Distraction Attraction

darth cheneyProf. Jay Rosen @ PressThink adds depth to my belief that the White House is having a field day with the OCD-ification of the press regarding such meaningless sideshows as the Harry Whittington Slow Train (or is it a short bus)? Read his insightful post today in which he expands up his theory of the post-Watergate/Vietnam-era “rollback” strategy as set in motion by our powermonger-in-command, Big Time:

[The White House] has a larger aim: to roll back the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country, but also less of a wild card in fighting enemies of the state in the permanent war on terror.?

A host of worthwhile links are embedded in Rosen’s post today. If only the WH Press Corps would bother with reading the latest Foreign Affairs instead of drumming up more fodder for Entertainment Tonight:

How does it hurt Bush if for three days this week reporters are pummeling Scott McClellan over the details of when they were informed about Cheney?s hunting accident? That?s three days this week they won?t be pummeling Scott McClellan over the details of this article from Foreign Affairs by Paul R. Pillar, the ex-CIA man who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year.Here?s what the article says: ?During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq? the Bush administration disregarded the community?s expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.? Pillar was there; if anyone would know he would.

Indeed, Cheney is riding high into the weekend on the cthulu of attention he’s received since shooting his way out of his bunker.

Not only can the #2 American public figure drink beer and shoot up his friends, he saw in Wednesday’s chummy interview with Fox News‘ Brit Hume a golden opportunity to claim lawful authority to declassify, for example, the identity of certain covert CIA operatives.

Steve Clemons debunks Cheney’s claims (slipped into his interview with Brit Hume on Fox News yesterday) in orderly fashion at the Washington Note.

Even George Will is fed up with the administrations utter disrespect for the Constitution.

Terrorism is not the only new danger this era…. The administration, in which mere obduracy sometimes serves as political philosophy, pushes the limits of assertion while disdaining collaboration. This faux toughness is folly….

Kidnappers Set New Deadline for Jill Carroll

Jill Carroll - AlRai / APTNChairman of the Kuwaiti television channel Al Rai, Jassem Boudai announced Friday that specific demands from the kidnappers of American Journalist Jill Carroll have been passed on to authorities via the network. The kidnappers threaten to kill Carroll unless the demands are met by February 26, according to Reuters.

Carroll is “in a safe house owned by one of the kidnappers in downtown Baghdad with a group of women,” according to Boudai’s statement to AP.

Carroll seemed calm in a videotape aired Thursday on Al Rai TV. She asked that all demands of her kidnappers be met as “there is very short time left.”

Natasha and J. Scott Tynes, both friends and former colleagues of Jill Carroll, update the story as it happens on Natasha’s blog.

Official statements and updates from Carroll’s employer, Christian Science Monitor can be found here. Click here for a timeline of events involving Jill Carroll.

And let’s hope that this ends promptly and peacefully.

Sunday super Sunday

The perspective from the United States seems more than a bit removed when it comes to racial baiting, unrest, and public debate regarding religion. We are so distant from such events as the recent civil unrest in France and the unqualified chaos that has resulted from the reprinting of months-old Danish cartoonery that not a soul flinches when our “born again” dear leader — aspiring liberator of all ten planets — concludes his speeches “may God bless America.” Talk about a blasphemy complex….

The debate over freedom of speech versus rules of faith rolled out into the streets of Syria Saturday, as fire was set to the Danish Embassy there. Journalists have been arrested and fired after reprinting the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten‘s infamous Mohammad cartoons. Managing editor of the Paris nightly France Soir also lost his job. The discussion has turned philosophical with references to Salman Rushdie. U.S. newspapers did not print the cartoon, avoiding inevitable karmic consequences, while the White House wisely stayed mum on the controversy. As Zakaria writes, Washington sounded convincing for some time in successfuly repressing Islamic fundamentalism.

In Iraqi oil news, the New York Times reports that “government corruption” resulting in the diversion of Iraqi oil revenues into the hands of the insurgency is “threatening to undermine Iraq’s strugging economy.” This follows an L.A. Times report of a mortar attack on a petroleum facility in Kirkuk on Thursday, described by an Iraqi oil executive as the “most severe attack we have ever faced on an oil installation.”

The Washington Post has further analysis on the results of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. The front-page article is critical of the program, noting that few if any of the nearly 40,000 employees in the NSA are even capable of translating the phone calls, and concluding that nearly all of the citizens suspected of terrorist involvement as a result of eavesdropping were later cleared. According to Time, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will assail the press for its coverage of the warrantless wiretaps story. Among the remarks prepared for Gonzales presentation to Arlen Specter and the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday:

“These press accounts are in almost every case, in one way or another, misinformed, confused, or wrong.”

The law profs weigh in: UofC’s Stone, Georgetown’s Cole, NYU’s Feldman.

hugo chavez fidel castroVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues with threats to jail U.S. diplomats in Venezuela and close oil refineries to the U.S. while he purchases more weapons. After Sec. Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Adolf Hitler on Thursday, Chavez compared President Bush to the Nazi leader. The U.S. depends on Venezuelan for about 15% of its annual oil consumption, importing 1.5 million barrels a day.

AP: The U.S. will release 50 Iraqi detainees on Sunday, however, none of the four known female detainees are expected to be among these. The kidnappers of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll demanded the release of all female Iraqi detainees as a condition for Carroll’s release.

Worldwide pleas for the Carroll’s releaes continue to roll in following the broadcast last week of a second video featuring the reporter in tears. Her friend, Jordanian-born journalist Natasha Tynes, has analysis.

jerome bettis beats the bears, c/o register-mailSeattle v. Pittsburgh. This better be a good one.

I like the “Bus” and “Big Ben,” plus they beat down da Bears this year — so I’m pulling for Pittsburgh. Either way, good Patriot-less football will be a bonus. Super Bowl XL.

Saddam + Trial = Chaos

AFPIn Journalism School, we’re repeatedly told to avoid hyperboles such as “devastating,” “penultimate,” etc…

Ever since the U.S. put Saddam Hussein on trial in Iraq, the keyword has been chaos. So today’s Reuters headline comes as no surprise:

BAGHDAD, Iraq-Saddam Hussein‘s trial quickly collapsed into chaos after resuming Sunday with one defendant dragged out of court and the defense team walking out in protest. The former Iraqi leader was then ejected after shouting “down with traitors” and “down with America.”

AFP: Trial chaos as Saddam walks out, half-brother ejected