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June 05, 2004

Why does Bush need a private attorney?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

John Dean of Watergate fame explains the possibilities. One irony is tasty:

The answer is that the President has likely been told it would be risky to talk to his White House lawyers, particularly if he knows more than he claims publicly.

Ironically, it was the fair-haired Republican stalwart Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr who decimated the attorney-client privilege for government lawyers and their clients...

And Dean thinks Bush might indeed be in ankle-deep Chalabi on this one:

It is possible that Bush is consulting Sharp only out of an excess of caution -- despite the fact that he knows nothing of the leak, or of any possible coverup of the leak. But that's not likely.

On this subject, I spoke with an experienced former federal prosecutor who works in Washington, specializing in white collar criminal defense (but who does not know Sharp). That attorney told me that he is baffled by Bush's move -- unless Bush has knowledge of the leak. "It would not seem that the President needs to consult personal counsel, thereby preserving the attorney-client privilege, if he has no knowledge about the leak," he told me.

What advice might Bush get from a private defense counsel? The lawyer I consulted opined that, "If he does have knowledge about the leak and does not plan to disclose it, the only good legal advice would be to take the Fifth, rather than lie. The political fallout is a separate issue."


June 03, 2004

Out of here

Busy for a few days.

Looking backward

This piece, which ran in Slate last November, argues that there is no evidence that the Bush administration favors its cronies in rewarding reconstruction contracts.

It bothered me at the time-- focusing solely on a direct correlation between campaign contributions and contracts rewarded, the author ignores other obvious factors which contribute to cronyism, such as longstanding personal relationships and the possibility of personal gain.

At any rate, I thought of it when this came out earlier in the week:

A newly unearthed Pentagon e-mail about Halliburton contracts in Iraq prompted fresh calls on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for probes into whether Vice President Dick Cheney helped his old firm get the deals.

The e-mail, reported by Time magazine, provided "clear evidence" of a relationship between Cheney and multibillion-dollar contracts Halliburton has received for rebuilding Iraq, Sen. Patrick Leahy said.

"It totally contradicts the vice president's previous assertions of having no contact" with federal officials about Halliburton's Iraq deals, Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a conference call set up by John Kerry's presidential campaign. "It would be irresponsible not to hold hearings."

The March 2003 Pentagon e-mail says action on a no-bid Halliburton contract to rebuild Iraq's oil industry was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. Cheney was chief executive officer of the oilfield services giant from 1995 until he joined George W. Bush's presidential ticket in 2000.

So, golly, as it turns out, Halliburton might be getting favored treatment after all. Who woulda figured?

That's more like it...

Democrats locate their collective spine:

For the second day running, Democrats demanded more answers to questions raised by a newly unearthed Army e-mail that said Cheney's office "coordinated" action on a contract to rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure that was awarded to Halliburton.

Eleven Democratic members of the House of Representatives wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking him to name a special counsel to investigate Cheney's role.

"The public deserves to know the truth about whether the Vice President has illegally commingled his official and personal dealings," said the letter from Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and 10 other House lawmakers.



...is having a little contest. It sort of ties in with what I was trying to say here.

(Warning: not for the easily depressed, or those prone to despair about the human condition.)

Farenheit 9/11

The trailer is here.


June 02, 2004

More things to pack

Just a shout-out to the folks at Great Lakes, who were kind enough to send me one of their Cheney marionettes, which comes with its own smaller Bush puppet. (Just follow the link if you can't visualize it. It's very cool.)

Also thanks to the publishers who sent David Brock and Arianna Huffington's newest books recently. I'm looking forward to being the sort of person who has time to read them.

Oh, that Chalabi

Bush with that fellow he can barely remember meeting. (The more recent one, I mean, not Kenny Boy Lay, who also got the amnesia treatment when things went sour.)

Sent in by reader Bob K. On a related note, Billmon wonders if Chalabi will be the right's Algier Hiss. (I believe I've mentioned this before, but the Whiskey Bar is an increasingly valuable refuge from the snark and brevity of most blogs, this one included.)

...Atrios has more.


I wouldn't want to suggest that anyone who consults a lawyer is therefore guilty--but it is noteworthy when the President of the United States feels compelled to do so.

President Bush has consulted an outside lawyer in case he needs to retain him in the grand jury investigation of who leaked the name of a covert CIA operative last year, the White House said Wednesday.

Darndest thing. That Plame investigation has been pronounced bogus a couple dozen times...but it just doesn't seem to go away...


Another one the right got wrong

The story behind the story of Kerry's alleged affair.

Odd moment

I was listening to Hannity yesterday afternoon, and he had Condi Rice on the show doing spin control duty...which is neither here nor there; the thing that struck me as truly odd was that she came on the show using her speaker phone. Of course she sounded terrible, and as politely and supportively as he could manage, Hannity had to urge her to pick up the damn phone. Now, I'm confident that (a) this was not the first time Rice has ever been on the radio, and (b) she knows that speaker phones always sound terrible on the receiving end. So I guess the question is, how completely clueless and self-absorbed do you have to be to go on a national radio program using your speaker phone?

My, my, my
When a forest fire shut down a major transmission line into California, cutting power supplies and raising prices, Enron energy traders celebrated, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports.

"Burn, baby, burn. That's a beautiful thing," a trader sang about the massive fire.

Four years after California's disastrous experiment with energy deregulation, Enron energy traders can be heard on audiotapes obtained by CBS News gloating and praising each other as they helped bring on, and cash-in on, the Western power crisis.

"He just f---s California," says one Enron employee. "He steals money from California to the tune of about a million."

"Will you rephrase that?" asks a second employee.

"OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day," replies the first.

The tapes, from Enron's West Coast trading desk, also confirm what CBS reported years ago: that in secret deals with power producers, traders deliberately drove up prices by ordering power plants shut down.


"They're f------g taking all the money back from you guys?" complains an Enron employee on the tapes. "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"

"Yeah, grandma Millie, man"

"Yeah, now she wants her f------g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a------ for f------g $250 a megawatt hour."


Before the 2000 election, Enron employees pondered the possibilities of a Bush win.

"It'd be great. I'd love to see Ken Lay Secretary of Energy," says one Enron worker.

That didn't happen, but they were sure President Bush would fight any limits on sky-high energy prices.

"When this election comes Bush will f------g whack this s--t, man. He won't play this price-cap b------t."

Crude, but true.

"We will not take any action that makes California's problems worse and that's why I oppose price caps," said Mr. Bush on May 29, 2001.

Both the Justice Department and Enron tried to prevent the release of these tapes. Enron's lawyers argued they merely prove "that people at Enron sometimes talked like Barnacle Bill the Sailor."

Okay, John Kerry--that one has just been delivered to you gift wrapped with a lovely bow.


Well, well, well

We've already heard about this in a general way, but now we get specifics: the man the neocons relied upon for much of their pre-war intel--indeed, the man they once hoped to install as the chosen Presidential Puppet Leader of Iraq--turns out to have most likely been a double agent, passing information along to Iran.

Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi leader and former ally of the Bush administration, disclosed to an Iranian official that the United States had broken the secret communications code of Iran's intelligence service, betraying one of Washington's most valuable sources of information about Iran, according to United States intelligence officials.

The general charge that Mr. Chalabi provided Iran with critical American intelligence secrets was widely reported last month after the Bush administration cut off financial aid to Mr. Chalabi's organization, the Iraqi National Congress, and American and Iraqi security forces raided his Baghdad headquarters.

The Bush administration, citing national security concerns, asked The New York Times and other news organizations not to publish details of the case. The Times agreed to hold off publication of some specific information that top intelligence officials said would compromise a vital, continuing intelligence operation. The administration withdrew its request on Tuesday, saying information about the code-breaking was starting to appear in news accounts.

You gotta love the reason Chalabi got caught double-dipping:

According to American officials, the Iranian official in Baghdad, possibly not believing Mr. Chalabi's account, sent a cable to Tehran detailing his conversation with Mr. Chalabi, using the broken code. That encrypted cable, intercepted and read by the United States, tipped off American officials to the fact that Mr. Chalabi had betrayed the code-breaking operation, the American officials said.

Whooops! Boy is somebody's face red. But here's the really important part:

The F.B.I. has opened an espionage investigation seeking to determine exactly what information Mr. Chalabi turned over to the Iranians as well as who told Mr. Chalabi that the Iranian code had been broken, government officials said. The inquiry, still in an early phase, is focused on a very small number of people who were close to Mr. Chalabi and also had access to the highly restricted information about the Iran code.

Somebody's sweating it out today.

To summarize: the neocon fanatics driving foreign policy turn out to have been as naive as midwestern tourists convinced they can win at three-card monte. They were taken for a ride by a self-serving con man who was apparently passing classified information on to the Iranians.

In short, we went to war on the word of a spy. And that's the best possible face that can be put on this.

No wonder George Bush suddenly can't quite remember ever actually meeting Mr. Chalabi.


June 01, 2004

Twelve simple questions for the President


Sorry, Ahmed who?

Heard a clip of Bush on the radio today, claiming to barely know who Ahmed Chalabi is--something to the effect that he might have met him in a rope line sometime, but that's about it.

Then again, who knows. This is Bush we're talking about here--the guy who came out last week to give a major speech on Iraq and pronounced "Abu Ghraib" three different ways (including the unfortunate "Aboo Gah...RAPE?"), as if he'd never actually spoken the name out loud before.

Site notes

I want to welcome two new advertisers, on either side of the page down below the nav buttons--Great Lakes Science & Novelty, which makes some really odd, but cool, puppets; and, on the opposite side of the page, my friends John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, whose latest book features cover art from your humble host.

Also...most of you know this, but for those of you just tuning in: this is going to be an insanely busy month for me, so posting is likely to be sporadic (though Bob may pick up some of the slack).

Thug watch

Okay, first a little background:

Guy Colwell was born in Oakland, California in 1945. He studied two years at the California College of Arts and Crafts and worked as a toy sculptor for Mattel in 1966. In 1968, he was imprisoned for draft resistance and spent two years in jail. He started working on his first comic book in 1972, 'Inner City Romance, in which he depicted tales of political repression, violence and ghetto and prison life.

I read a lot of underground comics (or if you prefer, 'comix') growing up in the seventies; I remember Inner City Romance. Not that it's relevant to the discussion at hand, but I met Colwell once, in the early eighties, when I was working on a short-lived magazine which reported on the comics industry. I remember that he wanted to be known for his paintings as much as his comic work. At any rate, it doesn't surprise me that he's done a painting based on Abu Ghraib. What does shock me is that in San Francisco, a stone's throw from City Lights and Vesuvio, a gallery owner gets threatened and attacked and has to shut down her gallery for displaying that painting.

After displaying a painting of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners, a San Francisco gallery owner bears a painful reminder of the nation's unresolved anguish over the incidents at Abu Ghraib -- a black eye and bloodied brow delivered by an unknown assailant who apparently objected to the art work.

The assault outside the Capobianco gallery in the city's North Beach district Thursday night was the worst, but only the latest in a string of verbal and physical attacks that have been directed at owner Lori Haigh since the painting, titled "Abuse," was installed there on May 16.

The painting was part of a larger show of Colwell's work that mostly featured pastel-colored abstracts.

Two days after the painting went up in a front window, someone threw eggs and dumped trash on the doorstep. Haigh said she didn't think to connect it to the black-and-white interpretation of the events at Baghdad's notorious prison until people started leaving nasty messages and threats on her business answering machine.

"I think you need to get your gallery out of this neighborhood before you get hurt," one caller said.

Even after she removed the painting from the window, the criticism continued thanks to news coverage about the gallery's troubles. The answering machine recorded new calls from people accusing her of being a coward for taking the picture down. Last weekend, a man walked into the gallery, pretended to scrutinize the art work for a moment, then marched up to Haigh's desk and spat directly in her face.

On Thursday, someone knocked on the door of the gallery, then punched Haigh in the face when she stepped outside.

Full story here.


May 31, 2004

Memorial Day

Trudeau, via August.

(Much more here.)


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