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In Nevada All Bets Are Off

| Thu Jan. 17, 2008 11:38 AM EST

It's cold as hell here in Reno, Nevada, the snowy Sierras just to the West, the neon lights of the city crisp against the winter night air.

A nice place for the caucus-circus to park itself.

If you've read most of the big newspapers over the past couple months, you could be forgiven for not realizing that Nevada has a caucus on January 19th. The New York Times has routinely referred to the contests in Iowa, followed by New Hampshire, followed by South Carolina. In fact, for a year now Nevadans have been preparing for their own caucus, to be held on the same day as the South Carolina primary. And, for my money, at least for the Democrats it's the western contest that's by far the most interesting.

Why?

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Leahy Endorses Obama, Saying Clinton's Not the Best Dem To "Reintroduce" America

| Thu Jan. 17, 2008 11:21 AM EST

PatrickLeahy.jpg The email came in: Barack Obama Campaign about to Announce a Major Endorsement. Who could that be? Al Gore? The campaign was holding a conference call in minutes to break the news. I quickly called in. And the big catch turned out to be....Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.

This certainly won't turn the race. But one standard line for Senator Hillary Clinton has been that she has outdrawn Obama in senatorial endorsements. She had bagged ten; he had six. Now Obama has cut her lead by 25 percent. She better watch out!

In the conference call, Leahy gave one reason for picking Obama over Clinton and former Senator John Edwards:

I believe many around the world have lost respect for America....I think we can restore that respect. But we need a president who can reintroduce America to the world.

I asked the obvious question: why did Leahy think that Obama could better reintroduce America than Clinton?

Please Tase Them, Bro! What's With Heckling Bill Maher?

| Thu Jan. 17, 2008 9:19 AM EST

Not only do I not watch TV anymore (or, so far), I haven't had premium cable for years. So I missed that some morons out there are, for some reason, heckling Maher about Kucinich or 9/11 or how crappy the reception from Mars is since their aluminum foil hats got dinged. Check out this HuffPo link to his recent appearance on Leno. The piece has lots of other great links to Maher-hating, too. Definitely check the one where he personally leaves the stage to help security give these orifices the bum's rush. Their mamas didn't raise them right and certainly didn't raise them to be intelligent cuz Maher's the wrong hombre to f with, intellectually or physically. I love his line to security: "Don't be gentle with them. Ass-kicking is what's called for."

There's a time and a place for everything, protest included, and a talk show audience is neither.

Slow Your Roll, Bubba: Just How Stupid Does Bill Clinton Think We Are?

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 9:33 PM EST

The Clintons have been so dogged from the moment they hit the campaign trail (his, I mean), that I've tried to avoid piling on. Who else needs to be on the attack against them? Besides, even an Aunt Jemima like me gets tired of making even more black people hate her. But the time has come to point out that Bubba, beloved of Negroes everywhere, is campaigning for his wife (which is fine) like a newspeak-wielding goon (which is not). The following doesn't even make sense:

New (-ish) Music: Studio - Yearbook 1

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 6:12 PM EST

mojo-photo-studioyearbook.jpgA lot of music requires the listener to be patient, give it time, let it sink in, listen to the whole album beginning to end before judging. On Swedish duo Studio's Yearbook 1, it's possible to pinpoint the actual moment you have to wait for: exactly 1 minute and 39 seconds into track 1, "No Comply," the awkward piano chords and strained vocals give way to a chiming guitar arpeggio, and the effect is like rounding a bend to see a vertigo-inducing vista. That sense of unexpected majesty never goes away on this collection of the band's vinyl releases.

White House 'Recycled' Backups of its Email Records

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 4:10 PM EST

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Late last night the White House submitted a curious court filing (PDF) in the ongoing case over the 5 to 10 million emails, spanning 2003 to 2005, that have gone missing from its archives due to a "technical issue." Faced with a court order (PDF), the White House said that it has backup tapes of its email records—but only after October 2003, when it stopped recycling its backups. This means that there are apparently no backups of messages sent and received during the previous ten months of 2003—an important time period, covering the run up to the Iraq war, as well as the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson's covert identity. As if this story couldn't get more convoluted, the White House is also claiming it doesn't know whether any emails from that period are actually missing.

"They suggest that they don't even know if they have anomalies, but there's plenty of public record evidence that they do [know]," says Anne Weismann, chief counsel for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which, along with the National Security Archives (NSA), is suing the administration to ensure the preservation of presidential records. "This is an extremely carefully worded declaration that when you parse it through doesn't really say a whole lot," Weismann said.

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What Was Jeff Gerth Thinking?

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 3:33 PM EST

The new right-wing movie about Hillary Clinton ("Hillary: The Movie") is generally populated with all the usual suspects: Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich and other conservative commentators, along with a couple of convicted felons, none of whom have anything nice to say about the senator. One headliner, though, is not like the others: Former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth. The Pulitzer-Prizing wining Gerth is not a pundit, and in his 30-year-career at the Times, he says he never even did so much as a radio interview about his work. But there he is, on the big screen with Ann Coulter in a film created by a conservative group known for playing dirty.

Gerth's comments are mostly limited to material from his new book on Hillary, such as observations about her attempts to redefine herself. But it's clear that the filmmakers are psyched to have someone from the mainstream media participating in the project to offset its heavy reliance on felons as sources. They've even used Gerth's interview in an ad for the film, which is now at the center of a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission. All in all, it does beg the question: What was Gerth thinking?

Defending (Gulp!) the Campaign Press

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 3:18 PM EST

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I'm going to try and do the unthinkable and defend the campaign press.

I'm spurred to this by Matt Taibbi's latest in Rolling Stone, another one of his scorching indictments of the press corps. "We're engaged in a catastrophic war in Iraq, facing a burgeoning nuclear crisis in Pakistan, dealing with all sorts of horrible stuff," writes Taibbi, "[and] the media has done its best to turn a once-promising race into an idiotic exchange of Nerf-insults."

Banksy Wall Gets $400,000 Bid, Remains Terrible

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 2:40 PM EST

Banksy in LondonIn the latest twist in the career of British "art prankster" Banksy, a wall on which he painted another one of his one-note eye-rollers has brought £208,100 at auction, or around $400,000. The wall, on the side of a building on Portobello Road in London, will have to be removed to be enjoyed at home by the buyer, and the cost of removal is not included in the price. The artwork depicts a stereotypical artist, with bow-tie and paint palette, putting the finishing touches with a brush on a sloppy "Banksy" tag that has clearly been spray-painted. Har, har: it sure pokes fun at all those people who take art seriously!

Fully Exploring the Chris Matthews "Obsession" With Hillary Clinton

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 12:39 PM EST

chris_matthews_smirk.jpg One need only watch Hardball for maybe 30 or 40 seconds to know that Chris Matthews has some really odd issues with women that he projects onto Hillary Clinton. There was the discussion of her "cackle," the claim that she was only elected to the Senate because her husband "messed around," the fact that he pinched her cheek when they met face to face, and the probing of Hillary's status as a "she devil."

That's why this comprehensive takedown of Matthews by David Brock is so welcome. Here's a sample of Matthews' statements, from that takedown (which I encourage you to read in full).

"Nurse Ratched"
"Doesn't she know she looks like a fraud?"
"[L]et's talk about the troops ...Will they take the orders?"
"[S]he's clapping, like she's Chinese. I know the Chinese clap at each other, but what is she clapping at? I mean, it's like one of these wind-up things."
"[S]he was giving a campaign barn-burner speech, which is harder to give for a woman; it can grate on some men when they listen to it -- fingernails on a blackboard, perhaps."

There's also the simple fact that Matthews doesn't really say things. He declares them, in big, showy, unambiguous ways, and then goes on and on and on about them. In the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary, he announced Hillary's campaign dead and asked every guest he had if she should just drop out of the race. After yesterday's debate, he announced that Clinton's performance was a "dramatic powerplay" (even though it was a relatively nondescript debate in which all candidates looked tired but intelligent and composed) and would not stop repeating his chosen storyline (even though no one else on his network seemed to see it the same way).

So here's the summary. Chris Matthews: odious and sexist when slamming Hillary Clinton, just plain annoying at all other times.