Blogs

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!

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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.

Lott Replacement Learns Fast

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 12:24 PM EST

After Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi decided he would bail on his career in public service in order to make gobs of money as a lobbyist, he was replaced by a gent named Roger Wicker. Wicker immediately picked up where his predecessor left off.

[Wicker] last year obtained a $6 million earmark for a defense contractor whose executives were among his top campaign contributors and were represented in the matter by Wicker's former congressional chief of staff, according to federal records.
Wicker's earmark for Manassas-based Aurora Flight Science fits a pattern that recently attracted bipartisan criticism and gave rise to the most far-reaching ethics overhaul legislation in a generation: The firm retained the services of the congressman's top aide after he passed through the revolving door to become a lobbyist, and its employees helped underwrite Wicker's reelection.

Clinton Campaign Uses Top Lobbyist for Post-Debate Spin

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 11:25 AM EST

Mark Schmitt over at TAPPED has a great grab. After yesterday's Democratic debate in Nevada, the three campaigns each sent a top surrogate to MSNBC to try and spin Chris Matthews and his audience. Edwards sent Joe Trippi, his top strategist, and Obama send David Alexrod, his top strategist. But Clinton didn't send Mark Penn; she sent former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. Things were moving along in standard fashion until

Matthews out of nowhere said, "Mr. Slater, I just noticed that you're a lawyer at Patton, Boggs. That's Tommy Boggs's lobbying firm. Are you a lobbyist?" "We're a full-service law firm, Chris." And then a little more, and Matthews says, "I just want to be clear about this: Do you do any lobbying?" "I have done a little lobbying, but I'm an attorney. We're a full-service law firm. We offer our clients the full package."
For the record, Washingtonian puts Slater at #39 in its list of 50 top lobbyists.

Nice.

Girls 2 Women? Not Yet, Not Even in Baghdad

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 8:37 AM EST

Check out CNN's video on "the girls gossiping" in a Baghdad beauty shop. Not one of "the girls" looks a day under 35 and most look middle-aged. I guess what "the boys" do in Baghdad barber shops is "discuss affairs of state." Given that much of "the girls" "gossip" revolved around wondering whether that thing in the road was a bomb or not and whether they'll be bombed in their sleep, it says volumes about the world's need to juvenilize women, no matter how dire their circumstances. It's as if, to honor their bravery in congregating in a verboten place, the world must first regress them to childhood. It's just perfect that the reporter was a woman. Sorry, girl.

When I saw the headline ("These Girls Will Gossip, Even in Baghdad"), I clicked, expecting to see teenaged girls taking a break from the drudgery of their lives, doing each other's all-too-hidden hair and teasing each other about that cute boy down the road. So, it was jarring to watch those mothers and grandmothers reduced to silly teens. No doubt, that reporter thought she was helping show that Iraq's women have to be brave too and how life goes on if you'll let it, but all she did was embarrass herself and demean them. Hard to take Iraq's women seriously when they're constructed as gossiping teens.

You can say this is a minor point, but you'd be wrong. Not all stories from war zones need be about the war, as this very piece proves. Sometimes stories from war zones can inadvertently highlight how half the population has yet to be taken seriously, no matter how serious their lives.

Destroyed Torture Tapes Inquiry: Once Again, It's All About the Cover Up, Not the Crime

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 6:46 AM EST

When members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence gather Wednesday afternoon to take the special unmarked elevator to the secure "crypt" to hear a closed briefing on the destruction of CIA videotapes, they won't be hearing from their star witness. Jose Rodriguez Jr., the former CIA director of operations, who has been identified as having ordered the destruction of two videotapes recording the waterboarding of two terrorism suspects, "remains under subpoeana," says a committee staffer. But the committee has agreed to defer his appearance. "His lawyer has indicated he is not going to answer questions," without immunity, the staffer continued. "The committee reserves the right to call him" at a later date.

"We're pleased that the committee is considering our request for immunity," says Robert S. Bennett, Rodriguez' attorney. "It's only fair in light of the fact that he has not been given access to the documents he needs to defend himself with."

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that among those documents which might explain Rodriguez' order to destroy the tapes are a late 2005 classified cable from the retiring Bangkok station chief asking if he could destroy the videotapes recorded and stored in Thailand. Perhaps more influential on his decision, the Post reports, in the same time period as the retiring station chief's request, "the CIA had a new director [Porter Goss] and an acting general counsel [John Rizzo], neither of whom sought to block the destruction of the tapes, according to agency officials."

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Couple Additional Debate Thoughts

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 12:54 AM EST

I just wanted to add a couple of notes to the post-debate analysis David has up.

I thought one of the most interesting moments of the debate was when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debated which management style was better for the president to have. Clinton argued that the president needs to be both the "head of state and the head of government." A good "head of government" can "manage and run the bureaucracy" and avoid the mistakes of a Washington greenhorn. This obviously plays to her eight years of experience in the White House.

Clinton added that President Bush didn't know how to manage things on a day to day level, and as a result we got rampant cronyism and problems like Katrina. Obama responded that Bush's failures are greater than that:

GOP in Michigan: Every Man Has His Surge

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 12:17 AM EST

romney-wins-michigan.jpg Michigan made Mitt comfortable. First of all, he knew the state (he was born there) and the state knew him (his father was governor from 1963 to 1969). Second, the state has ridden the flagging auto industry to the highest unemployment in the country, and is badly in need of an economic miracle-maker of the type Romney was when he was turning companies around as the head of Bain.

And so, for once, Mitt Romney was the perfect fit. The evangelicals of Iowa could have Mike Huckabee and the independents of New Hampshire could have John McCain. The economically depressed voters of Michigan wanted their favorite son.

Romney did his part. He retooled his campaign, dropping much of the social conservative pabulum that hadn't been resonating with voters and ran as a businessman hell-bent on delivering results. And the voters responded, according to exit polling. Fifty-five percent of exit poll respondents identified the economy as the most important issue. Those economically minded voters chose the native son by a wide margin: 42% for Romney, 29% for McCain, and 14% for Huckabee. Those who prioritized immigration also went heavily for Romney. Those who prioritized Iraq went heavily for McCain.

Just over 40 percent of voters said that Romney's personal connection to Michigan was "somewhat important" or "very important" to them. Those voters selected Romney by massive margins.

Dems Debate in Nevada: All's Calm on Iraq and Race, But Not on Nuclear Energy

| Tue Jan. 15, 2008 11:55 PM EST

dems-debate-nevada250x200.jpgWhat did the umpteenth Democratic presidential debate, held in Nevada on Tuesday night, demonstrate? That Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton each need a nap. The trio looked worn out. Perhaps that was why few punches were thrown. The Iraq war, the politics of race, tears (or near tears)--the Democratic contest had become rather heated in recent days. Clinton, using misleading information, had accused Obama of being a disingenuous hypocrite regarding the war. Obama's camp had seized on a comment Clinton had made to Fox News and assailed her for supposedly dissing Martin Luther King Jr. And Edwards had snidely insinuated Clinton might not be strong enough to be president (after she became emotional at a campaign stop in New Hampshire). It was getting nasty.

But in Las Vegas, there was relative calm. And no one hit the jackpot.

NBC Calls it for Mitt in Michigan

| Tue Jan. 15, 2008 8:58 PM EST

Perhaps in an effort to get the Republican news out of the way before it airs the Democratic debate, NBC News has called the Michigan primary for Mitt Romney. Currently, there is 12 percent of the vote counted, and the totals are these:

Mitt Romney 37%
John McCain 31%
Mike Huckabee 14%
Ron Paul 6%
Fred Thompson 4%
Rudy Giuliani 3%

Polling before the primary put it this way:

Mitt Romney 25%
John McCain 21%
Mike Huckabee 18%
Rudy Giuliani 7%
Ron Paul 7%
Fred Thompson 5%

Good night for Mitt Romney. I'll be honest: I never thought it would happen. After seeing Romney in person on a number of occassions, I really felt that Mitt Romney would alienate any state that saw him up close. Turns out, every dog has his day.

Updated numbers after the jump.