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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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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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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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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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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Let’s take note of the contrasting spectacles this past week from the scions of two American political families:

- Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the liberal bogeymen that are Bill and Hillary, got married in a traditional (if opulent) wedding.

- Bristol Palin, the unwed teenage baby-mama offspring of conservative standard-bearer Sarah, broke it off (again) with her child’s father, Levi Johnston.

And this left-right behavioral contrast jibes with the seemingly paradoxical higher divorce rates in red states versus blue states. So, remind me again which end of this country’s political spectrum has the credibility to spout off about “family values”?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/04/2021 08:33am
Category: Celebrity, Politics, Society
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Sunday, July 04, 2021

Until recently, a “sugary beverage tax” of one-penny-per-ounce seemed destined to become law in New York State. But apparently, counter-lobbying by the American Beverage Association killed the proposed bill, and supposedly more persuasive advocacy by the industry turned the tide:

Next, this TV ad from New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, a name calculated to make the blood boil. A mother unpacks groceries in the kitchen as her son mixes a powdered lemonade, one of the drinks that would be taxed. “Tell Albany to trim their budget fat and leave our groceries alone,” the mother says…

It is too early for a final tally of the money spent on advertising and lobbying by either side in New York. But by most accounts, the beverage industry has outspent the pro-tax side and has succeeded in painting the soda tax as a naked money grab cleverly disguised as a health policy.

I question how convincing the ABA’s advertising was, at least with the general public. I caught their commercials a few times; frankly, I wouldn’t have been aware of the tax if hadn’t. I found the ads — including the one referenced above — to be particularly grating and transparently self-serving. In fact, I came away from them more in favor of the tax, just because the industry opposition was so blunt. I think this is more a case of the state legislators getting swayed by their corporate constituents, prompting the burial of this bill. Democracy at work, right?

I guess that’s just me, though. I don’t froth at the mouth every time a new tax is proposed. Plus, I don’t consume all that many soft drinks. So that makes me the silent minority in this arena.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/04/2021 12:06pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Food, New Yorkin', Politics
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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

While the eleven alleged Russian spies just nabbed by the FBI didn’t seem to dig up much sensitive information, one of them is finding another brand of blown-cover success:

Anna Chapman cut a wide swath in New York even before her arrest on charges of spying for Mother Russia, judging by the sultry shots and videos suddenly popping up everywhere, starting with her own Facebook page.

Now, thanks to her penchant for seductive poses, she’s an international star. You’d hardly know her real pose, according to U.S. officials, was deadly serious: seducing government officials and businessmen into providing state secrets.

Seems like a roundabout way to generate some online buzz. If Chapman had wanted to make it big on the Web, she could just as easily have exposed herself on Chatroulette

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/29/2010 11:52pm
Category: Politics, True Crime, Women
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Monday, June 21, 2021

Given how many hours per year the average Californian spends staring at the gridlocked traffic in front of him/her, the Golden State’s scheme to install electronic ad-enabled license plates on cars is probably a sure moneymaker:

[State Senator] Curren Price, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, said the technology will resemble traditional license plates, with plate numbers visible at all times. However, digital ads and public service announcements would flash on the plate’s screen when the vehicle is stopped for more than a few seconds.

The technology could provide an additional source of revenue for the cash-strapped state, according to Price, the bill’s author, as advertisers and technology companies contract with the Department of Motor Vehicles. He said the plates could also aid small businesses and add jobs to the ailing economy in the technology, sales and marketing, and service industries.

Seems like California’s drivers should get a cut of that advertising income — if nothing else, in the form of lower annual registration costs, etc. Unlikely, I know.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/21/2010 11:34pm
Category: Politics, Tech
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Monday, June 14, 2021

Scholarships collide with semantics in the Golden State, where colleges and universities officially don’t charge the natives with tuition, but rather “fees”:

The state’s renowned master plan for higher education, which in 1960 established separate roles for the University of California, California State University and the community colleges, also declared that the public institutions “shall be tuition free to all residents.” Since then, even as the amount students pay for their education has soared, campuses here have stubbornly insisted on using the word “fees” for the instructional charges that other states call tuition.

Now, however, a movement is underway to drop what many education experts consider an outdated, even dishonest term. It’s high time, they say, to adopt the “T-word” in registration bills and campus discussions.

For example, with UC’s basic undergraduate educational cost now topping $10,000 a year, three times more than a decade ago, “tuition” is the accurate term, they say. They also note that in 2009, California’s confusing terminology nearly kept the state’s veterans from receiving certain federal education benefits and financial aid.

I’m sure Mom and Dad will feel less of a sting now that their checks are going toward the “T-word”, versus the “F-word”. The “F-word” still being appropriate for when Junior winds up incurring dorm-damage charges…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/14/2010 11:39pm
Category: College Years, Politics, Society, Wordsmithing
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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

According to some, liberalism travels on its stomach:

…The idea of being in a city without a decent Thai restaurant drives [liberals] frantic. As long as they can point to a Cambodian eatery or a Syrian café in their town they can reassure themselves that they are among the civilized. Their greatest fear is to be stuck in some flyover burg where the only food available is exactly like the stuff they were raised on in their bland, white, upper middle class childhoods.

Well, yeah — if you were, in fact, raised on bland tripe, I’d think you would want to branch out culinarily once you’ve grown up. Sticking with the same meat-and-potato options your entire life — including what goes into your head, as well as your mouth — doesn’t seem all that appealing to me.

Anyway, demographic shifts are helping that traveling army of thought infiltrate even flyover country. If Oklahoma City can boast of an Ethiopian restaurant (sub-Saharan cuisine being an apparent marker for diverse discourse), there’s no telling where the dining/thought experiment will end.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/08/2021 08:05am
Category: Food, Politics, Society
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Thursday, May 27, 2021

fencerIn response to an investigative journalist moving in next door, Sarah Palin is walling off her Wasilla homestead:

“[Husband] Todd and his buddies started a fence yesterday and it’s looking good,” Palin said. “It’s about 14 feet high. That’s what we’re going to have to do this summer, I guess.”

The real tragedy here? The hit to Caribou Barbie’s foreign policy preparedness. Because with this fence in place, Palin obviously won’t be able to see Russia from her house anymore.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/27/2010 11:18pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Politics
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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

While around town today, I saw at least three young women sporting what looked like ballpoint-pen markings on their hands and forearms. From my vantage point, these markings looked like random letter- and number-scribblings — not at all like tattoo or henna patterns, or anything else that might have stylish permanence.

Is this some new trend? I haven’t seen extensive pen-marks on skin since sometime in grade school. Hard to believe they could be making a comeback in this day and age, with so many other, more reliable (mainly digital) ways of recording random information. Maybe they’re emulating Sarah Palin?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/26/2010 10:51pm
Category: Fashion, Politics, Women
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Saturday, May 08, 2021

This week featured some prime political irony in the UK: After televised debates and sound-bite slips brought criticism that British national elections were becoming too Americanized, the poll results delivered the most un-American outcome of all in a no-majority “hung Parliament”.

So I guess this is the right time for Stateside gloating over our much-maligned two-party system. Except that, of course, its electoral underpinnings are the same as those of Britain’s:

Under the current system, voters in 650 parliamentary districts, called constituencies, choose a favorite from a slate of candidates. The candidate with the most votes wins the seat, regardless of how small a percentage of the overall vote the winner attracts, or the size of the margin between first and second place.

The system is similar to that used in most Congressional races in the United States, where there are fewer viable parties to contend with.

The alternative is proportional representation, which is favored in most of Europe and elsewhere. It allows regional and fringe parties to get seats at the table, although their main function is to build coalitions once they get there. And really, it still doesn’t prevent two or three main national parties from attracting the most votes, and ultimately calling the shots anyway.

The reason that’s not the case in the U.S. is because the Democrats and Republicans are “big-tent” parties, each encompassing left- and right-wing elements. The bipartisan approach is so ingrained into the political system here that divergent interests recognize that the only way to effect governmental action is by going through established party channels. That’s why a Tea Party movement doesn’t simply set up shop as a third party, and instead attempts to take over the existing GOP apparatus.

The alternative is the present UK situation, with the Liberal Democrats basically owing their king-maker role to protest votes against Labour. The Lib Dems now have the unenviable, but unavoidable, task of forming a ruling majority coalition with the Conservatives — a party with which they are philosophically opposed (save on a few tactical points). As the next few months of this disjointed joint government should demonstrate, it doesn’t make a convincing case for making third-party penetration more possible.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/08/2021 04:19pm
Category: Politics
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