Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Sunday, April 30, 2021

Along with plenty of other traditionalists, President Bush doesn’t like the idea behind “Nuestro Himno”, and thinks the National Anthem should be sung only in English.

I guess he needs to get Condoleeza on-message about that. The Spanish-language section of the State Department’s website has multiple versions of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, generally translated as “La Bandera de las Estrellas”:

Amanece: ¿no veis, a la luz de la aurora,
Lo que tanto aclamamos la noche al caer?
Sus estrellas, sus barras flotaban ayer
En el fiero combate en señal de victoria,
Fulgor de cohetes, de bombas estruendo,
Por la noche decían: “!Se va defendiendo!”

!Oh, decid! ¿Despliega aún su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada?

En la costa lejana que apenas blanquea,
Donde yace nublada la hueste feroz
Sobre aquel precipicio que elévase atroz
¡Oh, decidme! ¿Qué es eso que en la brisa ondea?
Se oculta y flamea, en el alba luciendo,
Reflejada en la mar, donde va resplandeciendo

!Aún allí desplegó su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada!

¡Oh así sea siempre, en lealtad defendamos
Nuestra tierra natal contra el torpe invasor!
A Dios quien nos dio paz, libertad y honor,
Nos mantuvo nación, con fervor bendigamos.
Nuestra causa es el bien, y por eso triunfamos.
Siempre fue nuestro lema “¡En Dios confiamos!”

!Y desplegará su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada!

And this little ditty ain’t new: Francis Haffkine Snow translated it way back in 1919.

I understand “Bandera” was crafted back then specifically for Puerto Rico. When the U.S. picked up a Caribbean island full of non-English speakers, some native-language adaptation was necessary. It’s since been overshadowed by “La Borinqueña”, the island’s local/Commonwealth anthem.

So the notion of the the U.S. National Anthem being English-only seems conveniently new-fangled.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/30/2006 01:43:56 PM
Category: Politics, Society | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Saturday, April 22, 2021

Today’s Earth Day was a pretty miserable one here in New York: Non-stop rain, with a temperature dip approaching winterish weather.

Where’s the love, Mother Gaia?

I suppose you have to take the deary days along with the sun-shiney ones. Anyway, I’ll take any excuse to laze around the house all day.

In honor of the holiday, I’ll go into blog reruns. This one goes way back, both in terms of recounting and actual action. Enjoy my college-era episode of sticking it to the man, Earth Day-style:

My favorite Earth Day memory is a prank I played 13 16 years ago. I was sitting in my dorm lounge with a dormmate. We were flipping through the channels (no cable TV in the dorms back then-the dark ages!!), and catching a couple of news reports telling us it was Earth Day. Then we land on Home Shopping Network, just as they start rolling out their fur collection for display and sale.

It hit me: Furs? They’re hawking freakin’ furs on Earth Day? Come on!

Now, I wasn’t then, nor am I now, a hard-core environmentalist or animal-rights advocate. I’m sympathetic with those philosophies, to a point, but I eat meat, wear leather, etc. like your average dude. Nevertheless, some part of my sensibilities was offended by seeing such a bizarre juxtaposition. I think I was offended by the stupidity, or more likely ignorance, on display by HSN.

So, I decided to do something. I got my phone, dialed up the HSN order line, and as soon as the customer service drone answered, I yelled, “EARTH DAY! FUR IS MURDER! BOYCOTT! BOYCOTT!!”. I did it a couple more times after that. Then I got my dormmate to call too, on his phone; he did a very low-key version of same spiel (sans yelling-that was my schtick).

We had our fun, and decided to keep watching the channel to see if our childish actions had any on-air effect. Lo and behold, about 10 minutes after the last of our calls, the show host mentioned, “By the way, folks, today is Earth Day”, and then abruptly switched from the fur display to something else. We laughed our asses off! It looked like we had stuck it to the man!

Don’t mention it, Mama Earth.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/22/2006 10:11:12 PM
Category: Political, Comedy, College Years | Permalink | Feedback

The mechanics behind the recent aborted coup in Chad suggest that France’s decades-long influence in its former African colonial territories is coming to an end, leaving a geopolitical vacuum for other powers to fill.

France’s moribund economy and its fading reputation in Africa because of its support of unpopular leaders mean France’s clout is increasingly embodied in Chirac, Bourgi said. Despite France’s long history in Africa, none of the politicians seen as likely successors have his ties to Africa, and none are likely to be as interventionist on the continent.

The United States, and possibly China, could step in, mainly to tap oil. Chad exports 160,000 barrels a day through a U.S.-Malaysia consortium including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Petronas.

Indeed, China’s widening role on the continent has already made waves.

France has thousands of troops in its former African colonial empire, with missions to help maintain stability, provide military training and logistical support, and protect French citizens. France has 4,000 troops in Ivory Coast, 2,900 in Djibouti, 1,000 in Gabon and 1,200 in Senegal, according to the French Defense Ministry.

Relations between Britain - Africa’s other major former colonial power - and its one-time colonies also often are close, but they did not develop along the same lines, for cultural and political reasons. Africans under French rule could aspire to French citizenship and former French colonies pegged their currencies to the franc and now the euro, while Britain kept its African subjects at a distance.

France says stability is priority No. 1 in its former African colonies. Its frequent calls for greater democracy in Africa often ring hollow, given France’s track record of dealing with despots and leaders-for-life in many countries over the years, seemingly more comfortable with familiar dictators than the unknowns democracy might bring.

Not that France has been unique in this. Proxy states are easier to pin down if dictatorships are in place. That was the gameplan for the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. throughout the Cold War; France was following that lead, and continues to do so now.

How keyed is the French strategy of continuing informal empire upon Jacques Chirac’s personal influence? If it comes down to preserving a bloc of friendly states/markets, I think the next generation of Gallic leaders will commit to active intervention in sub-Saharan Africa.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/22/2006 09:34:21 PM
Category: Political, History | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, April 16, 2021

Four and a half years after 9/11, the public desire to put al Qaeda on trial is so acute that grilling the closest facsimile to a terrorist is deemed good enough to get a cathartic effect.

Enter Zacarias Moussaoui. Unfortunately, this would-be airline hijacker is using his farce of a trial as the stage to underline how ineffectual of a clown he is:

Rather than acting like a quiet professional - which Al Qaeda teaches - the man on trial for his life comes off as an Islamist Barney Fife with one bullet in his pocket.

Which makes me question why Moussaoui is deserving of the attention he’s getting. Regardless of the outcome, his fate isn’t going to serve as a fitting proxy indictment of al Qaeda — far from it. It’s like seeing your hometown baseball team win the World Series — by beating some Single-A farm team. It’s a sham prize, and doesn’t punish the ones who truly deserve the punishment.

This type of justice-seeking has ample historical precedent. During the ’80s and ’90s, when Nazi-hunting efforts started petering out toward tracking down former concentration camp guards, this same sort of dynamic set in. Aside from questionable arguments about clemency for those now-aged individuals, the more pertinent issue was whether or not it was worthwhile to mete out punishment to the equivalent of hired thugs. Regardless of their role as henchmen of the Holocaust, their executions or imprisonments would have been a questionable fulfillment of justice; succinctly, their deaths wouldn’t have been worth the bullets it took to achieve them.

And that’s how I feel toward the Moussaoui issue. Completing the obvious process toward his final punishment is a hollow pursuit. He’s not deserving of the state’s or society’s scrutiny. His fate will provide the illusion of justice, but only that.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/16/2006 10:27:25 PM
Category: Political, Society, History | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Wednesday, April 12, 2021

I’m no political consultant. But if I were, one of my cardinal rules probably would be to avoid confusing a town with a landfill, as New York’s would-be Gov, William Weld, mistook the name of upstate town Fishkill with Staten Island’s Fresh Kills dumping ground.

Another of my cardinal rules? I guess I’d veer away from mixing up “asthma” with “anthrax”, as — yes — Weld did during a community talk in Harlem. On the very same day as the Fishkill slip, no less.

I guess New York’s preponderance of Dutch-descended placenames is throwing the former Massachusetts governor for a loop. I hope for his sake he never has to visit Spuyten Duyvil for a campaign stop, lest his head explode.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/12/2021 11:51:05 PM
Category: Politics, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, April 06, 2021

It’s probably not the ideal comparison for person or state, but let’s face it: Silvio Berlusconi is Italy’s most noteworthy prime minister since some guy named Mussolini.

Nobody in Europe seems to be taking Silvio Berlusconi seriously enough, probably because the Italian prime minister usually makes the international headlines for rather curious reasons. It would be unthinkable in Germany, for example, to hear former Defense Minister Peter Struck extolling the virtues of his new hair transplant, Vice Chancellor Franz Müntefering making a public vow of chastity to prepare for the next elections, or Chancellor Angela Merkel declaring herself to be the female messiah of German politics. In Italy, however, thanks to Silvio Berlusconi, such preposterous events have become a matter of daily routine.

And the hits keep on coming from the media mogul-cum-politico, as he’s declaring a corporatist-state conspiracy bent on having him bounced in this week’s general elections.

Last Saturday Mr Berlusconi accused the board of the industrialists’ convention of siding against him with the centre-left, the trade unions, the five main daily newspapers and a section of the judiciary. He usually includes the banks and the co-operative movement in the conspiracy.

Given Berlusconi’s stranglehold on the Italian media, directly (through his ownership of 90-some percent of the TV market) and indirectly, his regime hints at a perverted Citizen Kane come to life.

As always, foreign internal affairs tend to make American politics seem as vanilla as can be…

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/06/2021 08:57:45 PM
Category: Politics | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, April 04, 2021

There’s a scene in current release Inside Man involving a Sikh character. After having been roughed up extra hard by the cops during a hostage situation, the character goes off about how he’s constantly targeted because of his ethnicity and religious garb. In particular, he notes that every single time he’s in an airport, he’s pulled out of the line to undergo random pat-downs — “random, my ass”, as he puts it.

That sounds pretty familiar to me. And yet, Spike Lee didn’t cut me in with a co-writing credit…

Joking, of course. I know I’m far from the only one who’s a post-9/11 suspect target. I hope somebody’s mind is being put at ease.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/04/2021 11:07:06 PM
Category: Politics, Movies, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, March 31, 2021

When the Office of the Director of National Intelligence starting gearing up last year, I figured it was going to predictably develop into another level of bureaucratic strata:

Beyond that, these early indications tell me that the new National Intelligence office is going to be nothing more than an administrative extension of the CIA, thereby giving that agency more clout for interdepartmental turf battles. Since the DNI was intended to be set above and apart from the various intelligence agencies in Washington, it appears early concerns that it would develop into an unneeded governmental layer had validity.

It looks like Congress concurs, demanding an “architectural study” of the DNI to justify its expanding staff and operations:

The bill would require the nation’s intelligence director, John D. Negroponte, to present a detailed rationale for any additional increases to his staff or risk losing a portion of his budget. The measure was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats.

“We’re concerned about some of the steps that are going on” at Negroponte’s office, said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra said Negroponte needed to demonstrate that any further expansion would improve coordination among intelligence agencies, and would not amount to “putting in more lawyers and slowing down the process.”

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice [Calif.]), the ranking Democrat on the committee, cited similar concerns.

“We don’t want more billets, more bureaucracy, more buildings,” Harman said. “We want more leadership.”

It really wasn’t hard to see this coming. When you create a governmental agency, it’s got nowhere to go but the bloat route. In the case of trying to coordinate the intellgence fiefdoms, forget it.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/31/2006 10:17:25 AM
Category: Politics | Permalink | Feedback

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