Robert Anton Wilson, 1932-2007

According to an announcement on his blog, Robert Anton Wilson died this morning. Wilson is best known for his books dealing with conspiracy theories including the fantastic Illuminatus! Trilogy. There’s more information at 10 Zen Monkeys. Wierd America has an archive of interviews with RAW.

All Hail Eris!

An Inconvenient Truth is Too Inconvenient for Federal Way, Washington

Kansas might be returning to the 21st century but there are still plenty of kooks around, even in blue states such as Washington. In Federal Way, Washington there have been protests raised over the showing of An Inconvenient Truth in the schools:

“Condoms don’t belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He’s not a schoolteacher,” said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. “The information that’s being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. … The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn’t in the DVD.”

Oh, the questions this raises. How exactly is Al Gore like a condom? With seven children, Hardison hardly appears to be an expert on condoms or any other form of birth control. Why would it matter that Al Gore is not a “school teacher” if he’s an expert on the topic, and doesn’t being a college professor count? Most of those who take the bible literally believe the earth is around 6000 years old. Where does this 14,000 number come from?

We know there will be kooks everywhere. The real absurdity is that the school board took this complaint seriously. It looks like school board President Ed Barney would have been more at home in pre-2006 Kansas:

Asked whether an alternative explanation for evolution should be presented by teachers, Barney said it would be appropriate to tell students that other beliefs exist. “It’s only a theory,” he said.

Update: Federal Way Advised to Teach the Science

Does Wanting to Win Excuse Incompetence?

It’s tough to defend a plan which is unlikely to succeed and which has been proposed by someone whose plans so far have been total failures. Jonah Goldberg attempts to defend Bush’s escalation of the war at a time when few others support him. As there is no sensible argument in favor of Bush’s plans, Goldberg resorts to the usual standby seen by Republicans–attack the Democrats. He excuses Bush’s incompetence because “Bush sticks to his goal of winning in Iraq” concluding with:

Bush came up with the “surge” plan. Will it work? Nobody knows. But the one thing the American people know about George W. Bush is that he wants to win the war. What the Democrats believe is anybody’s guess.

Wanting to win is not enough. Going to war in the first place was a mistake. The manner in which the war was planned and conducted was inept. These are the faults of George Bush, not the Democrats. Wanting to win does little when Americans are dying needlessly and when our national security is being undermined. Remaining bogged down in Iraq only strengthens al Qaeda and Iran in the region, and continues to inflame the insurgency within Iraq.

Goldberg throws in another strange attack claiming that “Kerry, Pelosi and other Democrats were in favor of more troops before they were against it.” Kerry and Pelosi were against this war from the start. The attack on Kerry and other Democrats from the Republicans was that they wanted to “cut and run,” not send in more troops. Perhaps Goldberg is twisting the argument that Democrats made that, while they opposed going to war, they should at least send in adequate troops to do the job right from the beginning. This may have prevented civil war from breaking out, but now that it has sending in 20,000 more troops will solve nothing.

If Bush and Cheney want to step down and allow a Democrat to manage the war, then we can see if the Democrats can do a better job. As long as George Bush is Commander in Chief, the failings of the war remain his responsibility, not the responsibility of the Democrats who, despite control of Congress, do not have the power to take over management of this war which most of them opposed from the start. The recommendations from Democrats to include diplomatic efforts and benchmarks as parts of their plans are already far ahead of Bush’s plan to stay the course when it is failing.

Bush ran for reelection by demonizing John Kerry as he couldn’t run on his own miserable record. This worked in 2004 but by 2006 voters were not falling for this when Republicans were thrown out of office. Goldberg is resorting to the Bush 2004 strategy again of attacking the opponents when unable to defend Bush’s own record but few are likely to fall for this again.

Brownback Opposes the Surge

Kansas just isn’t the same any more. In addition to being on the verge of dumping intelligent design to restore science education and having many moderates win in the last election, even their far right wing Senator is making some sense today. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sam Brownback has come out against Bush’s escalation of the war:

Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback came out against President Bush’s expected call tonight for a surge of 22,000 more troops into Iraq.

“I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer,” Brownback said while traveling in Iraq. “Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution.”

Brownback had previously supported a short-term surge of troops if it could help achieve long-term political stability, which the Bush Administration has said it hopes a troop surge will help achieve.

But Brownback rejected that argument after meeting this week with several Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and U.S. military commanders.

“I came away from these meetings convinced that the United States should not increase its involvement until Sunnis and Shi’a are more willing to cooperate with each other instead of shooting at each other,” Brownback said.

“The best way to reach a democratic Iraq is to empower the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own nation building,” Brownback concluded, saying it is not in U.S. interest to get deeply involved in sectarian strife.

Most likely he also spoke to his poltical advisors who warned him that backing this could doom one’s chances of winning the White House in 2008. (It remains uncertain if this also applies to John McCain, but we can hope.)

David Brooks: The Democrats Are to Blame For Iraq

We’ve now seen numerous books published demonstrating that, after Bush lied the country into the war, and had no rational plans for success. It would seem that failure would be his responsibility. Despite being responsible for all the plans to get us into Iraq, Brooks starts his column by trying to shift the blame to the Democrats:

If the Democrats don’t like the U.S. policy on Iraq over the next six months, they have themselves partly to blame. There were millions of disaffected Republicans and independents ready to coalesce around some alternative way forward, but the Democrats never came up with anything remotely serious.

In other words, Bush got us into a situation with no ideal solution but the fault lies with the Democrats for not coming up with the pefect solution. At least Democrats recognize that it is the presence of Americans in Iraq which is inflaming the insurgency while Bush wants to send in even more, when his own military advisors recognize that his plan will not work. Democrats have been discussing diplomacy while Bush refuses to talk to his enemies while Republicans, who have difficulty seeing any issue in anything but black or white, remain totally oblivious to the distinction between mutually beneficial negotiations and appeasement. My comments from earlier on the Gallup Poll also apply to Brooks.

Even Brooks cannot sustain the political spin that he starts his column with. After his obligatory Democrat-bashing he starts his discussion of Bush’s proposals with “So we are stuck with the Bush proposal as the only serious plan on offer. The question is, what exactly did President Bush propose last night? The policy rollout has been befogged by so much spin and misdirection it’s nearly impossible to figure out what the president is proposing.” In the end he admits that “Instead of facing up to this core reality, the Bush administration has papered it over with salesmanship and spin.”

James Watson Calls Bush a “Piece of Shit”

James Watson goes beyond science in an aritcle in the January Esquire. Here’s some quotes of interest, although he  had some rather odd comments also:

You explain things by way of ideas. Why do we have a government that is run by rich trash? Because they’ve used their money to buy the presidency. Bush is a tool for the people who don’t want an inheritance tax. And Frist isn’t an innocent bystander, with his own family fortune—hundreds of millions. The piece of shit, I hate him.

I’m basically a libertarian. I don’t want to restrict anyone from doing anything unless it’s going to harm me. I don’t want pass a law stopping someone from smoking. It’s just too dangerous. You lose the concept of a free society. Since we are genetically so diverse and our brains are so different, we’re going to have different aspirations. The things that will satisfy me satisfy you. On the other hand, if global warming is in any way preventable and it’s likely to come, not doing something be irresponsible to the future of our society.

Being raised nonreligious made you free. You could look at the evidence. Whether being nonreligious or a Democrat more important, I can’t tell you.

Reason links to other recent interviews with Watson, selecting his more libertarian comments. While Watson has many comments of interest, and many I agree with, he does have a reputation as being somewhat of a kook at times.