Friday, October 31, 2003



LEBRON JAMES 24/7! (Ignore the following if you don't care about the NBA).

It is finally that time of year. Baseball is, thankfully, over until spring. College football winds down towards its inexorable ending with the only drama remaining surrounding the question of whether the BCS system will be faced with four teams with only one loss and a valid claim to be worthy of playing in the championship. But now is when things start to get exciting because of the start of the NBA season. And what a season it promises to be. Can veterans Malone and Payton finally earn their rings with the Lakers? Will Dallas regret signing Antoine Walker? Will the Kings finally make it over the hump or will the fragile CWebb let them down again? This is not to mention the formidable defending champion San Antonio Spurs, the probably significantly improved Minnesota Timberwolves, and Yao Ming and the Rockets. Even the Utah Jazz, thought by everyone to be destined for a 20-win season present the drama of making an improbable run for the playoffs and earning Jerry Sloan much deserved coach-of-the-year honors. Oh, and I forgot to mention that there is an Eastern Conference in the league too. But given that a team from the East not named the Chicago Bulls with a certain number 23 hasn't won the NBA championship in a couple of decades, most assume that the East will continue its pathetic, losing ways.

And there's the rub. Many of the franchises in the East are in big market towns (New York, Chicago, and to a lesser extent Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC etc.) and when the East stinks, the ratings stink. So, what do the brilliant minds in the NBA (along with shoe companies and tv networks) decide to do: place all their bets on a kid named LeBron James. Coming straight out of high school, James has been christened the next Michael Jordan. The media followed is every move throughout his last year of high school and hasn't let up since. LeBron has double-double is the lead NBA story on "LeBron has looked cool and collected in his first two games" reads the subheading. Breathless comparisons to number 23 spill forth from sportscaster's lips right and left. "Marketing executives are ecstatic with the debut of Cleveland's engaging 18-year-old rookie LeBron James on Wednesday" reads a Washington Post article on James. I don't grudge this obviously talented kid his fame or his shoe contracts. Who wouldn't take the money and adulation in his place. I just wonder, though, why it doesn't seem to matter to anyone that Cleveland lost both games. Will the love last if the Cavs continue to stink? Of course Michael Jordan's Bulls took several years before they began to be a dominant power. I remember one game when the Boston Celtics essentially said: "we'll let MJ score all he wants but we'll shut down the rest of his pathetic team" and it worked: Jordan scored 63 and the Bulls lost. But MJ didn't start with the hype that James has enjoyed/suffered. LeBron James may end up being the next great player. Or, he may end up being the next Shareef Abdur-Rahim: a 20 points 9 rebounds a game player who never makes it to the big leagues in part because of the terrible teams he has been saddled with. Or he may end up being a Shawn Bradley: a dud who never lived up to the hype. Basketball is still, despite the best efforts of the NBA and Nike to ruin the game, a team sport.

UPDATE: This says it all:
ESPN cut away from overtime of the New York-Orlando game it had been broadcasting to show the Cleveland tip-off.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

SIGNS OF A BREAKTHROUGH? The Infidel points to an article that, among other things, notes the following:
Ambassador Han now says Pyongyang only wants a letter from President Bush guaranteeing North Korean security. Furthermore, he was very eager to emphasize, that Pyongyang no longer wants a non-aggression treaty.
If this is actually true, this would seem to be a significant change on the part of the DPRK. The Infidel goes on to quote a warning on the subject from the FEER
Of course, at the end, no one intends to invade North Korea. That's never been the plan in the way that it was for Iraq. Why not a security guarantee, then? Because this will allow the North, never a stickler for details in agreements, to continue surreptitiously with whatever it is doing without further pressure. Finally, does Mr. Bush want to show that bad regimes that kick out nuclear inspectors and abandon the Non-Proliferation Treaty will be rewarded with a security guarantee? Bad idea.
So, if one accepts the contention of Infidel (or is it Elmer Fudd?--see the title of the blog post) that "the key is to make North Korea into a viable nation, not undermine it," what options are we left with? Can't guarantee the security of the DPRK because it will convince other would-be proliferators to imitate P'yongyang. Can't try to undermine the regime because that would be bad. What are we supposed to do then?
UPDATE: The Marmot weighs in on the subject.

Most of the missiles available to the new nuclear powers can carry a half ton warhead. The U.S. had such warheads in service by 1954. But to do so required a lot more scientific and engineering talent than the new nuclear powers have. In addition, the bomb developers were able to test their designs. While powerful computers make it possible to do "virtual tests," the new nuclear nations do not have access to the super-fast computers needed for this kind of testing. Perhaps more importantly, these new nuclear powers do not have access to the data from tests that were simulated, then run with a real weapon. In other words, you need to either do live tests, or have very expensive supercomputers, and the right software, to make sure your smaller warheads work. While China may have stolen a lot of the secret U.S. data on smaller nuclear warheads, it uncertain if any of that information has been passed on. In the end, you don't have to get worried about North Korean or Iranian nuclear weapons unless there is news of smaller warheads that work.

As I've noted before, I'm not surprised.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I JUST READ (AND ENJOYED) WILLIAM GIBSON'S PATTERN RECOGNITION RECENTLY. And while this is a far cry from the mysterious "footage" that entranced the characters in the book, it is a reminder of how much closer we are to this kind of technology and society than we might think. (Thanks to gednet for the link).

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? The Blogosphere is all over Bush's attempts to evade responsibility for declaring victory early. A question: when is the last time we have heard a president, or other prominent politician frankly admit error in making a serious policy decision?

THIS IS ONE REASON WHY I LIKE BLOGGING. One blogger and a camera explores the claims of "environmental racism" made by a mainstream press apparently too lazy to actually visit the place in question.
Recently I read that a refinery project proposed for the almost empty desert near Mobile, Arizona is being opposed on the grounds of "environmental racism." Apparently the local press never bothered to do any research. Otherwise they would have reported that Mobile is has only 33 people in the vicinity, none of them closer than a mile to the site, and the vast majority are white!
I find it amazing and heartening that things that were literally the stuff of science fiction only a few years ago are now commonplace. I don't think that "old media" is going away any time soon, but I like the idea of more citizens participating in the dialogue.

George W. Bush is a similar short-term politician. He tends to tell people what he thinks they want to hear, and he tends to make political decisions for short term reasons. While Kevin Drum and others on the left argue that the Texas Republicans who currently dominate Capital Hill and the White House have a long-term plan for total domination based on hard-right ideology, I believe that most of their actions can be explained by short-term thinking and purely expedient rhetoric. Debts appear in the future, tax cuts come right now, so lets emphasize the present political value and not the future fiscal problems; tax cuts are the order of the day. Some workers might change their votes this month, so lets change tariff policy, and not worry about what it does to future trade policy, balance of trade, overall employment, or total voting patterns; selective protective tariffs are the order of the day. It is all short term thinking.
I think he may be on to something.

A North Korean delegation to an all-peninsula peace festival in Jeju refused to depart for Pyeongyang as scheduled Monday night after the group demanded money for its appearance.
Following a discussion with South Korean officials and festival organizers that left the issue unresolved, the visitors left early yesterday.
North Korea originally promised to send 400 delegates, but only 190 turned up.
South Korea was going to pay $1.2 million of the total with goods such as television sets and refrigerators, but then when the North Koreans reduced its delegation, the festival officials cut the amount of goods to half.
Sounds as if they're picking up this capitalism thing after all.

WHAT IF THE ALLIES LOST THE BATTLE OF THE MARNE? Donald Sensing argues the following:
All of these effects, reverberating to this very day, may be argued to have resulted from the allied victory at the Battle of the Marne. Had the allies lost that battle, I think one may make a good case that none of the following would have occurred:

The rise fascism in Italy and of Nazism in Germany,

The rise of a communist Soviet Union, although the Czar would likely have been deposed eventually (more likely, would have become a figurehead monarch along the lines of Britain’s)

World War II in Europe, and probably not in Asia. Japan would still have had imperial ambitions, but they would not have brought the world into conflict, and perhaps not the US.

Hence, no Cold War and none of its attendant ravages

A much less powerful United States, but one still secure and free

No communist China

No Vietnam War

No Korean War

No free and democratic Japan

No Holocaust

Hence, no establishment of the state of Israel

Hence, no history of war, conflict and terrorism in the Middle East

No Iranian Islamic revolution,

Hence, no rise of modern radical Islamism

Hence no 9/11/01 attacks.

UPDATE: Stephen Green has some interesting thoughts on this post.
The situation in 1915 Europe would have been 1942 all over again, but with one important difference: The United States would never have gotten involved, never mobilized, and never had the opportunity to get used to the idea of acting like a Great Power.

The good news is, we would have been spared most of Lenin, all of Stalin, and the Holocaust.

The bad news is, there would still have been a Second World War.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

"JUST WHAT THIS COUNTRY NEEDS" Atrios points to a news story about (in his words) "another Republican who can't keep his zipper zipped." I presume this means that the country does need Democrats, Greens, or Libertarians with zipper issues? I can't quite figure out why or how this is a uniquely Republican problem.

I AM PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT THIS BLOG HAS BEEN DETERMINED TO BE 29% EVIL, 71% GOOD. See here for how such conclusions are reached.

JOSH MARSHALL IS SATISFIED, nay delighted, with the level of financial support he has received for his planned trip to New Hampshire to cover the primaries there. Good for the blogosphere. I wish him well.


NOW THAT'LL WORK. Bush, Blair, and legions of diplomats can seem to make no headway in resolving the Palestinian-Israel conflict. So who do we turn to? Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston of course.

WHAT DEFINES "RACE"? It has been clear to me for some time that "race" is almost entirely culturally self-defined. It has nothing to do with DNA. Jesse Walker points to a dramatic illustration of this: a case in which a self-defined African-American took a DNA test and found no African genes in his body.
"My son was flabbergasted by the results," says Joseph. "He said, 'Dad, you mean for 50 years you've been passing for black?'"

CAT FIGHT! I have always cheered against the Los Angeles Lakers in part for the same reason I cheer against the New York Yankees: the Lakers have been one of the dominant franchises in the NBA and therefore my default is to cheer for the "underdog" who takes them on. So it is with great glee that I see the emerging war of words between Shaquille ONeal and Kobe Bryant. If only I didn't like and respect guys like Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Karl Malone and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Gary Payton, I could watch what may be the implosion of a once proud franchise with unequivocal viscous joy. Of course Zen-master Phil may still successfully pull the team together.

Monday, October 27, 2003

--Kevin at IA doesn't believe in geomancy (fengshui or p'ungsu)

--The Marmot (who has been rather busy lately) notes that Korean companies like the idea of sending troops to Iraq.

--David Scofield disagrees with Michael O'Hanlon's "grand bargain" strategy.

--North Korea sends greetings to the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

KOREAN-AMERICAN FICTION. That was the topic of GW's latest installment of the Hahn Moo-Sook colloquium. It turned out to be a very interesting event with presentations by some very impressive authors and scholars. I have to confess that I haven't read most of the presenters' works but hope to be able to do so in the near-term future. If you're hankering for some interesting literature, check out Heinz Insu Fenkl's Memories of My Ghost Brother, Nora Okja Keller's Comfort Woman and Fox Girl, Don Lee's Yellow, and any number of the collections and anthologies edited by Elaine Kim

BLOGGING HAS BEEN, AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE, LIGHT. Too many exams to grade, too many papers to finish, too many projects I foolishly signed on to. Pity, because there is a lot of interesting stuff going on.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

THE NBA: "IT'S ALL GOOD!" Unless, as Incesctuous Amplificaiton points out, you are the face to the United States in Japan.

APPARENTLY, THERE WAS AN ANTI-WAR RALLY IN DC YESTERDAY. I guess that explains the couple of sign-wielding folks I saw sauntering down F street yesterday afternoon. Here is a link to numerous pictures of the event accompanied by not-so-subtle editorial commentary that lets the viewer know exactly where the Belligerent Bunny stands on issues of the day (thanks to Instapundit for the link). I would like to find a similar sort of collection of photos of the event posted by someone more sympathetic to the protesters and their goals. It would make for an interesting and, perhaps, illuminating contrast.

UPDATE: Can't find anything yet, but in the absence of a pro-protestors blog, I offer this. Observe, compare, and talk amongst yourselves.

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