Friday, February 14, 2003

It's called the Drake Formula, not the Sagan Formula

I do love Charles Krauthammer, but he knows better than this. You can read all about the Drake Formula, invented by Dr. Frank Drake which is an exercise to predict the number of technological civilizations in the universe, right here.
The Future of Confirmation Hearings, Part I: a Cautionary Tale

*************
SENATE CONFIRMATION HEARING,
FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE; February 11, 2021, 11 a.m.
Hearings on Mr. P. Earthling, of California, to be Ambassador to Tahitian Republic.

Senator RODHAM CLINTON, Chair: Mr Earthling, I appreciate your appearance before this committee. Would you please remind the committee the first time you met the President?

Mr EARTHLING: Thank you, Madam Senator.. Senatrix? Chairman, I’m sorry. Madam Chairwoman.

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: [Laughter] No need to be nervous. “Senator” is fine.

Mr EARTHLING: Yes, Senator, thank you. I appreciate that. I’ve known the President since my first year of law school at the University of Chicago, where I was a classmate of the First Lady. He was a year ahead of both me and the First Lady. If I recall correctly, the first lady was in my section when they started dating. I got to know him that way.

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: And how would you characterize you friendship with the President since?

Mr EARTHLING: Well, I haven't seen him as much as I would like in the years since -- dinner a couple of times when he was Governor and I was in town, but mostly Christmas cards and that sort of thing. I was happy to have had an opportunity to work on his campaign for President and would be very proud to serve him and this country.

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: Thank you, Mr. Earthling. Now, on to the matter at hand. Tahiti’s relations with France are still difficult following the so-called Wednesday War, and as the first country to recognize Tahiti, the United States has a special requirement to show itself to be a fair broker between France and Tahiti, wouldn’t you agree?

Mr EARTHLING: To a point, Senator. Our relations with Tahiti and the other South Pacific Republics are important, yes and that--

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: That wasn’t quite my question, but let me rephrase - do you think its fair to say that France’s relationship with Tahiti is important?

Mr EARTHLING: I believe so, yes.

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: And that you will be involved, as Ambassador, in an attempt to seek the return of the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle to France – a point of some contention, I might add – something which was agreed to between Washington and Papeete and as a condition of the our recognizing the Interim Government in Papeete. Being seen as at least fair to France should be helpful in this job, wouldn’t you agree Mr. Earthling?

Mr EARTHLING: Well, yes. I certainly would be involved in that, yes. Papeete has an obligation to us to return it and whatever their rights to the De Gaulle in Prize Courts... in Admiralty Law... they've agreed to do this and the policy of the United States is pretty clear on this point. But I’ve never taken any sort of public stance about this, so I’m not quite sure I’m following you here Senator. Yes, I agree.

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: Do you believe you are unbiased toward France?

Mr EARTHLING: Senator?

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: Did you maintain a weblog between 2003 and 2007?

Mr EARTHLING: Excuse me for a moment, Senator.

[CONSULTS WITH COUNSEL]

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: Let me explain. I’d like to call up on the screen some of your writings you made in the period between 2003 and 2007 on your weblog, “Pathetic Earthlings” - now, let’s start with this one, dated April 3, 2006, entitled, “King of Somewhere Hot” where you express your, how do you say this, “squeals of delight that the Republic of Arabia refused to buy a Renault paving machines from those unhelpful French bastards.” Before we go any further, did you own stock in Caterpillar or John Deere at this time, the two companies that won that contract, or might there be something which might explain your enthusiasm?

Mr EARTHLING: Unless it was through a mutual fund, no. I certainly didn’t own any directly.

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: But you will not deny calling them “unhelpful French bastards.”

Mr EARTHLING: No, Senator, I would not. I do not recall writing those words, but I have no reason to think I didn’t write them. May I try to explain these comments to the Committee?

Senator RODHAM CLINTON: This I would like to hear, Mr Earthling.

Whiskey of the Week : Aberlour

If you've had a chance to try the Macallan, and you enjoyed it, I suggest moving over just one distillery over to the Aberlour - another Speyside whiskey that can be had for around $30. This was my everyday kind of scotch during law school, when you could pick it up at Sam's Wine and Spirits in Chicago for about $20 or $22. Most good single malts at the time were about $30-$35, and at $20 or $22, Aberlour was an absolute steal - sweet, tasty and it really sticks around the palate. And, save the most excellent Sam's, very difficult to find.

Yet somewhere between law school in Chicago and lawyering back here in the Bay Area, the price of Aberlour spiked...as did its availability. I never quite got the full story, but one small bottle shop owner - who always had it - told me that he never moved the stuff at $20, people were turned off by the fact that it was "only" 10 years old and that it was "so cheap" that folks wouldn't be moved to try it.

Some folks have subconcious price points... I know I do. When it comes to single malt (or pure malt) whiskeys, I'll try almost anything. But I cannot manage to make myself buy a bottle of 8-year old Sheep Dip Pure Malt whiskey, whether it is the strange price point ($15) or the Monty Python references, Sheep Dip somehow repells me. Once the price closed in with the Macallan or Glenmorangie or Oban (i.e., $30ish), folks would stop to give it a try - and it's now almost universally available and a solid seller in both its 10- year old and 15-year old expressions. Lately, I've seen the price drop a bit -- maybe $25 or $28 at a good discount bottle shop. If someone offered me a bottle of Macallan or a bottle of Aberlour and $5, I'd take the Aberlour in a moment - and that's a good price differentiation. They're both excellent whiskeys and if you find Aberlour for a couple bucks less than Macallan, snap it up.

I didn't have a chance to conjure up a complete lesson for the week. Next week, we're going to talk about one of my all time favorite whiskeys - the Talisker. And in that lesson, we're going to talk about a common misperception about aging whiskey, the angel's share, and an obscure passage in the Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes novel The Legacy of Heorot.

N.B.: I've added another ten or so whiskey links.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

USS Clueless believes General Order 24 will not be necessary

Steven Den Beste sets out a very plausible scenario for the outcome of the war.
Hasn't he left yet?

Inside Politics in the Washington Times has these two gems from former President Clinton.

The United States should hold high-level talks with North Korea and offer Pyongyang "a grand bargain," Mr. Clinton said.
"I don't think delay is good. I think we need an intense, exceedingly high-level engagement," he said. "I think we need to go to the North Koreans with a common position and we need to offer them a grand bargain. So I think we offer them a comprehensive settlement of all issues."


I was happy to give him the benefit of the doubt in North Korea in 1994 -- it seemed to work, for a while, but don't you think there might be a lesson to be drawn from our more recent experience?

Mr. Clinton also said...that the greatest regret of his presidency was not eliminating Osama bin Laden. "We talked about bin Laden four out of five days for the last three years I was president," Mr. Clinton said. "I had the same level of obsession with bin Laden that I think a lot of the current administration has with Saddam Hussein."

This explains, then, the international coalition that Clinton cobbled together against all conventional wisdom, defied the Brutal Afghan Winter and the threatening Quagmire, against a country the Soviet Union couldn't conquer...and went into Afghanistan in the Spring of 2000 and routed the Taliban in four weeks with fewer than twenty allied casualities? Yes, I thought so.
Pizza for Patriots

You can send a pizza to the Israeli Defence Forces. Every soldier I've ever met is good for at least half a pie, so their claims that one pizza can feed 5 IDF troops seems a little spurious. Still, this is damned clever marketing - and a good cause, too.

N.B.: Is this on the up?
More from the "A Pack Not a Herd" Files

That amazing shot taken of Columbia on its way in over New Mexico was not taken with state of the art equipment, but rather by enthusiastic researchers playing with something in their spare time - namely a commercial 3.5" telescope and a Macintosh. This does not, as far as I can tell, render the image unhelpful. No one at NASA told them to take a picture and while this was more luck than skill that the picture apparently shows something, just goes to prove the quality of American ingenuinty (and, no doubt, German optics).



Thanks to Jason at LawGeek, a member of my loyal opposition, for noting this.
From the Defense Minister

An email from my Defense Minister:

"March 2 is the day I think you're gonna see major ground action, but the
fireworks may start much sooner. I somehow don't think Sadaam and UBL are
going to wait until we roll in (I wouldn't). I would expect to see
something "spectacular" as soon as this weekend. The final UN report gets
in Friday, and that's about the last diplomatic deadline left in the pre-war
stage. Way back in October, my original date for action was Feb. 15th. I
changed it only when I worked out the transport time on some stuff to come
up with 3-2.

Something in the timing of the UBL statement yesterday is really telling in
the relationship between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. Colin Powell was trying to
point that out, and I'm not sure if he was clearly understood. If Al Qaeda
was really "unconnected" to the Iraqi regime, their best opportunity to hit
the US would be AFTER an Iraq action. After all, everyone in the Arab
world's going to be pissed off when we roll into Baghdad (supposedly), so
why not hit the US afterwards and tie the US down?

Instead, AQ is looking to make a major move PRIOR to an attack on Iraq.
What's the point of that? Well, two reasons I can think of. One is to
disrupt preparations against Iraq, which would mean hitting US military and
other targets in Arabia and other locations (such as Germany or the UK).
The Other would be to hit the US big domestically, which would have the
intended effect of keeping a large portion of troops stateside to guard
against future attacks. Either effect benefits Iraq. Furthermore, if AQ
hits Israel in some way, they also follow the Iraq doctrine of making
everything a part of the greater "Anti-Zionist" war, which could make US
actions against Iraq much more politically complicated. Of course, the
direct beneficiary of any of these effects, should they succeed, would be
Iraq, who could continue to delay US action until such time as they are more
prepared.

Effectively AQ is Iraq's way of subcontracting their war on us without
getting their hands dirty. Iraq uses AQ to attack US and allies, while Iraq
seemingly does nothing. I think when we finally get to the bottom of this,
we'll find out that this connection goes back a very long way, and is
involved in a lot of things, including the Anthrax attacks, as well as some
other more unexpected things.

Of course, the only way to fight such a war is to intensify your will beyond
that of your opponents. I get the feeling if AQ really does try to be a
spoiler, it's only going to get the US more pissed off. AQ should spend
less time reading the NY Times and more time following the American
"street". If they did, they'd realize that they can't win this one. But
then again, they wouldn't be fanatics then, would they?"

Well said.
American Caeser Redux

Here's an interesting piece on plans for Tommy Franks to rule Iraq in the immediate post-war period. The Kurds are apparently happy with this, some of the other Iraqi opposition leaders less so. But Japan was under American military rule for seven years and West Germany for four. We'll be running the show for a couple of years because we have to be.

I certainly don't think we ought to rule the show solo after the war, but NATO and the UN aren't particularly good candidates either. Rather, I think the United States and the UK, as well as our better allies in this (e.g., Australia, not France; Poland, not Belgium), ought to ask, say, five countries -- a few Western democracies, at least one former Communist country on the board; and one Muslim nation (probably Morocco)) -- to themselves name a delegate to a sort of Board of Advisors through which we, the United States, as chief occupier, will clear issues of a non-military nature.

Obviously the politics of naming such a board are difficult as would be committing ourselves to live by its judgments, but we ought not shy away from it. First, if the Board is properly constituted, I believe our friends can offer us wise counsel. Members should have been on record before, say, today (e.g., Sit down, Brussels... yes, both of you. No thanks, France). A good member would be a country with a history of having left her young men on the battlefield, a commitment to democracy and human rights (historic or emerging, preferably one of each)), and, if possible, relatively few economic ties to Iraq. New Zealand, Iceland and Finland would certainly fit the bill. As would Poland, the Czech Republic and Chile. I'd also like to see a properly federal country on board, but only Germany comes to mind, and they're out. These countries can offer the United States important lessons of their own and I think it's foolish to ignore their ideas.

Second, I think this would give the United States both flexibility and political cover. When we need to decide how to deal with restoring the lands of the Marsh Arabs, settling still-existant disputes with Iran, ratifying existing obligations of Saddam's government, redistributing Saddam's wealth (both before and after lawsuits (no doubt we're going to need Claims Tribunal) - it's best to avoid saying "Tommy Franks said so" as a rationale for demanding a German donation to the Iraqi Superfund, but neither do I want to have to float every request for a Caterpillar backhoe or a John Deere paving machine to have to run through the UN's bullshit.

Third, the countries that back us up and have backed us up ought to be rewarded, with symbolism for some, - with real influence. Poland wants to be a player on the world stage and I believe they can be. They've earned a right to be heard, formally, by the United States. Not all of our friends will get a chance to sit with the United States as equals, of course, not this time. An understanding that if the United States is going to be the world's policeman, and you join us, you can be a respected member of the posse comitas -- now that would go a long way toward coalition building in the future.

It wouldn't be efficient, it would give us some grief, but these countries are our friends and they've earn their place at the table.

Besides, the idea of Paris having to go begging Warsaw for her vote to ratify Total/Elf contracts is too juicy to resist.
Proud Member of the Rocky Top Brigade

This morning, South Knox Bubba announced that Pathetic Earthlings is now a member of that most excellent of blogophiliations, the Rocky Top Brigade. I cannot think of a finer mission statement than the search of truth, justice and a good single malt whiskey for around $20.

For those of you not familiar with the Rocky Top Brigade, read its mission statement and note that counts among its membership, Instapundit. Nominally, it's a group of Tennessee bloggers and I, as a Californian, have little business there. Nevertheless, SayUncle was good enough to create a test which I could pass, and pass it I did.

For those of you who are coming to Pathetic Earthlings for the first time because I'm a member of the Rocky Top Brigade, welcome. Every week I write something about single malt whiskey and am more than happy to field questions if you are trying to learn a bit more about it. If you like my other commentary, please stick around.

Although I am a sixth-generation Californian, I do have some Tennessee bona fides - I saw Johnny Cash at the Mid-South Fair and Rodeo in 1997 in one of last shows before he dramatically cut back his touring schedule, and, most notably that during the year I worked in Little Rock, Arkansas - I was wooing the (not yet) Mrs. Earthling who was still in California and Memphis did me right. When she came out to visit, we had an excellent trip to Memphis including, of course, a visit to see the King and a pleasant evening on Beale Street and, of course, Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous.

So I'm damned proud to be a member of the RTB and prouder still to be their Master Distiller while we continue to pursue all that's right in the world - Truth, Justice and a good bottle of single malt whiskey for around $20.

Thanks to all of the members of the Rocky Top Brigade! I'll adjust the blog accordingly later today.

UPDATE: I'll pass along more of the story of how I wooed Mrs. Earthling with Memphis Dry Rub, but not before Mrs. Earthling lets me know that that's okay.
We're the Meatmen

That excellent band, the Meatmen, had a song that went something like this:

"French people suck,
I've just got to say,
They make our fighter pilots go out of their way,
They've been hating us yankees
Way too much
Let's stick the Eiffel Tower straight up their butts

Last time I took Air France
Played a tune on my Uzi
And made those sissies dance
Kill a hundred or more
Really had a ball
Those freaking frog suckers be the death of us all....

French People Suck
French People Suck
French People Suck!"

Actually, I don't agree. Here's an excellent commentary that I think has the best analysis of why France behaves as she does. What bothers me is not the French people, who I find to be no better --- or worse --- than any other crowd in Europe and I say as much here.

What will be interesting, however, is how quickly the anti-war Left switches from championing France (who will end up fighting) as the last best hope of mankind to championing Germany (who won't).

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

A frightening theory about current terror alerts.

Dr Manhattan thinks Al Qaeda is planning a Passover attack here in the United States. A Big One.

I wonder if there's a need for volunteer security for public Passover events. I'd happily drop on a nylon windbreaker (note: no pictures, please -- I have a future Senate confirmation hearing to think about) and walk the perimeter to give a bit of extra security to my fellow Americans so they can celebrate their important holidays with a bit more security.
Big News Tomorrow!

Big blogosphere news for Pathetic Earthlings tomorrow. Stay tuned!
Post the words of the Chairman on every tree, rock and animal, until we run out of the People's Gas!

Here are a few highlights of the official North Korea website:

First, check out this overly-long, very uncapitalist advertisment for their license-built Fiat, the Fiparam (click the photograph). From what I can tell, it compares favorably to both the Yugo, which very well could make a comeback and the East German Trabant.

Second, should the Juche ideal ever faulter (heaven forbid!), the folks at Cirque du Soleil should look to Pyongyang for its farm team. North Korean mass gymnastics and mass card-flipping really are one of the more impressive feats of human cooperation (top right link, the Arirang Festival; the middle third is the best). While post-Communist Russia has most of its wealth tied up in land and therefore needs land reform more than anything else, North Korea has a shockingly large amount of Olympic Opening Ceremonies and Super Bowl Half-Time Show talent that could be used to help the country grow in a post-Juche era.

Third, I have got to figure out how to get me an Air Koryo T-Shirt. That logo rocks.
A few more thoughts about unmanned v. manned spaceflight

Here's an article from Richard Muller at Cal, a fellow who learned his trade under Luis Alvarez (Nobel, Physics 1968), and works with Walter Alvarez, the man who did more than anyone else to theorize, then demonstrate, that the dinosaurs were killed by an asteroid impact.

UPDATE: I hasten to add I noticed this over at FuturePundit.
Larry Bond's Cauldron

I read a few Larry Bond techno-thrillers, but the one I really remember was Cauldron, a cool WW3 novel where France and Germany align to bully around Europe in their particular image, and it ends up in a shooting war with France and Germany on one side, and the US, the UK, Denmark, Norway and Poland on the other, with everyone desperately trying to keep Russia out of the fight. Utterly ridiculous, I thought: how could all that happen in 20 years let alone by 1999, the date in which the war was fought?

Bond might have been off by a few years, but the scenario has moved from the implausibly implausible to the merely implausible. I might just read it again. If I recall correctly, the lead character for the good guys in the air war was a Polish F-16 pilot. Hmmmm.
The American Street Speaks

Mrs. Earthling calls to report seeing the back window of a camper-shelled Dodge Ram truck, papered over with the not unstubtle:

"F*** the French" in foot-tall letters.

UPDATE: Mrs. Earthling emails to say: It didn't say "F***" the French, it said, "To Hell With the French" - management regrets the projection.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

It's not really whiskey blogging

But if Freedom and Whisky isn't a political platform I'm ready to support, nothing is. An excellent blog on goings-on in Scotland and now a permalink at Pathetic Earthlings for its excellent name alone.
Why Michael Moore Can't Win

Blogosphere Right's up in arms that Michael Moore got a nomination for his Bowling for Columbine. Adam Bonin, at Throwing Things, explains why Michael Moore can't win.
Space Elevators

A space elevator (and $100/kilo to geostationary orbit)? By 2020? These guys seem serious.

Monday, February 10, 2003

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia formerly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Jay Nordlinger over at NRO, notes:

"You were perhaps as stirred as I was to read the statement of the Vilnius Group, which comprises Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania.....In its statement, the Vilnius Group said: 'Our countries understand the dangers posed by tyranny and the special responsibility of democracies to defend our shared values. The trans-Atlantic community must stand together to face the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and dictators with weapons of mass destruction.'"

Macedonia stands up for us - something President Bush acknowledges - and they ought to be rewarded. So put it on the list of things the United States should do after the war: drop the ridiculous affectation of "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and call her what she is, the "Republic of Macedonia."

The official policy of the United States is that the country doesn't even have a short name (this is a hangover, in part, from the 1992 DNC Platform which declared the official policy of the United States ought to be "sensitive" to the use of the name Macedonia). It's just the F.Y.R.O.M.. We have diplomatic relations with Macedonia, they have an Embassy here, we recognize it as a sovereign nation and, most importantly, they style themselves the "Republic of Macedonia." Yet we don't call her by her proper name.

Although I'm sure Victor Davis Hanson can tell you more about this dispute off the top of his head than if I did a lifetime of research, but the short version is that Greece has territorial claims on Macedonia running back a couple of thousand years. And while we wanted Macedonia to be free of Belgrade in the break up of Yugoslavia, we didn't want to shut the door on Greece's claims. So we're left with FYROM.

I don't know who else makes this distinction. Canada, at least, does not. And I don't care. Macedonia is with us. Greece is not. And there ought to be rewards for helping your friends. Down the road, if Greece and Macedonia want to come to some agreement about their relationships, their borders and their history, the United States should support it. It's proven itself our friend this week and they've earned our respect. We can, at least, show it.

And if we don't, I declare it my official policy that Macedonia should be free to call us the the Former Non-Canadian British North American Colonies in Federal Union with Legal and Extra-Legal Acquistions Thereof.

UPDATE: Greece is backing up Turkey. Whatever the bad blood between the Greeks and the Turks, I think Greece is smart enough to know they want a stable Turkey, not an unstable one, and the quicker this war is done with, the better... for everyone. I still think we should drop the "FYROM" nonsense.

UPDATE: A bit more about the name dispute can be found here.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Where's Hazel Stone when you need her?

A friend points me to this commentary by Declan McCullagh, who suggests Paul Weyrich needs to read some Robert Heinlein, before opining that penal colonies on the moon are a particularly good idea or, for that matter, a very original one.

Speaking of which, everyone should read Robert Heinlein's the Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Don't wait for the movie.
Paranoia on the half-shell

Via Instapundit, an article about inequal traffic distribution among weblogs. It's quite interesting and points to a trend noted elsewhere about the inevitability of inequality.

My take, however, is this just a scheme for the author, Clay Shirky, to get a lot of traffic from Instapundit in a brazen attempt to nullify his own thesis. I'll keep track of this plot as it spreads.