I didn't meet Marla until the eve of the Iraq invasion, but saw her often in 2003 and 2004, when she was working to win recognition of and compensation for the Iraqi victims of the U.S.-led invasion. She'd been connected with the lefties of Global Exchange before that, and made protest a way of life, but the shock of Iraq had turned her into a pragmatist who was able to work with the American military, if necessary, to get help to some of the suffering Iraqis. When Marla was killed on the infamous airport road last year, all of us who knew here felt the loss.

A quick check of Google entries tells me that others noticed Marla in the Enron film, but I was surprised and touched to see her unexpectedly once again, so full of life and fire.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rumsfeld: More on Unknown Unknowns

My friend Joe notes this remark from Rumsfeld just yesterday, on the alleged Haditha massacre:

"We also know that in conflicts things that shouldn't happen do happen."


From Mark in Texas:

Regarding your article entitled "Iran: A Rummy Guide", I wish your magazine and the media in general would give credit to the originator of the concept of "Known Unknowns" (et. al). The seminal work defining these concepts, Augustine's Laws, was published 1983 by past Chairman of Lockheed Martin, and past Undersecretary of the Army, Norman Augustine.

I remember reading this work as a young engineer back in the mid 1980's and roaring with the laughter that only come from the truth exposed. Mr. Augustine's book is a must read for anyone in the defense business and is as true today (sadly) as it ever was.

And to all who refer to the concept of "Known Unknowns", give credit where credit is due.

Some of the articles I published over the last month:

Shadowland: Jail Break 27 May 2006
Why the best new chance to end the Middle East impasse came from Palestinian inmates of an Israeli prison.

Shadowland: K Is for Vendetta 17 May 2006
Why does the Bush administration want to believe that Kaddafi has changed his ways?

Shadowland: Season of the Wolf 12 May 2006
Is there a case for conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the Iraq war? For Washington's opponents, the truth is less important than the image of an America gone mad.

Newsweek International: Why Iran Is Driving Oil Up 7 May 2006
Tehran could calm jitters by toning down its nuclear rhetoric—if the regimee didn't need the money more.

NYT Book Review: The Sand Café,' by Neil MacFarquhar 7 May 2006
Love and Rockets

Newsweek Online: Catholics and Condoms 3 May 2006
Will the pope change the church’s stand? The Vatican is currently engaged in a complex debate—and a major part of it is whether condoms could turn marital sex into something considered evil.

Newsweek Online: Depth in Venice 5 May 2006
A French businessman’s stunning collection is helping to turn the city of the doges into a European mecca for modern art.

Newsweek: Iran: A Rummy Guide 30 April 2006
To borrow a phrase used for Iraq, there are 'things we now know we don't know.' NEWSWEEK sorts it out.

Egypt: Not the Picture of Democracy

It's been a long month away from the Blogosphere, but not away from the keyboard. Part of it was spent in Cairo, where the political freedoms allowed to blossom last year are drying up like lilies in the desert This week, I got word from Gameela Ismail, whose husband Ayman Nour was jailed after running against Hosni Mubarak in presidential elections, that the conference hall Nour established in his old parliamentary district had been burned. While I was in Cairo, I attended the hearing for Nour, where his appeal was rejected and he was, as a result, condemned to four more years in prison. Some pictures:

Gameela Ismail and her older son wait in court for word on Ayman Nour's appeal.

Ismail speads to reporters as an unidentified man watches and listens.

Gameela Ismail speaking to Al Jazeera outside courthouse, with riot police in background.