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Month: January 2003


Both Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce were chosen as reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, which is as it should be. Paul Pierce clearly belongs. Despite his shooting slump, which is largely due to the lack of a break during the summer, he’s one of the best players in the NBA.

Antoine Walker is a more interesting case. I suspect that in fifteen years Walker is going to be remembered as one of the most frustrating players in the NBA. There’ve been plenty of players who’ve sacrificed their talent completely, and there have been a handful of players who’ve realized their potential. But Walker is one of a very few players who are clearly capable of playing the game at an exceedingly high level, yet are content to merely be very good. Few come so close to greatness for such a long time without reaching out and taking the brass ring.

He is quick down low, able to work against almost any other power forward, yet he can also shoot the three well enough so that you can’t leave him unguarded on the perimeter. He has excellent court sense, and passes the ball as well as any non-point guard out there. He’s had a 20-10 season.

On the other hand, he often gets lazy in the post and tosses up weak shots. He insists on shooting the three even when he’s got a man in his face. He dribbles the ball off his foot. He doesn’t have a good mid-range jumper, for no apparent reason other than that he never bothered to develop one.

He deserves to be on the All-Star team, but my god, he’s frustrating.

On the Boston Celtics newsgroup, people occasionally bitch about how Walker would have had no place on the 80s Celtic team. They’re dead wrong. I imagine Walker coming in as a rookie in 83 or 84, and I know exactly where he would have wound up. He’d be the Celtics sixth man, a role for which he is incredibly well suited. He could take any position in a pinch, allowing the coach to optimize the matchup problems he creates. He wouldn’t have had to be the leader of the team at a premature age. He’d have McHale talking to him about footwork down low.

It makes me sad, thinking about how he’d be remembered if he’d played back then. Instead? Instead, we get the frustrating guy who leads the team but doesn’t push himself, who’s never going to be one of the top 50 of all time.

Still. I’m glad he made the All Star team again.

Bif! Bam! The Bat!

Huh. Perhaps DC has finally noticed what Marvel’s doing with their movies. Chris Nolan, director of Memento,

Considered harmful considered harmful

“In a roadside study, one in three reckless drivers who were tested for drugs tested positive for marijuana. It’s more harmful than we all thought.”

Gnrgh! Meaningless! How many other drivers tested positive for marijuana? Was the ratio of reckless to non-reckless drivers different for those testing positive than those testing negative? Were all the reckless drivers stopped tested? The language quoted implies that they weren’t, so what factors determine who were tested and who weren’t?

You know what’s harmful? Public awareness campaigns that encourage people to think sloppily about statistics, that’s what. These are the basic tools we need in order to make sense of the flood of information all around us, and ads like this rely on our failure to understand elementary statistics and survey methods. Pisses me off, if that wasn’t obvious.

The drums of war

“Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed the inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.”

“For nearly three years, Iraq refused to accept any inspections by UNMOVIC. It was only after appeals by the secretary-general and Arab states and pressure by the United States and other member states that Iraq declared on 16 September last year that it would again accept inspections without conditions.”

“Resolution 1441 was adopted on 8 November last year and emphatically reaffirmed the demand on Iraq to cooperate. It required this cooperation to be immediate, unconditional and active. The resolution contained many provisions which we welcome as enhancing and strengthening the inspection regime. The unanimity by which it was adopted sent a powerful signal that the council was of one mind in creating a last opportunity for peaceful disarmament in Iraq through inspection.”

“Paragraph 9 of Resolution 1441 states that this cooperation shall be ‘active.’ It is not enough to open doors. Inspection is not a game of catch as catch can. Rather, as I noted, it is a process of verification for the purpose of creating confidence. It is not built upon the premise of trust. Rather, it is designed to lead to trust, if there is both openness to the inspectors and action to present them with items to destroy or credible evidence about the absence of any such items.”

“Regrettably, the 12,000-page declaration, most of which is a reprint of earlier documents, does not seem to contain any new evidence that will eliminate the questions or reduce their number.”

“The discovery of a few rockets does not resolve, but rather points to the issue of several thousand of chemical rockets that are unaccounted for. The finding of the rockets shows that Iraq needs to make more effort to ensure that its declaration is currently accurate.”

“Iraq did not declare a significant quantity, some 650 kilos, of bacterial growth media, which was acknowledged as reported in Iraq’s submission to the Amorim panel in February 1999. As a part of its 7 December 2002 declaration Iraq resubmitted the Amorim panel document but the table showing this particular import of media was not included. The absence of this table would appear to be deliberate, as the pages of the resubmitted document were renumbered.”

Preliminary notes from Bush’s State of the Union speech? Drum beating to prepare the United States for a war in Iraq? Warbloggers propagandizing?

Nah, that’s Hans Blix delivering an honest, fair, unbiased report to the Security Council. Can we stop accusing him of being an apologist for Iraq now?


Some commenters below were pretty skeptical about the viability of non-state sponsored terrorism. (By the way, I appreciate the time all of you took to post, especially the ones I disagree with. Thank you.) Strikes me as a good time, therefore, to talk a little more about the likely progression of terror technology. This is gonna tie into some of the stuff I’ve said about NGOs, by the by.

Here’s how I see it. One of the constants of progress over the last few centuries has been an ever-increasing demand for power. We need coal, we need oil, we need nuclear power to feed the engines of progress. Efforts to decrease power use certainly work against this trend, but the environmental motive also works towards smaller and smaller power sources. Speaking of which, there’s the trend towards minaturization, which means that we want to stuff more and more energy into smaller and smaller packages.

What it all adds up to is easier access to bigger power sources, and that’s as much an enabler of terrorism as it is an enabler of a better lifestyle.

This is central to Bush’s rationale for his foreign policy. Where once it required a full scale invasion to kill 3,000 American citizens, now it’s depressingly simple. Bush argues that we must therefore stamp out rogue nations in order to protect ourselves from the terrorists. I argue that he’s not learning from the lessons of history: why should we expect the trend to stop here? The same tools once available only to nation states are now available to state backed terrorists. Soon enough, they’ll be available to the likes of the Shining Path, Aum Shinryu, and Tim McVeigh.

Any policy which is intended to minimize the terrorist threat must take this trend into account. Bush’s policy fails to do so. I have some ideas of my own, and that will be the next post I make along these lines.

Transgressive retro

The following has some spoilers.

The weekend’s movies were Far From Heaven and Catch Me If You Can. Definitely a retro weekend, not even counting the incredibly hip Soma FM Secret Agent streaming radio station I’ve had tuned in since Thursday. I feel like a martini, and you’re just the sort of woman to drink me…

Ah, sorry. The mood took me for a moment. More a Catch Me If You Can mood, I think; that’s the lighter of the two films. It has that jazzy sixties bliss to it, up to and including invoking James Bond with a short Goldfinger clip. That makes the contrast between the two all the more interesting, though, since they’re both about transgressions against the natural order.

Frank Abagnale Jr. breaks free of social restrictions and demonstrates exactly how much we rely on social convention to fend off the intruder. In Far From Heaven, the Whitakers both transgress, with varying degrees of success. But in Catch Me If You Can, the final dynamic is very different. We’re encouraged to cheer for the young con man — and in the end we’re reassured that it was OK to cheer, because he got caught and his pursuer was his very best friend. His real father (played by Christopher Walken, in a really brilliant turn) taught him that it was OK to lie, and wound up a sad sorry corpse. His surrogate father, the FBI agent, brought him back to the straight and narrow and in the end everyone’s happy.

Far From Heaven doesn’t offer the easy out. Cathy Whitaker’s life is ruined by the combination of her transgression and that of her husband, Frank. Oddly, Frank’s life doesn’t seem to be so bad, which got me thinking about the exact relationship between her love for a black gardener and his love for another man.

Homosexuality is so far outside the comprehension of the time that the couple can barely even talk about what’s going on. Their first scene together after she catches him kissing a man is particularly well filmed; it’s an atonal song of confusion and barely spoken thoughts and stammers. Lovely stuff. As a result, Frank’s infidelities are ignored by the world around him. Cathy’s potential infidelities are not.

Did Cathy step outside her life only because she had no other reaction to Frank’s actions? I think so, to a degree. Raymond (her gardener) is a symbol, and she’s willing to reject him when it’s the necessary thing to do. She doesn’t go back to him until Frank rejects her, at which point she needs another anchor in her life. Then again, when faced with the fact that going with Raymond will only hurt his daughter, she steps back. The safest analysis is that she really does love him, and that Far From Heaven follows the line of Douglas Sirk’s melodramas all the way through, but I wonder.

Anyhow, meanderings through theory aside, I recommend both of ‘em. Far From Heaven is by far the better movie, but Catch Me If You Can is a fun little romp if you don’t get hung up on obsessing about the end. It’s hardly Spielberg’s fault that the real Frank Abagnale turned to the side of the law, after all. They’re both excellent evocations of times past, lovingly and skillfully filmed. Good weekend for movies.