Friday, April 29, 2005

Charlie Wilson's War 

Great book, now hopefully a great movie:
July 21, 2003 - According to Variety, Oscar-winner Tom Hanks will star in Universal's feature film adaptation of 60 Minutes producer George Crile's book, Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. Hanks will also produce the pic along with Gary Goetzman under their Playtone banner. Universal optioned the book on Friday with Playtone tapping Band of Brothers scribe John Orloff to pen the screenplay.

Hanks will star as Wilson, a former Texas congressman who "persuaded the CIA to train and arm resistance fighters in Afghanistan, engineering a victory that hastened the fall of the Soviet Union. Wilson teamed with a rogue CIA agent named Gust Avrakotos to keep the Red Army from overrunning Afghanistan. Wilson found an outlet to use his gift for maneuvering around red tape in Afghanistan. He and Avrakotos supplied money and put together a team of experts to mold an army that fought the Red Army to a stalemate."

Publishers Weekly's review of Charlie Wilson's War describes the title character as "a six-feet-four-inch Texas congressman, liberal on social issues but rabidly anti-Communist, a boozer, engaged in serial affairs and wheeler-dealer of consummate skill." Gust Avrakotos was "a blue-collar Greek immigrant who joined the CIA when it was an Ivy League preserve and fought his elitist colleagues almost as ruthlessly as he fought the Soviet Union in the Cold War's waning years."

I'm already excited for it. CWW reads like a Tom Clancy novel, but unlike Clancy, it's all true.


Bin Laden rumored to be Bin Dead 

From Debka:
An announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death appears Friday in one of his close aides’ most credible Web sites. It has sparked a storm of controversy in al Qaeda circles, some of whom claim notice is false.

Signed by the Pen of Jihad Warriors, the site provides no information on circumstances of death, only asks:

Where are those who break out of borders? Where are the lamenters? Where are those who throw themselves from the tops of towers and skyscrapers? Where are the heart-rending cries?

Egyptian bin Laden adherent, Yasser Sari, calls notice a lie and promises new videotape soon in which leader announces end of al Qaeda truce in Europe. Other followers credit the announcement as “authentic and Islamic.”

I assume if it were true, Bush would've mentioned it during last night's press conference, unless he's planning on donning a flight suit and announcing it from the deck of an aircraft carrier.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Amendment Rewrites 

Just when you think they couldn't get worse, the GOP sinks to new lows. From Raw Story:
Democrats in the House are furious over what they see as a deliberate attempt by Republicans to rewrite Democratic amendments to make the Democrats amendments look preposterous, RAW STORY has learned.

The Republican-written rewrites, along with the Democratic description of the amendments, follows. RAW STORY has also learned that Republicans have not rewritten similar amendments in the past. A copy from the Congressional record in 2002 is included below, showing the "neutral" language used in a previous Congress.


The following amendments were offered and voted down by recorded votes in the Judiciary Committee markup of H.R. 748-The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA):

DEMS: a Scott amendment to exempt cab drivers, bus drivers and others in the business transportation profession from the criminal provisions in the bill (no 13-17):
GOP REWRITE. Mr. Scott offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution if they are taxicab drivers, bus drivers, or others in the business of professional transport. By a roll call vote of 13 yeas to 17 nays, the amendment was defeated.


Thought Police 

Isn't this how Nazi Germany began?
Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.
"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.

Librarian Donna Schremser fears the "thought police," would be patrolling her shelves.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

First Tokyo, then Bejing? 

Will the recent anti-Japan protests be just a warmup for demonstrations against Bejing?
The question that has arisen out of the big Shanghai demonstration - and those leading up to it over the past few weeks in Chengdu, Shenzhen and Beijing, among others - concerns whether it is on the Chinese government's agenda to allow anti-Japan protesters to voice their opinion publicly. But the bigger question is this: in a new era of online petitions with 22 million signatories and of public demonstrations of 20,000 organized primarily by SMS (short message service) and e-mail, in what ways will Chinese citizens be able to shape future government agendas? It is possible that equipped with an understanding of how to organize en masse and seemingly under the radar of Beijing's censors, younger Chinese may begin encouraging others to take to the streets against corruption and government land seizures, to complain about economic inequality or ideological repression. That is to say, with a slight change of focus, Beijing may see a change of course in its internal affairs towards more turbulent political waters.

Just giving the young Chinese a taste of what it's like to have a voice, may end up coming back to haunt Bejing.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Campaign of the (not too distant) Future 

Interesting piece in today's LA Times, on how the internet MAY make it easier for a 3rd party candidate win a Presidential election:
Ex-Dean camp manager Joe Trippi predicts that the internet could ignite a serious 3rd-party presidential bid in '08. Trippi: "This is a very disruptive technology. And it is going to be very destabilizing to the political establishment of both parties...Somebody could come along and raise $200 million and have 600,000 people on the streets working for them without any party structure in the blink of an eye."
The Internet "could allow an independent candidate to more easily identify an audience and financial base, just as it has allowed blogs" to find a community of like-minded readers. Trippi on the electorate: "We are now moving toward a very dangerous place for both parties. It is becoming much more possible for an independent or third party to emerge because they are leaving so much space in the middle"

I don't think we're quite at the $200mil/600K volunteer mark, but an internet campaign might be an interesting campaign for McCain, or perhaps more of a long-shot-celebrity-type like Warren Beatty, to try.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Senator Missing 

Random thought: Where has Senator Lamar Alexander been? For a former serious Presidential candidate, he's been nowhere to be found. Not conservative enough to have any clout?


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Casey Jr. vs. Santorum 

Great news from Pennsylvania:
Democrat Robert P. Casey Jr. holds a 14-percentage-point lead over Republican Sen. Rick Santorum in the 2006 campaign for Santorum's seat, according to an independent poll released today.

Casey, Pennsylvania's state treasurer, was favored by 49 percent of the respondents in the Quinnipiac University poll, compared to 35 percent for Santorum. Thirteen percent were undecided.

The widening of Casey's lead, from 46-41 percent in a Quinnipiac survey in February, comes on the heels of Santorum's high-profile advocacy of President Bush's Social Security overhaul plan.

Senator "Man-on-Dog's" days are numbered.


Popa Don't Preach 

At least we know where the new Pope stands on separation of Church and State:
German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican theologian who was elected Pope Benedict XVI, intervened in the 2004 US election campaign ordering bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters including presidential candidate John Kerry.

In a June 2004 letter to US bishops enunciating principles of worthiness for communion recipients, Ratzinger specified that strong and open supporters of abortion should be denied the Catholic sacrament, for being guilty of a "grave sin."

He specifically mentioned "the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws," a reference widely understood to mean Democratic candidate Kerry, a Catholic who has defended abortion rights.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Bloc Party 

The next big British band. U2-esque jangling guitars, thoughtful lyrics, good beats and the ability to make every song sound different. Go download it now. Start with "The Answer", "Like Eating Glass" and "So Here We Are".



Been having some problems with blogger.com over the last few days. Sorry about no recent posts...Stay tuned.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Jim Ramstad 

I recently had an opportunity to attend a fundraiser for Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) for work purposes. He's a relatively pragmatic conservative Congressman. Other than coming across as a nice guy, (everyone there did give him a check for $1,000, so he had reasons to be nice) he made some interesting points:

1) He says the feelings in GOP circles is that they will suffer in '06, and the Dems should have big gains. He didn't say House/Senate leadership will change, just the GOP should expect losses.

2) He's from a strong Republican district, and has held many "town hall" forums on different issues, but he's never seen such an organized opposition before. His forums tend to be packed with people, most of them against the Iraq War, Social Security change, Schiavo, etc. Ramstad thinks the GOP should be scared-it's a wake up call.

3) He voted with most Republicans on the Terri Schiavo vote. He stands by it, because the wording was something like "The Federal Judiciary SHOULD take a look at this...", not the "Federal Judiciary HAS TO take a look at this...". I haven't looked into if that's true or not.

4) He thinks stem cells should be a major issues, and even went as far as to say the Administration is clearly "anti-Science". Ramstad says it's not about abortion, and never should be. He went on to say if Orrin Hatch supports stem cell research, and is "pro-life", everyone should.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


PM: Atmosphere in Israel looks like eve of civil war.

In an interview with NBC News on Monday, Sharon spoke of the growing threat of violence by extreme-right Jewish activists in Israel ahead of the disengagementplan. "The tension here [in Israel], the atmosphere here looks like the eve of the civil war," Sharon said. He also said that although he had been defending Jews all his life, steps are now taken to protect his own life from attacks by Jews.

Sharon also spoke of prospects of the renewal of the peace process with the Palestinians.

"Yasser Arafat, first was a military man, and during his rule there was no chance whatsoever to reach peace," Sharon said. "I believe [that] at the current time, maybe for the first time, there is a possibility to try and solve the problem

Remember, it was a right-wing Jew, not a Palestinian, that assasinated Yitzhak Rabin

And Laura Rozen is right, why is the American press so quiet about this? Afraid to spoil the "good" news coming from the Middle East (Syria pulling out of Labanon/Iraq elections/Egyptian protests)?


Monday, April 11, 2005

God Part 2 

Sullivan's right:

THEY ARE STALINISTS: The more I read about the recent conference for conservative critics of the judiciary, the scarier it gets. One attendee, according to the Washington Post, had this to say:
[L]awyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that [Justice Anthony] Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."
Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said. The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."

Cornyn is beginning to sound mainstream. This was a meeting Tom DeLay promised to attend, before going to the Pope's funeral. Last week also saw the meeting of something called the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration. Christian reconstructionists play a part in it - they want to abolish the Constitution and put Biblical precepts as the only source of American law. They have an agenda, as cited by the National Journal:
According to [organizer, Don] Feder, the manifesto will call for a plan to begin impeachment proceedings against federal judges; remove judicial jurisdiction over issues key to religious conservatives, including marriage and the separation of church and state; limit courts' jurisdiction over the establishment clause of the Constitution, which has been used to enforce the firewall between religion and government; initiate a process for defunding courts that defy these new rules and continue to overstep their authority and eliminate the ability of Democrats to filibuster Bush's judicial nominees.
The manifesto is based in part on legislation introduced early last month by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., known as the "Constitution Restoration Act." Their bill would limit federal courts' jurisdiction and would enshrine a recognition of God in federal law -- a provision the bill would make nonreviewable.
Is this what the swing-voter who went for Bush because of "morality" reasons, wanted?


Spy in the House of God 

The Vatican's efforts to keep the conclave under wraps:
Thousands of reporters will be watching as the 115 cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel on April 18. Hackers and government informants may also be monitoring the conclave.

The temptations to spy will be immense. The papal election will likely see keen competition, notably between reformers and conservatives. It is also expected to witness a strong push for the first non-European pope.

Revelations of the proceedings could prove embarrassing to the Vatican. For instance, sensitive discussions on a papal candidate's stand on relations with Muslims or Jews, recognizing China rather than Taiwan or views on contraception would be sought after by governments or the press.

John Paul was sensitive to meddling from outside. He spent his formative years in Nazi-occupied Poland, then lived in a communist state under pervasive government spying. The Turkish gunman who shot him in 1981 was suspected of ties to the Soviets, a regime later brought down by forces the pope openly supported.

In 1996, John Paul set down rules to protect cardinals from "threats to their independence of judgment." Cell phones, electronic organizers, radios, newspapers, TVs and recorders were banned.

The ban on cell phones and personal data organizers makes sense, security experts say, since they can be hacked and used to broadcast the proceedings to a listener...

Another worry for the Vatican will be rooftop snoops with sensitive microphones. Laser microphones can pick up conversations from a quarter-mile away by recording vibrations on window glass or other hard surfaces. The Sistine Chapel has windows set near the roof.

"You focus the laser on a window or on a hard object in the room, like the glass on a picture," said a New York-based security expert with Kroll, Inc., who asked that his name not be used. "When people are talking the glass will modulate with the sound of the voice and they can recover the audio."


Saturday, April 09, 2005


I heard a rumor from a good source, that Paul Begala is highly considering taking on "Moscow Tom" DeLay in '06. That is, if "Moscow Tom" is still around then. DeLay's district is Begala's home district.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Clinton or Milosevich? 

"Moscow Tom" DeLay chose the war criminal. From Kleiman:
Kevin Drum offers another good reason to move to expel DeLay right now. Kevin recalls correctly that DeLay was on Milosevich's side against Bill Clinton. He doesn't mention the extraordinary maneuver by which DeLay managed to send an encouraging message to the enemy while our men and women in uniform were in harm's way, by promising Clinton a resolution of support for the air war and then arranging for it to come to the floor and fail. (Of course, DeLay wasn't alone among Republicans, back then, in hating the President more than he hated the mass murderer the President was trying to rein in.)

And now we know, as Kevin points out, that DeLay was doing all of this as the beneficiary of largesse from the Russian security services. Taking an expensive vacation at the expense of the military of a foreign power to support America's enemies probably doesn't amount to treason under the Constitutional definition, but it comes close.

The debate on the motion to consider immediate expulsion should be well worth listening to: once Nancy Pelosi offers it, that is.

Republicans have got to be pretty nervous at this point. Social Security is going nowhere, they overstepped their bounds on the Schiavo case, they're threatening judges, and now their big cash register is about to be emptied. On the flipside, Democrats are right to be licking their chops-this is the opening they need. I'd like to see "Moscow Tom" around until closer to the '06 elections, but I've waited a long time for this.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Who Gave them a Satellite? 

Google gets even scarier.


Pro-Life or Anti-Victim? 

Governor of Colorado comes out against rape victims:
Gov. Bill Owens vetoed a bill that would have required hospitals to tell rape victims about emergency contraception, saying it would have forced church-backed institutions to violate their own ethics guidelines.

Owens, a Roman Catholic Republican who has campaigned on conservative values, said the measure was well-intentioned but probably unconstitutional and did not provide victims with balanced information needed to make a deeply personal decision.

"Without informed consent, a woman could innocently violate her personal, moral and religious beliefs about when life begins," Owens said Tuesday.

State Rep. Fran Coleman said she was disappointed.

"This was about emergency contraception. Rape victims didn't ask for that procreation," said Coleman.

The Bill passed 46-19 in the House and 22-13 in the Senate, with some Republicans crossing party lines to support it.


Sinnfein and the IRA 

Gerry Adams' letter to the IRA, asking them to accept politics, rather than the gun. (Side Note: Will there be a copy in Adams's mailbox?):
The Ireland we live in today is also very different place from 15 years ago. There is now an all-Ireland agenda with huge potential.

Nationalists and republicans have a confidence that will never again allow anyone to be treated as second class citizens. Equality is our watchword.

The catalyst for much of this change is the growing support for republicanism.

Of course, those who oppose change are not going to simply roll over. It will always be a battle a day between those who want maximum change and those who want to maintain the status quo. But if republicans are to prevail, if the peace process is to be successfully concluded and Irish sovereignty and re-unification secured, then we have to set the agenda - no one else is going to do that.

So, I also want to make a personal appeal to all of you - the women and men volunteers who have remained undefeated in the face of tremendous odds.

Now is the time for you to step into the Bearna Baoil again; not as volunteers risking life and limb but as activists in a national movement towards independence and unity.

Update (4/7 11:28am): The IRA responds:
"The leadership of the IRA was given notice of the appeal by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. We have noted his comments.

"The IRA will give his appeal due consideration and will respond in due course."


Monday, April 04, 2005

Tea for Two 

Interesting piece from Debka, on how a discussion over tea, changed the Cold War:

Brzezinski’s 1976 tea with the Polish cardinal fathered American Cold War strategy which was, in a word, to prime the imperfectly-suppressed religious zeal pulsating in the Soviet Bloc masses as the West’s doomsday weapon in the Cold War. Pilgrimages by the Polish pope, with the help of secret agitators, were to rouse the multitudes to rise up against their atheistic oppressors. Once the Christians were on the march, Brzezinski proposed persuading militant Islam to join the mission of inflaming the Soviet Union’s teeming Moslems.

From the historical perspective, Brzezinski’s plan of operation was the most radical applied in the Cold War till then, short of armed conflict. In comparison, the Nixon-Kissinger detente policy was much less aggressive, confining itself to photographing a given situation and freezing the arms race, while letting the Cold War go on according to agreed ground rules. Brzezinski’s religious crusading offensive went outside those rules. It was moreover a form of combat in which the West held unbeatable cards. All Moscow Center’s national liberation and terrorist movements, Philby’s phenomenal double agents and moles and Yuri Andropov’s intelligence genius were useless to protect the USSR’s Achilles heel, the proletariat’s unquenched yearning for organized religion, in defiance of the most brutal efforts to stamp it out.

Brzezinski’s brainwave of harnessing religious zeal to beat communism had two extreme though opposite effects. The force of Christianity was a major factor in undermining Soviet communist domination of East Europe. Its lands turned around to embrace democratic change, a pro-Western orientation and a market economy in a still-evolving process. In Asia and the Middle East, Carter’s national security adviser resorted to fundamentalist Islam to defeat communism. The CIA-supported mujaheddin did indeed drive the Red Amy out of Afghanistan. But this same religious weapon eventually became a boomerang against America. It spawned Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, the Islamic jihadist terrorist movement dedicated to destroying the West and its values,.

One of my former employers was previously a high ranking AFL-CIO member in the 80's, and he told me stories about how the AFL-CIO and the Vatican teamed up to help bring down the Iron Curtain. In what sounds like something from a spy novel, loads of fake TV sets stuffed with cash were sent to the Vatican, from the U.S., then delivered to Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement in Poland. AFL-CIO members would also wear money belts to smuggle cash into Poland to help organize strikes and protests. So, the next time you hear somebody call the AFL-CIO, or other Unions, "communists", you can tell them this anecdote.


Friday, April 01, 2005

FPN hits the Big Time 

Fake Plastic News has been invited to become an official (and paid!) blog, on Slate.com, in addition to Mickey Kaus. Look for my first postings to be sometime around May 1st.

Update: Don't get excited, it was an April Fool's joke. Click on the link people!


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