The Deep Thoughts of Duncan Black

Atrios at his finest, bitching that people aren’t talking enough about the promotion of democracy abroad:

But, the more interesting question is why conservatives aren’t jumping up and down about this. I think it’s pretty obvious — most aren’t particularly concerned with spreading Democracy around the world. George Bush might actually be sincere in his new mission, though I don’t think he has a deep grasp of what “democracy” is, but most of the rest of them aren’t.

Republicans have never stopped being isolationist and anti-nation building (true of most of the US population, actually). They don’t think tyranny leads to terrorism (nor am I claiming there’s necessarily a strong connection), and don’t really want to expend any treasure helping out “the other.” What they do like is killing bad guys, and when George Bush says “spreading freedom and democracy” what they hear is “killing bad guys.” They like killing “bad guys,” and they’re a bit lost without an enemy, so the actual spreading of democracy just doesn’t excite them that much.

Though, yes, they rarely fail to grasp the latest bit of news to beat up on those freedom-hating democrats, so it’s a bit puzzling why they haven’t at least done that.

What a total asshole. And people wonder why I don’t embrace the Atrios/Kos driven Democratic party.

Oscar Blogging

Chris Rock sucked. Period.

Robin Williams was funnier in two minutes than Rock was the entire night. I am pissed at Rock for making me agree with Sean Penn- what the hell was Rock doing belittling Jude Law, who is a fairly talented actor?

I watched the broadcast, and one thing I noticed was that there are very few actresses who still look flawless in high definition. Those include Hillary Swank, Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Kate Winslet, Selma Hayek, and Beyonce. The rest just looked average. My personal favortie is Scarlett Johansson, who I think is simply flawless.

Idiots in Our Midst

This is one for the ages (via Matt Yglesias via Atrios):

Now we know where Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) thinks the weapons of mass destruction are buried: in Syria, which he said hed like to nuke to smithereens.

Speaking at a veterans celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, on Feb. 19, Johnson told the crowd that he explained his theory to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the porch of the White House one night.

Johnson said he told the president that night, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on em and Ill make one pass. We wont have to worry about Syria anymore.”

Matt then asks:

So to recap: Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX) believes that the United States should launch a nuclear strike against Syria. Anyone out there on the right have any comments?

I have a comment. If he was not just joking around in poor taste, he is an idiot. A bona fide moron. Hell- even if he wasn’t serious, he is a moron. He should know better.

The Firing of Dan Rather

This is alternately amusing/alarming:

It was meant to be a heart-to-heart: just the two presidents and their translators, sitting alone inside the historic castle that overlooks the Slovak capital of Bratislava. Four years earlier, in another castle in Central Europe, George W. Bush looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and saw his trustworthy soul. But what he saw inside Putin last week was far less comforting. When Bush confronted his Russian counterpart about the freedom of the press in Russia, Putin shot back with an attack of his own: “We didn’t criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS.”

It’s not clear how well Putin understands the controversy that led to the dismissal of four CBS journalists over the discredited report on Bush’s National Guard service. Yet it’s all too clear how Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American mediajust like his own. Bush’s aides have long feared that former KGB officers in Putin’s inner circle are painting a twisted picture of U.S. policy. So Bush explained how he had no power to fire American journalists. It made little difference. When the two presidents emerged for their joint press conference, one Russian reporter repeated Putin’s language about journalists getting fired. Bush (already hot after an earlier question about his spying on U.S. citizens) asked the reporter if he felt free. “They obviously planted the question,” said one of Bush’s senior aides.

Kinda makes you wonder what other misguided perceptions are helping to shape the bizarre Bush/Putin relationship.

Havens of Fluorescent Idiocy

Larry Summers is in trouble for attempting to lead a provocative discussion on the role of women in the hard sciences. Why didn’t he just think of this:

While professors and deans took to Lowell Lecture Hall yesterday to discuss Harvards president, members of the student group Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe (WISHR) held a session to brainstorm ways in which current University policies hinder female students from concentrating in the sciences.

To help attract female concentrators, students suggested class activities such as an ice cream social for Chemistry 5 students.

*** Update ***

Kimmitt comments below:

Larry Summers is in trouble for attempting to cover his ass for the decrease in women hired and tenured during his administration, nothing more or less.

Post hoc bullshit, to borrow a phrase. Summers is in trouble because he is being lynched by the same collection of rabble and leftist radicals who he has refused to worship.

He pissed them off with Cornel West, the chief icon for lazy intellectual posturing in the Ivy League. He revisited the ROTC issue. He refused to bow to the Islamists and anti-Semites who wanted to divest in Israel. He took on grade inflation. He, in short, is under attack by a coaltion of those brought up in the brain-washed and brain-dead tradition of 1960’s radicalism, and I hope he crushes them like a bug.

A Good Start

A little pressure is exerted, and all of a sudden some people want to play ball:

The Iraqi government said today that it had captured a half-brother of Saddam Hussein, a man who for several years headed the country’s domestic intelligence and security service, once the most feared agency in Iraq.

The half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti, was No. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis that the American government compiled after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. On the deck of cards portraying the 55 men, Mr. Tikriti appears as the six of diamonds, and a black-and-white portrait on the card shows him as a young, smiling man with a thin moustache. Two other half-brothers of Mr. Hussein who were on the list, Barzan al-Tikriti and Watban al-Tikriti, were seized right after the Hussein government crumbled.

The American government had put out a $1 million bounty for the capture of Sabawi al-Tikriti. The Associated Press reported that he had been captured by Syrian authorities and that he had been turned over to Iraq as a gesture of good will.

Diplomatic niceties and nervous hand-wringing have never achieved results, particularly in the Middle East. The lowest level of motivation is compliance, and there are three criteria that must be met in order to achieve compliance from a party that does not otherwise wish to comply- concern, control, and scrutiny.

When trying to gain compliance with otherwise uninterested and unmotivated parties, they must be sure that you are concerned with the issue at hand and serious in your intentions and proclamations. They must believe that you are able and willing to do something punitive should they fail to comply. Finally, they must believe that you will be able to detect a failure to comply. All three of these elements must be in place- an absence on any one of the elements will result in an unapologetic, recalcitrant, and non-compliant party.

Let’s take speeding as an example. Everyone is aware that governments at every level are concerned with speed limits, as this is expressed best by the numerous speed limit signs posted alongside every road. We are all (except for the truly socially deviant in societyh) aware that the police have the ability and willingness to follow through with punitive action, should we be observed breaking the speed limit.

Why, then, do so many speed? Because we all are aware that the police can’t be everywhere. The scrutiny is missing, and we all know it. Everyone reading this knows where the speed traps are in his/her hometown, and likewise where the police never have a presence. With just one of the three elements of concern, control, and scrutiny missing, compliance breaks down. There may be other issues as well- the perception that the punishment is not sever enough is another example.

I am not going to go into detail about the failures of the Clinton administration, and I will leave it to the reader which elements were not present. It is important to recognize, however, how right Bernard Lewis was about this:

These anti-American forces fall basically into two groups. The first, and in the long run the more important, come from the camp of al Qaeda and related religious movements. For them, America is now the leader of Christendom, the ultimate enemy in the millennial struggle which they hope to bring, in their own time, to a victorious conclusion. In the writings and speeches of Osama bin Laden and of his allies and disciples, hatred of America is less significant than contempt–the perception that America is a “paper tiger,” that its people have become soft and pampered–“hit them and they will run.” This perception was bolstered by frequent references to Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia, as well as to the feeble response to subsequent terrorist attacks in the 1990s, notably on the USS Cole and on the embassies in East Africa. It was this perception which undoubtedly underlay the events of Sept. 11, clearly intended to be the opening barrage of a new war against the Americans on their home ground.
The response to this attack, and notably the operations in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, brought a rude awakening, and that is surely why there have been no subsequent attacks on U.S. soil.

When Bush declares that we will not be driven from Iraq, and that we aren’t going to run away from tough situations, many on the hard left chide him for ‘cowboy’ tough talk (or start with the chichenhawk nonsense), and it is their unwillingness or inability to understand the outcomes of their weakness that makes them so dangerous. We have paid a hefty price in both blood and treasure in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the War on Terror, and hopefully we are rounding the corner in the region. When vile and oppressive regimes who have previously thumbed their noses at the United States and the rest of the world begin to re-think their positions, it may be a sign that we are starting to see the real results of our dedication to the cause and our unwavering will.

*** Update ***

Captain Ed (via Instapundit) comes to a similar conclusion, noting:

What did I tell you? With the wave of popular sentiment sweeping across Southwest Asia for democratic self-determination and pressure from both America and France to get out of Lebanon or else, Syria has decided to start playing nice with the new Iraqi government rather than protect Assad’s political Ba’athist cousins. Ibrahim hardly made himself an asset to Assad anyway, and with all of the diplomatic heat coming down on Damascus, Assad has belatedly found the Iraqi Ba’athist leadership very disposable.

Jack Kelly wrote earlier that the Iraq War has already been essentially won, with nothing much left than the cleanup. This constitutes a major part of that effort, and as long as the pressure remains on the Syrians, more cleanup will follow after this. It also confirms that Syria indeed had a hand in fomenting the terrorist attacks in Iraq; now, with this revelation and the apparent reversal of course by an extremely nervous Assad, we may see the entire Zarqawi/Ba’athist effort collapse in on itself within weeks.

More on the region here (via Matt Yglesias) and from Matt himself here. What is curious about Matt is that he believes that the success occurred in a vaccuum- that pressure alone would have been enough to force the changes. Again- threats of pressure when there is no belief that we will do anything is merely empty rhetoric.

What To Say

There really can be no meaningful discourse when those who disagree with you think this:

What all of them miss, importantly, is the role of movement leaders — particularly Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, and the neocons — in encouraging these proto-fascist traits. There is no evidence that they’re doing so because they themselves are actually proto-fascists; rather, I think it remains clear that these people are pro-corporate crony capitalists, and the evidence strongly suggests that they’re indulging this style of politics for the sake of shoring up their numbers and securing their political base. The strongest evidence for this is the ongoing minuet the Bush administration dances with the neo-Confederate faction that now rules the South.

In other words, “movement conservatives” are being molded into a mindset that increasingly resembles classic fascism, but it’s being done by leaders who mostly find this mindset convenient and readily manipulable. Unfortunately, the history of fascism is such that the arrogant corporatist belief that they contain these forces is not well grounded.

What’s important to understand is the real dynamic: A growing populist “movement” is being encouraged increasingly to adopt attitudes that, taken together, become increasingly fascist. Greater numbers of individuals are being conditioned to think alike, and more importantly, to accept an increasingly vicious response to dissent. This does not mean that genuine fascism has arrived as a real political force in America; but it does mean the groundwork is being created for just such a nightmare, by irresponsible politicians tapping into terrible forces beyond their ability to control.

If even “paleo-conservatives” can see this, there’s hope of stopping it. But I think we need to begin with a clear understanding of who, what, and why the fascists are.

The latent fascists who are the biggest problem right now are not Republican leaders. It is their oxyconned, Foxcized, Freeped-out, fanatic army of followers, comprising ordinary people, who pose the long-term problem. Drawing them back from the abyss is the real challenge that confronts us.

We’re not all fascists. We are merely fascistic. And the rest of us are stoopid.