Archive for December 3rd, 2006

Hrmf.

Giants continue to be stupid and bad.

On the plus side, unless they run the table to finish 10-6 and in the playoffs, it should pretty well guarantee that we’ve seen the last of Coughlin and Hufnagel, who have done an absolutely awful job this year. Injuries are no excuse; they’ve been losing these games on stupidity, and that points squarely at the coaching staff.

Also on the plus side, Eli, Tiki, Jacobs, and Shockey were all pretty solid, and Sinorice Moss actually played(!). Everyone else was pretty damned awful.

2 comments December 3rd, 2006 at 07:57pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Sports

Shorter Stephen Hadley

“Fuck Baker; we’re not going anywhere.”

Some other highlights:

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said that consensus should not be a prime objective. “I’d rather be divided as a nation and win, than united and lose,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

He called for “more troops, not less.”

Good luck with that, Sparky. Maybe you and McCain can co-sponsor a bill to reinstate the draft.

Yet, some Democrats insisted that no overarching resolution was possible without political progress. “You need a political solution,” said Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. He said he was not sure that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq was “the guy that can carry the sleigh.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is he saying we need to put Santa Claus in charge? Or Rudolph? Is Iraq now part of the Global War On Christmas, too?

December 3rd, 2006 at 04:32pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Wankers

Running From Homelessness?

This is kinda interesting and uplifting (why yes, I am just browsing through the NYT’s AP page – what of it?):

Rebecca Kelly used to run from her problems. Now, she runs in an effort to solve them. Kelly took her first drink at 14, soon entering the first of what would be many rehabilitation stints. She’s been forced to live on the streets, once got kicked in the face by a male attacker, been completely broke more times than she cares to remember.

Now, the 31-year-old is part of a most unusual athletic club called The Home Team, a group of homeless people trying to turn their lives around through running. Three of their members finished 13.1 miles Sunday morning at the Marathon of the Palm Beaches in downtown West Palm Beach.

“It felt better. Absolutely better than I thought it would feel,” Kelly said. “It wasn’t even the moment crossing the line. It was just knowing that I was going to finish when I got to 10, 11 miles, knowing ‘Hey, I trained for this. I deserve to feel good.’ It was better than any drug I’ve ever done.”

That’s kind of the idea.

The concept — taking people who are living in shelters and showing them how the discipline needed to become a marathon runner can apply to their regular lives — is an unusual one. The Home Team’s members all have jobs and are in rehab programs, vowing to stay clean and trying to get on their feet.

Each runner was approached a few months ago and asked if they wanted to begin training. Most immediately said yes.

“They had some Hawaiian Tropic girls at one of the water stations. I wasn’t feeling any pain going to touch her hand,” said Doug Scheer, 35, who’s struggled with addictions to alcohol and painkillers and now lives in a tiny room at a shelter. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had.”

(…)

Sponsors donated running attire and shoes to the team members, who often rose at 5 a.m. on Sundays for long training runs.

Johnathan Czerwinski, 26, doesn’t hide that he hated those early wake-up calls.

He also doesn’t hide the scars on both wrists, evidence of past failed suicide attempts that he was driven to because he couldn’t shake his drug craving.

“Being part of this, I’ve got goals now,” said Czerwinski, whose girlfriend gave birth to their first son three weeks ago. “I want to get a car. I want to get an apartment. This has taught me that everything comes step by step, not all at once. It’s all a process.”

Czerwinski finished 802nd in the men’s half-marathon, crossing the line in 2 hours, 28 minutes, 58 seconds.

“He’s changed now,” said his girlfriend, Caitlin Aleskovsky, 20. “He has a sense of direction — the right direction, for once.”

(…)

Some couldn’t finish. But none of The Home Team’s three half-marathon entrants dropped out, drawing high praise from some of the elite runners in the field.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Bea Marie Altieri of Clermont, Fla., who was third in the women’s half-marathon, 722 spots ahead of Kelly. “Running has the endorphins, that natural high. So for people who are a little down on their luck or have an addiction like alcohol or drugs or whatever, running is a perfect fit because it gives them a real goal.”

This never would have occurred to me. I ran cross-country for a couple of years in high school, and the first month or so of getting into shape for it was utterly miserable hell. But once I got to the point where I could just run and run and run for miles without difficulty, I began to really enjoy it, especially just running aimlessly through the woods with my teammates; and the end of a race, when I could use my “kick” to blow past people (other than this, I pretty much sucked). I also really enjoyed the one cross-country meet we had in the snow, where I learned to use ice slicks to my advantage.

It didn’t exactly instill any kind of values or discipline in me that I use in my day-to-day life (perhaps this is why I sucked), but then, I wasn’t waking up at 5AM to train for a marathon, or even a half-marathon. Our races were usually 3 or 4 miles, and most of our practice runs were in that same general range, with one 10-mile run each year.

But hey: Whatever works. If running can instill discipline and purpose in people who are struggling, then I’m all for it. I’m also reminded of this fascinating story about a mysterious sixty-something homeless man who also happens to be a phenomenal softball player.

8 comments December 3rd, 2006 at 03:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness

Axis Of Pinball

I’ve heard of the nuclear football, but this is new:

Pachinko, a form of pinball deeply loved in Japan, is an industry run by ethnic Koreans, and experts have long believed that the revenues are a vital source of hard currency for the impoverished regime in North Korea.

Now, as Kim Jong Il’s nuclear weapons program gathers pace, Japan’s attitude is hardening, and that includes shutting out the ferry on which money is believed to be hand-carried from Japan to North Korea.

(…)

Pachinko is an upright pinball game played at tens of thousands of brightly lit parlors across the country. Success is measured in little steel payoff balls, which can be exchanged for cash or other prizes.

The machines rake in over $200 billion a year, some of which finds its way to North Korea. Official figures put the sum of remittances from sources in Japan at $25.5 million, but the bookkeeping is murky and some think the sum is closer to $850 million a year. No one knows how much of it derives directly from pachinko.

“It’s very difficult to say how much cash is actually going from Japan to the North,” said Toshio Miyatsuka, a North Korea specialist at Yamanashi Gakuin University in central Japan who has written a book about the pachinko industry.

“But it does seem certain that a lot of it is winding up in the hands of the North Korean government and military, and that includes money earned from drugs and pachinko,” he added.

I’m not really sure what to make of this. 0.4% of pachinko revenue at most is going to North Korea? And what percentage of that actually finds its way to the nuclear program there? It sounds very small in relative terms, but I guess it could add up in absolute terms. 0.4% of $200 billion is still an awful lot of money.

December 3rd, 2006 at 02:26pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weirdness

Worst President Ever?

WaPo’s Outlook section has the scorecard:

Eric Foner: Oh yeah, definitely. Disdain for Constitution and rule of law puts him over the top. Or under the bottom, as the case may be.

Douglas Brinkley: I dunno, probably. Depends on Iraq, which is not promising. But at least Bush is honest(!) and his administration isn’t corrupt(!!!) – apparently Brinkley’s not a big fan of the Constitution.

Michael Lind: He’s only fifth worst! Woohoo! It’s all about the unnecessary wars, and Iraq not as catastrophic as Civil War or War Of 1812. Warrantless wiretapping only used against suspected terrorists, and not against political opponents as with Nixon. (Dude, are you sure about that?)

Vince Cannato:
Time will tell – if things pan out well in the Middle East, history might even remember Bush as mediocre! Not-liberal does not equal bad; accusations of trashing the Constitution are just “hyperbole,” Bush understands “tough tradeoffs between security and privacy.” Guess who Cannato worked as a speechwriter for in 2001.

I think there are actually two broad dimensions on which awfulness (or greatness) can be measured: competency and outcomes. I believe Warren G. Harding was one of the most incompetent and corrupt presidents of all time, but nothing especially terrible happened on his watch, even if he did help set the stage for the Depression. On the other hand, the incompetence of Madison and Buchanan essentially maximized the damage of two wars that might have been preventable or containable.

Bush has managed to score very low on both axes: He’s run a series of businesses into the ground, and he employs that same shrewd managerial acumen to the job of running our country, with predictably similar results. That alone would be enough to rank him with the likes of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover in terms of competence. But throw in a disastrous, unnecessary war in which Iraq and the Constitution have sustained far more damage than al Qaeda; throw in passive, uninterested responses to imminent catastrophes on 9/11 and in New Orleans, and you’ve got enough to catapult Bush way past Nixon and Madison and Buchanan. The fact is, Bush has simply screwed up in more different directions simultaneously than any other president in American history. I think Nixon is the only one who comes close, but his crimes are mitigated by the fact that A) He was actually a pretty competent president who achieved some positive things, and B) He inherited his stupid, unnecessary war.

So yeah, unless Bush’s magical thinking magically pays off in Iraq, and it suddenly blossoms into a model democracy and ushers in a magical new Golden Age in the Middle East, you can put me down for “Worst Ever” in the Bush All-Time Presidential Ranking pool. I’ll be back to collect my winnings in 2050 – in Euros, please.

4 comments December 3rd, 2006 at 11:27am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Favorites

What Rahm Said!

(Did I really just say that???)

Sunday’s NYT lead editorial:

Well before Election Day, the smart-money lobbyists of K Street were already shifting campaign donations to safe Democratic incumbents, greasing access to the next Congressional majority. That should be warning enough to the incoming speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to deliver quickly and credibly on their campaign vows to attack the corrupt, quid-pro-quo culture that besotted the Republican-controlled Capitol.

Yet even before the new Congress arrives, there is disquieting talk of advance compromises on what will be done – or not done. It’s fortunate the incoming members will be in the Capitol this week, preparing for January and, not incidentally, observing the lame-duck finale of the Congress that failed on this vital issue.

There will be only one good chance to get this right. Once the new year begins, any feeling of urgency will fade, replaced by a determination to acquire, and protect, whatever power and turf are available.

(…)

A field general of the incoming majority, Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, is already warning that failure to deliver on ethics reform will be “devastating to our standing” in the very first moment of Democratic power.

Most of the time, I don’t think Rahm “gets it,” to the point where I think he generally does more harm than good. But he totally Gets It on this issue. The Democrats must absolutely shatter the “both parties do it, all politicians are corrupt” mindset that tars them every time a Republican gets busted. They must forcefully establish themselves as the clean party, the integrity party, especially with corruption playing such a major role in ousting the Republicans. The public demanded a cleanup last month, and the Democrats ignore them at their peril.

And if it costs them some lobbyist money, so what? Their campaigns won’t need as much funding if the voters know the Democrats are morally upstanding straight shooters (and the Republicans not). And surely they’d be willing to trade a few more free meals and trips for improved job security. Not only that, but a more toothsome ethics office gives them a chance to make life miserable for corrupt Republicans, and maybe even expel some of them. Yes, it’s possible some Democrats might get caught up as well, but so be it. The ethics office should treat them fairly, and do whatever the evidence and the rules tell them to do. Again, I think in the long run they would gain far more than they would lose, and we would gain a less corrupt, less corporate Congress.

So please, Democrats, listen to Rahm, just this once. I promise I won’t ask you to do it ever again.

4 comments December 3rd, 2006 at 12:13am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Favorites,Politics


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