On Hank Johnson

As you can see, we’ve elected to support and publish a letter from Hank Johnson, who is a Democrat running to replace Cynthia McKinney as the Member of Congress from Georgia’s 4th District. I’m going a step further and working with other bloggers to try and raise some significant bucks for her opponent.

The goal: $50,000 in two weeks for Commissioner Hank Johnson.

This is an important race, for a variety of reasons, and I think that it matters that the moderate Dems. – like myself – support someone who may well be a little more liberal than we are, because while we may or may not be aligned widely on issues, Commissioner Johnson isn’t someone who practices the politics of conspiracy, hate, and hyperbole.

McKinney’s record as a Member ought to speak for itself. She has passed one bill – renaming a post office – while serving as a go-to quote for the newsmedia looking for controversy. Her belief that Bush conspired to plan 9/11; her letter to the Saudis after 9/11 asking for money; her support from organizations that have been linked to terrorist fundraising; her abject failure as a Member of Congress to do the job she was elected to do. Here’s a quote from a commenter on NPR:

Your analysis of Cynthia McKinney is right on track. I am a liberal African-American democrat living in her district and I have been strongly engaged in the effort to unseat her. Aside from her hysterical behavior she is an embarrassment to her constituents. Like many I am tired of her race baiting platform and I have no tangible evidence of what she has done in our area. I was particularly disturbed by a picture of her sitting with Cindy Sheehan that appeared in the Atlanta paper the day after the primary for two reasons. First, I admire Ms. Sheehan and her anti-war efforts and secondly, this was one of the few times I have ever seen her photographed with Caucasians on both sides of her. Obviously I am voting for Mr. Johnson, he appears to be rational and as qualified as the incumbent.

Her record is despicable enough that it ought to be enough reason to replace her.

The organic rise of Johnson to challenge McKinney is an example of the self-correcting forces within the system, forces that we’re potentially all part of. I’m happy to help them along.

If you want to be a part, the go over to Johnson’s website and give the man some money.

That’s why I’m setting a target of $50,000 in donations in the next two weeks.

That sounds wildly ambitions – and it is – but it’s only 5,000 people giving $10 each. I’m in for $100, so we only need 4,990 now…

So go on over, drop $10.00 (or more) on the candidate, and send me an email and tell me you did it. I’ll keep a tally.

Don’t Let The Judge’s Chambers Door Hit You In The Ass, Counselor.


A judge who threatened deportation to Mexico for an illegal immigrant seeking a restraining order against her husband has been dropped from the roster of part-time judges used by the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Judge Pro Tem Bruce R. Fink, a family law attorney from Orange, was removed from the list of about 1,200 attorneys who are used as substitute judges for the county, court spokesman Allan Parachini said Friday.

Fink was sitting pro tem in a courtroom granting restraining orders when a woman approached him in a domestic violence case, asking for a TRO against her allegedly abusive husband.

Fink’s response?

“I hate the immigration laws that we have, but I think the bailiff could take you to the immigration services and send you to Mexico,” the judge responded, according to a court transcript. “Is that what you guys want?”

Fink later warned Gonzalez that he was going to count to 20 and expected her to disappear by the time he was finished.

“One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. When I get to 20, she gets arrested and goes to Mexico,” Fink said, according to the transcript.

Genius. Sheer genius. Because the police certainly won’t roll to a domestic violence call if she’s illegal, and the emergency room won’t treat her, and the coroner won’t have to receive or prep her body.

Immigration – or, more accurately, enforcement of existing immigration laws – is a complex subject.

But guess what. Even the most egregious illegal immigrant has the right to be secure in their person here.

Imperfect Perfection

TG and I finally got some time away from the Great Project (some work we’re doing on the house) and sat and watched a movie Friday night.

We watched the DVD of the musical Producers, with Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, and Uma Thurman.

We’d seen the play, with a different cast, and wanted to see what Lane and Broderick could do with it. Oh, and I wanted to see Uma – as noted, she’s the one actress I have … ahem … a mild obsession over.

The film was serviceable, and Lane is a fricking genius. He took the Zero Mostel role and made it his own. Sadly, Broderick didn’t…he never found an interesting center for Leo Bloom apart from some mildly Gene Wilder-ish bits.

And Uma. Sigh. She’s really a terrific actress, projects intelligence as well as grownup babe-aliciousness – but damn, she flat can’t sing, or dance (Broderick can, by the way).Angie Schworer, the actress we saw in the Los Angeles production, was actually far better…

Am I depressed to have been shown a flaw in Uma’s perfection? No, I am not.

Great Japanese artisans strive to show imperfections in their work, to show wabi-sabi. Now I’m not saying that Uma is aging badly; it’s not about that at all (although I do tend to look at younger actresses who are considered very attractive and wonder about their babysitting skills). It’s about embracing imperfections as a demonstration of what is real; about humility.

And the fact that Uma can’t sing and can’t dance makes her imperfect, and thus all the closer to perfection.

TG is already there, of course…

An Earful Of Warm Cider

Kevin Drum wants one.

I would too, if I thought for a minute that it would meet its declared specs – an electric car with a lithium-ion battery that does 0-60 in 4 seconds, has a top speed of 130 and a range of 250 miles.

One (or more) of these things is likely not to be true…I’ll keep an open ear, but will believe it when I see it proved.

What If…Israel Actually Wins??

From the always-interesting site ‘democracyarsenal’ (not known for its generous helpings of Bush-love), an interesting post by Shadi Hamid.

Hezbollah knew that any attack on Israel would elicit a forceful response, particularly in light of Israel’s sustained efforts to recover abducted soldier Gilad Shalit the previous week. Any intelligent person could have predicted that Israel would do everything in its power to destroy Hezbullah infrastructure if provoked along the border. Sure, there are short-term strategic gains which may yet accrue to Hezbollah, but in the long run, the group’s organizational capacity has been severely hit and, now, its continued existence as the second strongest political force in Lebanon (along with coalition partners Amal) is a big question-mark. If Hezbollah’s goal was, in fact, to force Israel into a prisoner exhange, then killing eight soldiers makes absolutely no sense. Nasrallah might very well be a raging megalomaniac but I’m not sure that, by itself, explains Hezbollah’s strategic self-immolation.

A strategic setback for Hizbollah sounds like a victory for Israel, no? How else can it be interpreted?

Some Egyptians I have spoken to here, in between tiresome praises of Nasrallah, claim to understand it quite well – that Hezbollah did this for karamah, to reclaim Arab world’s dignity (the destruction of one’s country would seem a rather exorbitant price to pay for regaining one’s “dignity”). Or, as someone else suggested – it’s every militant Islamist group’s dream to drag the world into some kind or regional conflagration, where Arabs will be forced to get up or sit down (although the vast majority of Arabs have been sitting down rather consistently for the last five decades). Read Michael Doran’s “Somebody Else’s Civil War” for a sense of how this set-up might work. (Interestingly, Doran is now the point-person for the Middle East on the National Security Council).

Interesting to see the man who ran Muslims for Kerry making an approving comment about Bush’s NSC staff choices, too…

An interesting piece.

War Crimes and War Crimes

So, glancing through Memorandum today, I see an article from the NY Times on war crimes and the current conflict in the Middle East.

The United Nations’ top human rights official said Wednesday that the killing and maiming of civilians under attack in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza and the West Bank could constitute war crimes.

The scale of killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control,” said Louise Arbour, the high commissioner for human rights.

Ms. Arbour is a former justice of Canada’s Supreme Court who, as chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, indicted the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

International humanitarian law is clear on the supreme obligations to protect civilians during hostilities,’’ she said. That same obligation exists, she added, in international criminal law, which defines war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I went off and read the thing (the 4th Geneva Convention). You should too.
Like all contracts, the meaning isn’t completely in the text; there’s a body of law and interpretation that truly define what they mean.

So keeping that in mind, here are some key points (with my highlighting)…

Art. 2. In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace-time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.

The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.

Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.

OK, that pretty much commits Israel to honor them even if Hamas doesn’t…

Art. 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

MMMkay, so there’s a distinction between those taking no part in the hostility and those who are…

Art. 5 Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.

Mmmmmkay again, so it’s not meant to be a suicide pact.

In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be.

OK, so there remains an obligation to some measure of due care. And then there’s this:

Art. 28. The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.

Hmmm…so legitimate military actions within civilian areas – when those civilian areas are being used by combatants – are possibly not crimes.

One Small Step…

Just thought I’d take a second to remind people that today, 37 years ago, Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon. It’s worth it to take a moment and remember what we’re capable of as a species and a people.

We rented one disc of the great miniseries ‘From The Earth To The Moon‘, and then went ahead and bought it.

One reason I love this series so much is that it honors not only the astronauts, but all the people in white polyester short-sleeved shirts who stood behind them and made the machines that took them on their voyages.

We don’t tend to value those people much these days, and we ought to. I had dinner (with a LA Times journalist, no less – Susan Carpenter, their new motorcycle columnist) in Los Feliz a while ago, and one thought I had as a walked past the cafes full of well-travelled, well-dressed tattooed hipsters was that they would look on those guys with contempt. But they couldn’t have built an airplane, a motorcycle – or the loom their clothes were made on – to save their lives.

Let’s take a moment today and honor the men and women who can.

[I’m arithmetic-challenged today…fixed.]


Cato has posted Radley Balko’s article on the rise in the number of SWAT raids and the high level of errors in SWAT raids – errors that often have deadly results (h/t Crooked Timber).

These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.

Go read it.I blogged this a while ago, and said:

…the dumb but critically important fact is that any time guns come out, the potential for tragedy is there. As soon as this became a felony stop (where the responding police draw weapons in advance, and generally act as though the people being stopped are True Bad Guys), the door to a tragedy was opened. Officers have negligently (I never use the term ‘accidental discharge’ in talking about guns; it is a ‘negligent discharge’) shot the people they were handcuffing, or themselves, or their partners. The people who are stopped sometimes are uncompliant and do things which make the officers believe that a gun is being drawn. There are a million ways for this to end badly, and on the scale of those things, this one went poorly but not tragically.


The issue here is the overall police pattern of behavior that overuses felony stops and dynamic entries (the whole banging the door down in the middle of the night by SWAT teams thing). Because they are so inherently dangerous, their use needs to be judicious, and right now, it isn’t; this is from a mixture of legitimate ‘officer safety first’ strategies and a pure cowboy mentality. It’s certainly more fun to be SWAT than to be Barney Fife.

Barney and Andy, as I noted, got the job done.

[corrected dumb misspelling of his name]

Mark Perry On The Middle East

In a post below, I challenged Middle East commentator Mark Perry’s analysis of the Hizbollah (note spelling change) actions that triggered the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

Mr Perry and I entered into an email dialog, in which I asked if he’d be willing to elaborate on his understandings of the Middle East here, in front of what was bound to be a challenging audience. To his credit, he agreed.

He asked me to direct readers to a series in the Asia Times series he co-authored as a good primer on his positions.

I read the Asia Times piece and disagreed rather strongly. I think I sputtered. Then I thought about two things.

The first is that much of my thinking about war and national-scale conflict comes from my own training and familiarity with violence and conflict on a smaller scale. Many – but not all – of the precepts scale elegantly.

One of my instructors, the inestimable Clint Smith, is famous for his pithy sayings. Two seem particularly relevant today.

“You know the last words most LEO’s (police officers) killed in the line of duty ever say? “I’m gonna go in there and kick his ass!” Suicidal aggressiveness is not good tactics.”


“You better learn to communicate real well, because when you’re out there on the street, you’ll have to talk to a lot more people than you’ll have to shoot, or at least that’s the way I think it’s supposed to work.”

Which explains why it is that I spend a lot of time poking around thinking about ways to a peaceful Middle East that aren’t suicidally aggressive, and ideally involve talking rather than shooting.I haven’t found one yet, and I do believe that the social and political tension stored in the Middle East and extending through much of the Muslim world is due for a big blowoff, and it isn’t going to be pretty. Part of looking for alternatives involves taking my assumptions out, cleaning them off, and putting them on the table for examination. One of the best ways I know of to do that is to look at things that make me sputter, and shut off the automatic reaction in favor of a considered one. You may still sputter at the end of the process, but it’ll be sounder sputtering.

So without further ado, here is Armed Liberal chatting with Mark Perry:

AL: Here’s the first thing I was going to ask you.

In my reading, the heart of your strategic suggestions comes from your belief that daylight can be created between the takfiri movement and the more general Islamist one, and that relatively traditional political engagement (a la the IRA) can move the Islamist movement from a violent one to a political one.

Is this an accurate assessment?

And what do you think it would take to move the Islamists to political
engagement and away from violence?

MP: Your characterization is correct, but I would nudge it a bit more. We don’t think that we have to create the daylight as it already exists quite abundantly, albeit it is not fully realized by diplomats and this administration.

As to your second question: We move them towards engagement by engaging them — by opening a dialogue and creating a narrative. Now narratives can take several different forms, but in our view they should be unending even if, at times, they do not show results. Israeli Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich refused to celebrate Oslo, commenting to me: “This is simply the beginning of an exchange of narratives — we will sit down with the Palestinians and they will tell us their story and we will tell them ours. Sometimes that dialogue will come in the form of bullets, but we should never stop talking and we should not grow impatient — this exchange could take a hundred years.”

I think it was Dean Acheson who said “we will talk to anyone at anytime about the subject of peace.” That was certainly our strategy during the Cold War, but it has not been our strategy in the Middle East. I have a theory about why, but will leave the theorizing to you. I would only add that your question contains an unstated premise — that we need to move them away from violence. In fact, we need to move ourselves away from violence. This administration has been particularly notorious for responding to every crisis by deploying aircraft carriers. Of course, the administration has very poor thinkers (remember, I am a Republican) and no diplomats that I can see. Their response to my criticism of this is that our violence is good, while “they” are the extremists.

I think your second question is a little more loaded.

AL: OK, so here’s my second question.

By my perception, Bush I and Clinton didn’t deploy carriers as easily; they actually did a pretty credible job of using law-enforcement tools against the perps of WTC I etc.

But the takfiri movement grew strongly during that period. Why?

MP: I don’t exactly know the answer to your question. My sense is that a process of radicalization has been taking place in the Arab and Muslim heartlands for a period of 30 years, from the execution of Sayad Qutb and the Six Day War until now. At each point along that time line, Arab liberals believed they could leverage increased power inside increasingly modernized societies. The Arab-Israeli conflict intruded on this to a large extent as well as the Cold War. There was an implicit promise: that when the Cold War ended the US would intervene to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Of course it was Israel that tried to do that — I think from the belief that Israel would be a lot less important to the US without the USSR around.

When the US failed to really engage in the region by empowering secular liberals (throughout the 1990s) and then failed at Camp David (the history of which has been interpolated to shape our view of the region — and not reality) and then failed to differentiate political Islamic groups from the Takfiris the radicalization accelerated, and is accelerating still. The current situation does not help this, as the American foreign policy establishment is in the hands of our own Takfiris — who believe we are fighting a war of civilizations and that Islam, as they say, is a violent religion. The rhetoric here is very harmful. I would not say that Bush I and Clinton did all they could to resolve these issues rationally, believing that market forces and American hegemony would push the region into a different direction. A lot of your readers will disagree but … it is time to talk to Hamas and Hezballah, to Jamaat e-Islami and the Brotherhood. Our clients in the region cannot maintain their present position and their replacement is inevitable.

AL: OK, one final question.

Tell me a bit about your involvement with Arafat. Did it overlap the establishment of the PA?

And I’d be interested in your response to this old quote of mine:

“On the second question, the harsh reality is that had Arafat led 100,000 Arab people on a peaceful march to the sea…imagine a modern version of the “Salt March” of Gandhi…he’d have won already. Picketing, boycotts, and marches…the vocabulary of the American Civil Rights movement…would have granted him an unassailable moral high ground, and Israel would within months have been negotiating on his terms.”

MP: I must be a bit older than you. I can remember that one day (I must have been six years old) my mother handed me the Milwaukee Sentinel (a morning paper at the time — I grew up in northern Wisconsin) and there was a headline about how Nelson Mandela had been jailed by South Africa. She approved and wagged her finger at me: “He’s a communist,” she said. I remember it clearly because, up until the date of his release, he was always called a terrorist and a communist. Then, really it was quite sudden, he was something else. He was a great man.

The transformation of armed groups into peaceable political parties happens when armed groups either win or become a part of the government. It does not happen, obviously, when they surrender — or are wiped out. Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was a violent political militia. It was bent on the overthrow of the all white government of South Africa, a goal which it never abandoned. It did not accommodate. The negotiation that placed it in a lead position in the government came about through its victory — not because it decided to adopt non-violent tactics. Nelson Mandela came off the State Department’s proscribed list in 2003.

Then too, there is the myth of the American Civil Rights movement. We watch documentaries on the Civil Rights movement and the videotapes are strikingly similar: the Edmund Pettis Bridge, fire hoses on innocent marchers in Birmingham, Martin Luther King, the children bombed in the church. What we don’t see is what everyone my age remembers quite vividly: H. Rap Brown talking about “burning America down,” the confrontations between black crowds and white racists, the incredibly violent summer riots, the Black Panthers, the campaign of confrontations in Chicago between the police and black activists. We would like to believe that societies can be changed through non-violence, but it is rare that they are. Change is painful because of the pain that it exacts.

I cite these two examples because we remember them and because they happened in particular societies: Black Africans lived in a single society with their white overseers in both cases — and were working for equal rights in both cases. That is not true in the Palestinian conflict, which has the characteristics of something quite different: a revolutionary independence movement that is facing off against an occupying power. The model of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more characteristic of an anti-colonial revolution. Such movements are always violent. The Palestinians are not fighting for equal rights, they are fighting to end an occupation. Then too, I would note, those who argue for Palestinian non-violence don’t understand that for years it was tried and failed, primarily because it lacked a key component: an engaged and sympathetic press. I am very aware of the support for Israel in the US, and the sometimes rather puzzling unstinting support of Israel in any and all circumstances. But we should not be naive — the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza is vicious and unrelenting, and anyone who thinks otherwise simply has not been there.

I traveled to the West Bank and Gaza first in 1988 and worked with a PLO official here in Washington to arrange the trip. I was a stringer for a number of publications. As was my wont, I wrote extensive notes during my trip, which came just months after the start of the first Intifada. I paid for the trip (as I am quite sure this question will arise). I was asked to write up my notes, which I did. They appeared as an essay (entitled “Counting”) which was, to my surprise printed and paid for by the PLO. Mr. Arafat very much liked the essay and asked me to visit him in Tunis, which I did, that next summer. One year after that I visited him in Tunis for an extensive visit, living and chatting with him regularly.

There are many anecdotes that I could relate about those visits, but will only say that I found him a fascinating and quite capable person. One of the most single-minded whom I have ever met. In 1991 he asked me if I would share my thoughts on the political situation here in the US with him on a regular basis. I did so for the next fourteen years, providing him with a memorandum each month, or more, during that time. I never was an “official” advisor — that is to say, I was never paid. I was more of a friend, a second set of eyes and ears for him. We did not always get along, but I think it safe to say that I was his closest American friend. My last meeting with him was quite relaxed, he was showing me his camera. In all of that period I worked very hard with him on learning about the American media, American public opinion, and how to shape and present a coherent message. It was a frustrating but fascinating experience.

I hope you will see fit to print my remembrance of him for your readers as it is likely to give you a taste of my own views. Many people say that I should remain silent about my friendship with Mr. Arafat, that it is not good for my standing, that it harms my reputation, that it leaves me open to attack. I knew him well, I was his friend, and I am proud of that.

Mark Perry

[AL note: Perry attached an anecdote about Arafat; I replied that this email was a better argument for his case, and he agreed that it would be acceptable for me to go with this]

I’ll reserve my response for the comments threads for now.