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Thursday, January 20, 2021

pay through the heart
Perhaps it’s a perverse joke that a notably heartless organization like the Internal Revenue Service should pick this Valentine’s Day as the official date for accepting 2010 itemized income tax returns.

Late last year, the IRS said it would need extra time to reprogram its processing systems because Congress acted so late this year in cleaning up the tax code… As a result, the 50 million taxpayers who itemize their deductions will have to hold off until Feb. 14 to file.

Nothing stokes the romantic juices like filling out a 1040. By candlelight, of course.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/20/2011 10:26pm
Category: Business, Politics, Society
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Wednesday, January 19, 2021

For the shadow-government conspiracy theorist in you:

See how itanimulli.com automatically redirects you to the dot-gov home of the U.S. National Security Agency, i.e. our nation’s espionage-level cryptologists. Furthermore, notice how “itanimulli” is The Illuminati spelled backward.

My God, the Bilderbergers have been right all along!

Yes, this is a fun bit of webfoolery. Of course, all us grownups know how effortless it is to set a URL redirect script to any old where, including to official websites, thus crafting the illusion of something nefarious. Certainly, this dork in Utah knows how to turn that trick.

(Via @AaronRFernandes)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/19/2011 08:24pm
Category: Comedy, Internet, Political
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Monday, January 10, 2021

This week, the people of southern Sudan are voting on a referendum that is fully expected to call for secession from the government in northern Khartoum, resulting in an eventual declaration of independence in July. By then, the Texas-sized (not to mention oil-rich) country hopefully will have decided on a new nation-name:

Some of the other names that have been discussed are Nilotia or Nilotland, which are names derived from the Nile river. Others prefer the Nile Republic, arguing that this name would put the country on the map and build an attractive image around a world-famous asset, the Nile river. The White branch of the river runs through the region and is considered to be the country’s most important geographic feature…

But one problem is that Southern Sudaneses are not the only Nilotic people in Africa (the Nile river waters crosses territories in Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya down to Tanzania). Additionally, not all Southern Sudanese peoples are of Nilotic origin, as there are many ethnic groups in the region with no relationship with the Nile or its ancient civilization whatsoever.

Finally, some express preference for Cushitia or Azania, which are two ethnic and geographic names that have been applied to various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, even if they are in disuse today.

Other contenders retain the parent country name with a qualifier: South or Southern Sudan, or New Sudan. The etymological argument is that “Sudan” means “land of black people” in Arabic — an imported term from the Arab-populated north, implying that the remnant Khartoum-controlled state ought to change its name, and bequeath the more accurate descriptor to the new kid on the African block. (The disadvantage is that, regardless of historical origin, “Sudan” is currently associated with a pariah regime, and so might not be so desirable for a proto-state.) A more distant option is extending the name of the capital city, Juba, to the entire territory.

Corporate naming rights, ala sports stadiums and such, are obviously out of the question. Although considering how poor the country will be, despite the petroleum resources, it wouldn’t be the worst idea. If, say, Archer Daniels Midland got to brand-christen this chunk of the global map, its payment should be in the form of generous food subsidies. Similar for a Nikeland and the resultant oasis of free footwear for all citizens. We can always dream.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/10/2021 09:16pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Political
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Saturday, January 08, 2021

All I know is that the first fuckhead who cites Thomas Jefferson’s “Tree of Liberty” quotation in reference to today’s apparent political assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona deserves to have his/her own blood spilled — via a hard punch to the nose.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/08/2021 04:14pm
Category: Politics, True Crime
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Thursday, January 06, 2021

hammer time
When it comes to ostentatious symbols of power, it’s hard to beat John Boehner’s choice of gavel, pictured above. He’s already taken some grief over its giant-sized resemblance to a polo mallet.

Or is it more like a hammer? Is it, in fact, more reminiscent of Mjollnir, the mythic magical hammer of Thor, the Norse god of thunder? The timing couldn’t be better, as Boehner takes the Congressional reins in the same year that Marvel Studios’ Thor hits movie theaters.

Does our new House Speaker have a god complex (albeit a lower-case one)? If some Capitol Hill page lets leak that Boehner has given a name to his legislative appendage, then I think we’ll have our answer. If Boehner winds up throwing that thing at some Democrat’s head, and it boomerangs back to his hand, then we’ll definitely have our answer…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/06/2021 08:40pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Politics, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, January 05, 2021

Part of this new year’s transfer of power in Congress includes a semantic shift, especially where the nation’s employees are concerned:

For years, the committee was called Education and Labor. But when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took over the House in 1994, they wanted to show that there was a new sheriff in town — and he was not a pro-labor sheriff… So it was soon changed to Education and the Workforce.

“Workforce” is a term employers are likely to use, while “labor” is more evocative of the union movement — after all, they call it the American Federation of Labor. So when the Democrats recaptured the House in 2006, they changed the name of the committee back.

Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to control the House. And they’re changing the name back to Workforce.

Or, to put it more bluntly:

No longer is it your labor. Now, it‘s big business’s workforce.

Class warfare with labor pains. The birth of fresh partisan zeal, at least until everyone inevitably settles into the standard Washington rhythm.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/05/2021 09:21pm
Category: Business, Politics, Wordsmithing
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Wednesday, December 29, 2020

If you’re a Christine O’Donnell fan, you could characterize new allegations that she misused her Delaware Senatorial campaign funds for personal expenses as a political witch-hunt.

But of course, you wouldn’t. Because as the former candidate insisted, she’s most definitely not a witch:

No, she’s definitely not a witch, then. Therefore, she can’t be the target of a witch-hunt. A vast conspiracy, on the other hand?

“We’ve been warned by multiple high-ranking Democrat insiders that the Delaware Democrat and Republican political establishment is jointly planning to pull out all the stops to ensure I would never again upset the apple cart,” O’Donnell said Wednesday in a statement after the Associated Press first reported the FBI and Justice Department were in the early phases of an investigation.

“Specifically they told me the plan was to crush me with investigations, lawsuits and false accusations so that my political reputation would become so toxic no one would ever get behind me. I was warned by numerous sources that the (Delaware) political establishment is going to use every resource available to them,” she said in the statement.

Quite a bit of toil and trouble for this Tea Party stalwart. Makes you wonder just what type of tea O’Donnell is brewing these days…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/29/2010 08:57pm
Category: Politics, True Crime
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Thursday, December 16, 2021

Obviously not fans of They Might Be Giants or The Four Lads, modern Greek-speakers persist in referring to that city on the Bosphorus as “Constantinople”.

The Greeks are hardly alone in hanging onto a legacy place-name. Socio-political disputes across the globe usually hinge on conflicting geographic designators. Still, it’s a bit jarring to hear a world-class city’s antiquity name dropped into current-day parlance — especially news reports from Greek media. Especially since it’s not likely that Istanbul is ever going to revert to a Hellenic dominion…

For the (lyrical) record, Greeks do recognize the name “New York”. Even though, like Istanbul, it once had another name.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/16/2010 11:32pm
Category: History, Politics, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

An interesting insurance-industry distinction was made in the Federal court decision declaring the unconstitutionality of the Obama healthcare law’s provision that most Americans must purchase health insurance:

Compelling vehicle owners to carry accident insurance, as states do, is considered a different matter because the Constitution gives the states broad police powers that have been interpreted to encompass that. Furthermore, there is no statutory requirement that people possess cars, only a requirement that they have insurance as a condition of doing so. By contrast, the plaintiffs in the health care case argue that the new law requires people to obtain health insurance simply because they exist.

In other words, it’s legally imperative that your wheels be protected, but not that your ass be comparably covered. Makes lots of sense.

This is a nonsensical argument to hang on, and the example above illustrates that. Although if this somehow ends up overturning ObamaCare, then I fully hope it dismantles the racket that the insurance companies run with required auto insurance — and homeowner’s insurance, and any other forced insurance premiums foisted on us. Can’t have it both ways, actuarials!

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/14/2010 10:37pm
Category: Business, Politics
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Friday, December 10, 2021

What if they gave away a peace prize, but nobody showed up? That’s the case with the newly-minted Confucius Peace Prize, China’s unilateral answer to Nobel:

“Are you asking about the peace prize thing?” [inaugural winner Lien Chan's] office director said in exasperation when reached by phone. “Regarding this event, our answer is ‘no comment,’ because we know nothing about it. Nobody has ever contacted us on this issue, and we only have secondhand information from journalists.”

So went the attempt by a group of patriotic Chinese to steal the thunder of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which in Oslo on Friday will bestow this year’s Nobel Peace Prize and its promise of $1.5 million on a Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year sentence for writings demanding political reform, human rights guarantees and an independent judicial system.

This episode hardly strengthens the ol’ “Made In China” brand. On the bright (or not) side, it does make the Chinese Ministry of Culture a front-runner to win next year’s Ig Nobel Prize in politics.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/10/2021 08:56am
Category: Political
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Friday, November 26, 2021

hello neighbors
Let’s throw practicality and reality right out the window while we imagine a world with country populations relocated to their equivalently-ranked national territories.

So basically, China moves its global No. 1 population to the world’s largest country by land area — which happens to be next-door neighbor Russia. More dramatically, the No. 2 world population of India moves across the globe to Canada, the planet’s second-largest country. And so on.

No need for Mr. and Mrs. America to call the moving vans, though:

Strangely enough, the US itself would not have to swap its population with another country. With 310 million inhabitants, it is the third most populous nation in the world. And with an area of just over 3.7 million square miles, it is also the world’s third largest country. Brazil, at number five in both lists, is in the same situation. Other non-movers are Yemen and Ireland. Every other country moves house.

Meanwhile, other nationalities would have to adjust to strange new climes and neighbors, like the above-referenced 1-billion Indians in the Great White North. Although one current geopolitical flashpoint would merely shift from northeast Asia to southern Africa in this statistical re-shuffling:

Those South Koreans probably couldn’t believe their bad luck. Of all the potential new friends in the world, who gets to be their northern neighbour but their wacky cousin, North Korea? It seems the heavily militarised DMZ will move from the Korean peninsula to the South African-Botswanan border.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/26/2010 09:27pm
Category: Creative, Political, Society
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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

What hue is the current Homeland Security threat level? Doesn’t matter, because the 9/11-born color-coded terror alerts look to be going away in favor of descriptive designations.

By scrapping the colors, President Barack Obama would abandon a system that critics long have said was too vague to be useful and that Democrats criticized as a political scare tactic. And it would represent a formal undoing of one of the George W. Bush administration’s most visible legacies…

Under the current system, green, at the bottom, signals a low danger of attack; blue signals a general risk; yellow, a significant risk; orange, a high risk; and red, at the top, warns of a severe threat. The nation has never been below the third threat level, yellow — an elevated or significant risk of terrorist attack.

It’s a cerebral vs. instinctual way to process information. Very reflective of the divergent approaches of the past two administrations.

There’s no reason to lament the loss of the rainbow of terror alerts; I don’t think they really permeated the national consciousness, except maybe among longtime frequent fliers. But I’m sure the right will seize upon it come campaign time, and hype it up into some sort of symbol of Democratic “softness” on national vigilance.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/24/2010 10:37pm
Category: Politics, Society
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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

way westside
At present, the New York City subway system is contained within four of the City’s five boroughs. That might change if an extension of the No. 7 line into the Garden State takes off:

The plan envisions the No. 7 stretching from 34th Street on the Far West Side of Manhattan to Secaucus, N.J., where there is a connection to New Jersey Transit trains. It would extend the New York City subway outside the city for the first time, giving New Jersey commuters direct access to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and Queens, and to almost every line in the system.

It’s a long way from conception to reality; this is basically a money-saving Plan B, after New Jersey has nixed the massive ARC rail tunnel project into Manhattan over cost concerns. Trenton could deem this alternative to be too expensive to bear as well.

But assuming this goes forward, I wonder how long it would take for the next natural step: Extending the City limits into New Jersey. Future projections routinely envision New York formally annexing adjacent Hudson and/or Bergen counties, mostly as efficiency measures. I think the 7 line would serve as a primer, both practical and psychological, for eventual assimilation into borough-hood.

If that works out, maybe the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can plan on extending lines into Connecticut, Westchester, Rockland… heck, all the way to Albany and beyond! Eventually subway tunnels will stretch all over the northeast, and a MetroCard swipe will take you from Plattsburgh to Atlantic City.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/17/2010 10:06pm
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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Sunday, November 07, 2021

Among the odder remnants of Germany’s Nazi era is the Heidelberg Thingstätte:

The Thingstätte in Heidelberg was started in 1934 and finished the following year. Situated on the Heiligenberg (Holy Mountain), the amphitheater covers 25 meters of sloping land and overlooks the city. The mountain is littered with ancient burial grounds and once hosted a Roman temple at the summit dedicated to the god Mercury.

Designed by the architect H. Alker, who worked for the Reich Labor Service, the Heidelberg Thingstätte features two hexagonal towers constructed to hold flags, lighting, and sound. On the opening day, 20,000 people turned out to hear [Nazi propaganda minister Joseph] Goebbels himself. After the Thingstätte fell out of favor, this site was turned into a public park and remains one to this day.

An outdoor pavilion itself isn’t all that odd. But its inspiration was:

In 1933 the Nazi Propaganda Ministry under Joseph Goebbels began a movement based on the “Blut und Boden” (Blood and Soil) ideology — the so-called “Thing” movement. A Thing was an ancient Nordic/Germanic gathering of the people, in an outdoor setting. The Nazi Thing gatherings were to be held in specially-constructed outdoor amphitheaters, called (in the singular) Thingplatz or Thingstätte. Here, the people would gather for Völkisch meetings and to view theater and propaganda presentations written especially for the Thing style. The Thing sites were to be built as much as possible in a natural setting, incorporating rocks, trees, water bodies, ruins, and hills of some historical or mythical significance.

(Note that the Germanic “thing” still exists: Iceland’s parliament is called the Allthing. Ironically, Scandinavians mostly dismissed Nazi Aryan propaganda.)

Basically, the Nazis sought to supplant Judeo-Christian mores with a pseudo-pagan ideology, presumably more easily subject to state control. These public works were one part of a broader effort that coalesced into the Kirchenkampf, or “struggle against the churches” — a battle for the everyday hearts and minds of Germans. Had World War II not come along, it’s chilling to think of how all this would have culminated; not to diminish the horror of the Holocaust, but it could have become just the tip of an iceberg.

Instead, the Heidelberg monument now serves as an entertainment venue. Secular neutralization, with physical utility trumping ideology.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/07/2021 09:22pm
Category: History, Political
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Thursday, November 04, 2021

Not sure this is apropos of anything, but it’s worth noting, on the eve of the release of Valerie Plame biopic Fair Game:

Plame and her quasi-counterpart Anna Chapman offer a contrasting U.S.-Russia take on beautiful-woman spies. It’s like the Cold War all over again.

Except that Plame is decidedly more of an espionage heavyweight than Chapman. At least as far as the public can discern into the murky territory of international shadow-works. In any case, we end up with foreign affairs eye candy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/04/2021 11:26pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Political, Women
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Friday, October 29, 2021

In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx famously dropped a quip about “the idiocy of rural life”.

It turns out that “idiocy” is a mistranslation; he actually was referring to a repressive socioeconomic feudal regime, and used an outdated academic term for it. But I have a feeling that, had Marx spent any time dealing with building contractors in upstate New York, he would have unambiguously gone with “idiocy”, because nothing else fits.

I’ve spent this entire month attempting to get someone in Orange County to do a few repairs on my mother’s house: A leaky roof, a blacktop driveway paving, etc. I’m doing it long distance, which means phone calls. Which means a lot of voicemails that never get returned, and addresses that get garbled, and so on.

What gets me is how often I simply never hear back from any of these schmucks. I don’t know if they’re scared off by my area code, or the house’s location, or if they’re somehow so busy that they can afford to blow off new work (ha!). Whatever the reason, the upshot is that days are wasted because of lack of communication, and ultimately nothing gets done.

I’m somewhat surprised by this ordeal, but not much. I grew up in this environment, so I ought to be well-acquainted with the lackadaisical attitude. I used to defend it as small-town charm; now, I recognize it for the ingrained incompetence that it is.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/29/2010 10:16am
Category: New Yorkin', Political Theory, Society
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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

For someone who’s trying to dispel (or is that dis-spell?) rumors of a witchcraft-dabbling past, Delaware Republican candidate for Senate Christine O’Donnell sure comes off as a hypnotism-inducing witch in her first campaign ad:

Leading off with “I’m not a witch”? There is a political precedent, and it’s not one that portends success:

Pundits and political reporters likened the O’Donnell ad’s opening statement to President Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era pronouncement, “I am not a crook.” Commentators are still divided over whether the spot is a rhetorical misfire — or a canny means of defusing the negative image of O’Donnell as a crank candidate with a history of loose-cannon declarations on a wide range of cultural and political issues.

Having to fend off such a ridiculous characterization already puts O’Donnell behind the electoral 8-ball. Although if she somehow pulls out a win in the general election, I’m looking forward to real-life Senate hearings into “Bewitched”-type witchcrafting activities.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/05/2021 11:11pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Politics, TV
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Thursday, September 16, 2021

french fried
Just how French are the Montreal Canadiens? Not French enough, according to the Parti Quebecois:

Quebec’s official Opposition leader, Pauline Marois, said this week the Habs have become a promotional tool for Canadian federalism.

She said she wished the team had more francophone stars she could cheer for. One of her PQ caucus members went even further: Pierre Curzi said recently the Habs are actively plotting against Quebec separatism — and that the exclusion of French-speaking players was part of that plot.

I guess parliamentary procedure calls for a local National Hockey League roster that’s Gallic at all costs, even if it undercuts a potential Stanley Cup run.

Is there some irony in this denunciation of the modern-day Canadiens, considering the club’s historic role in fostering the province’s independence sentiment? I’m speaking, of course, of the (Rocket) Richard Riot:

The Montreal Forum is evacuated, and violence spills out onto the streets of Montreal. Rioters smash windows, loot stores, and clash with police. The riot of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1955, is seen by many as a seminal moment in the evolution of Quebec’s modern nationalist movement.

So, from galvanizing sociopolitical rallying point to crypto-Anglo sleeper cell, in the space of a half-century? At this rate, the Habs are better off relocating to Kansas City…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/16/2010 10:37pm
Category: History, Hockey, Politics
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Sunday, August 29, 2021

There are 16 acres of debris and under-construction land fenced off in lower Manhattan. Is that Ground Zero? It depends on who you ask:

The evolving boundaries of Ground Zero have informed — or misinformed — the debate about its proximity to the planned [Islamic mosque] Park51 community center. The farther away from the place, the bigger it seems.

“It’s constructed as hallowed ground when people don’t actually have a clear boundary for it or a clear sense of what’s within the boundary,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania communications professor who studies political rhetoric. “What you have is a classic instance of people responding to a symbol whose meaning is physically divorced from the actual space.”

Ironically, as symbolic of American imperialism as the World Trade Center towers were to al-Qaeda, the site of their remnants has become just as potent a symbol of resistance and remembrance for Americans. And in both cases, perhaps to a greater degree than they ought to be.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/29/2010 12:36pm
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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Thursday, August 26, 2021

The name Muntadhar al-Zeidi probably won’t go down in history. But, improbably, the former Iraqi journalist’s George W. Bush-seeking missile of a shoe might:

Throwing shoes at the mighty has become a global phenomenon that shows no sign of fading away.

Since that infamous Baghdad press conference on Dec. 14, 2008, shoes have flown at the prime ministers of China and Turkey, the chief justice of Israel’s Supreme Court, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, a Ukrainian politician who favored joining NATO, and a string of Indian politicians…

Rare are the memes — the bits of viral behavior — that truly take root in the real world. Throwing shoes at world leaders has joined the club. But what makes shoe-throwing more lasting than, say, the Old Spice Guy?

Throwing a shoe is pure slapstick — aggression and humor blended, violence in which no one really gets hurt. It’s stronger than a sign, or shouted slogan, but short of actually harming a leader.

Validity of symbolism aside, I’m thinking that the political-pie-in-the-face crew is feeling ideologically upstaged.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/26/2010 08:49am
Category: Political, Society, True Crime
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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Looking to challenge an unacceptable status quo, Wyclef Jean is seriously considering a run for president of his native Haiti.

And the former Fugee doesn’t even need to outline his campaign platform, because his body of song lyrics already does that.

Speaking of which, let’s hope that his previous presidential speculation doesn’t jump from melodic fantasy to grim reality:

If I was President

I’d get elected on Friday

Assassinated on Saturday

And buried on Sunday

That was semi-satiric musings from the pre-Obama era. Ironically, Jean really is more prone to experience that fate in the Haitian Presidential Palace, versus a highly improbable (make that impossible) ascent to the White House…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/04/2021 08:53am
Category: Celebrity, Political, Pop Culture
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