Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Sunday, December 23, 2021

The editorial board of the Concord Monitor has yet to endorse either a Democrat or Republican for the upcoming New Hampshire party primaries. But that didn’t stop it from delivering this explicit anti-endorsement of Mitt Romney:

If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you’d swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you’re left to wonder if there’s anything at all at his core…

When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state’s first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we’ll know it.

Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no.

Harsh, a bit.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a newspaper has done this before. I can cite one previous example, although it was more in the shape of a non-endorsement: The Tampa Tribune’s decision to withhold support from either Presidential candidate in the 2004 election, which, because of the paper’s conservative track record, was interpreted as a no-support nod toward George W. Bush.

Just as in that scenario, the Monitor’s diss on Romney amounts to a vote of no confidence. And by extension, it’s probably the natural outcome of the failure of the candidates to truly distinguish themselves from each other: Since there’s nothing to commend any one of them, the paper goes after the obvious (and close to local) negative target.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/23/2007 05:34:57 PM
Category: Politics
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Friday, December 21, 2021

Maverick Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul is staying true to his populist image by refusing to return the $500 campaign contribution he received from Don Black, who runs a white supremacist website called the “Stormfront White Nationalist Community”.

The reasoning behind keeping the money is pretty specious, though:

“Dr. Paul stands for freedom, peace, prosperity and inalienable rights. If someone with small ideologies happens to contribute money to Ron, thinking he can influence Ron in any way, he’s wasted his money,” Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said. “Ron is going to take the money and try to spread the message of freedom.

“And that’s $500 less that this guy has to do whatever it is that he does,” Benton added.

In practical terms, there’s no risk in dissing Black and his ilk, precisely because they represent a fringe movement, e.g. a “small ideology”. Paul’s not going to alienate any significant number of voters by spurning white supremacists, and indeed will probably see a net gain of supporters. Meanwhile, what are the whitey-righties going to do to retaliate — vote for Obama?

Still, keeping the money and framing it as some sort of resource drain to prevent further mischief from disagreeable movements? Not that any candidate is obliged to apply a blanket policy to how it handles campaign contributions, but let’s imagine how the Paul campaign would address donations from “big ideologies” if it treated them the same way:

- National Rifle Association: “Keeping this money keeps that many more guns out of the hands of these people!”

- Planned Parenthood: “This is a few hundred dollars less that abortion clinics will have to keep the lights on!”

- Oil companies: “Less money for fossil-fuel drilling, more to dedicate toward research on green-energy solutions!”

- Pharmaceutical makers: “We’re taking this money in the hopes that we’ll see fewer of those penis-pill commercials on TV!”

Heck, the possibilities are endless. Who knew spreading the message of freedom was a special-interests zero-sum game?

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/21/2007 08:49:08 PM
Category: Politics
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Monday, December 17, 2021

Last year, analyst Ben Dell’s controversial assessment that oil prices were being artificially inflated via market speculation instead of supply shortages seemed to bear out when pump prices dropped toward the end of 2006.

Since then, of course, black gold’s $3-per-gallon-and-rising status has made a comeback. So hedge fund investors or no, expensive oil as a dwindling commodity is here to stay.

Or not. Portfolio’s John Cassidy argues that the rising cost of a barrelful simply resets the economics of global petroleum production, to the point where more players enter and prices eventually will be driven down:

When experts claim that oil is running out, what they really mean is that cheap oil is running out. About this, they may be right. Outside of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and a few other countries, it is no longer possible to recover large quantities of crude for a dollar or two a barrel. But there are plenty of places where oil can be produced for $20 or $30 a barrel, let alone the $100 range where it has been trading recently…

With energy supplies expanding and the demand for oil showing signs of faltering, it won’t be very long before economic fundamentals reassert themselves. If oil were a normal commodity, competition would eventually drive the price down to a level close to the current cost of production, which at the margin is probably somewhere between $20 and $30 a barrel.

Of course, the oil market is hardly a textbook case of open competition: The OPEC cartel controls 40 percent of the supply, and geopolitics is an ever-present factor, as is speculation. The recent surge toward $100 a barrel was a dramatic demonstration of how traders can cause prices to become unmoored from costs for a lengthy period. But that also means that once market sentiment turns, the fall in prices could be just as dramatic.

All this depends on those competitive producers actually coming up with oil, instead of mostly dry holes. If they do pan out, we might see another years-spanning rollercoaster in fuel volatility.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/17/2007 10:44:49 PM
Category: Business, Politics
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Saturday, November 10, 2021

As Michael Mukasey starts his stint in the Attorney General chair, he might want to include a couple of history texts in his reference library, just to help him out on his fuzziness regarding waterboarding.

Because apparently, this technique was debated as a form of torture during America’s colonial ware in the Philippines, more than a century ago. And if the “water cure” from those days wasn’t definitively identified as torture, then it certainly was by the Vietnam era.

So if the issue was already decided decades ago, why the confusion? Is it because of the supposedly new terrain that the War on Terror represents? Mukasey will have to hash that one out as he guides the Justice Department during the remainder of the Dubya years.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/10/2021 07:52:35 PM
Category: History, Politics, True Crime
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Monday, October 29, 2021

What happens when you cross belovedly portly cartoon icon Fat Albert with an ever-expanding Al Gore talking about an ever-expanding climactic crisis?

By way of “Talkshow with Spike Feresten”, I give you “Fat Albert Gore”:

Yes, this is a segment from “Comedy for Stoners”, and no, I am not/was not high. Who needs chemical assistance to enjoy lyrics like these:

Greenhouse gases makin’ me blue
The ocean’s turning into stew

Na, na, na — say goodbye to penguins (hey-hey-hey!)
Na, na, na — really big mosquitoes (hey-hey-hey!)

I tell you, if An Inconvenient Truth had had musical numbers, it would have been even more impactful.

I only wonder where Bill Cosby fits in here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/29/2007 11:31:45 PM
Category: Comedy, Politics, TV
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Saturday, October 27, 2021

What to make of Dick Cheney hoisting a shotgun this weekend to shoot at some birds near Poughkeepsie?

Offhand, based on the Veep’s track record with hunting rifles, I’d say that the Homeland Security Threat Level for the Hudson Valley has just jumped from High/Orange to Red/Severe.

On the plus side, this means more empirical data for The Cheney Shotgun Experiment.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/27/2007 03:37:36 PM
Category: Comedy, New Yorkin', Politics
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Tuesday, October 23, 2021

bear's-eye
What do you do when you’re accused of indiscriminate and fatal paramilitary blunders in Iraq?

Naturally, if you’re Blackwater USA Worldwide, you roll out a less-threatening, more professional-looking corporate logo.

The rifle-scope crosshairs so obvious in the old Blackwater logo have been reduced to a set of horizontal elipses that bracket, but no longer enclose, the paw print, which has also changed to more closely resemble an actual bear-paw imprint. The original Blackwater logo had thick white serif lettering draped over the crosshairs on a menacing black field. The new logo separates the image and the letters, which now appear in buttoned-down sans-serif black and slightly italicized on a white field.

Though the red elipses in the new logo retain the horizontal crosshairs, the overall look is far less “kick your butt” and much more “quarterly report,” some branding experts said. The new logo, which began to appear on some Blackwater material in late July, may also speak volumes about the company’s desire to begin its second decade on a more anodyne note.

“I would say it’s a highly significant change; they’re repositioning themselves,” said Lauren Miller, the owner of MDesign, a graphic design firm in New York. “The old logo suggests that they’re targeting people. The new logo is a more ambiguous, more safe corporate logo.”

The new look may indeed be a more high-tech, truer-to-real-life crosshairs scope, but it certainly comes off as less specific. It almost looks like the paw is surrounded by parentheses.

I don’t know if this is intentional, but the Blackwater site’s favicon image retains the old killer-sights look, as shown here in the second image above. The shoddier Web-design outfits routinely overlook this subtle element of a website, so I’m assuming that’s what’s happened here. If, by chance, they come across this critique, I’ll go ahead and help them out by pointing them toward Chami/HTML-Kit’s FavIcon Generator, where they can quickly correct their oversight.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/23/2007 10:52:48 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Politics
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Sunday, October 21, 2021

Here’s how to pare down the Presidential Cabinet, which is often criticized as being bloated:

Eliminate the Departments whose Secretaries are wasting time blogging.

Hello, Homeland Security’s Michael Chertoff and Health & Human Services’ Mike Leavitt!

Start packing up your desks now, boys. And be heartened that, once relieved of your post, you’ll have loads of time for blogging full-time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/21/2007 09:02:18 PM
Category: Bloggin', Politics
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Saturday, October 13, 2021

Considering how government-run lotteries rely upon the lure of the big-purse payout to sell tickets, there’s some irony in how some states are regarding the privatization of their lotteries as billion-dollar jackpot opportunities.

“I think there is so much potential there,” [California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger] told reporters. “We have gotten numbers all the way up to $37 billion. So I think the question really is, should we not really start thinking creatively here?”

Like shoppers at convenience stores who can’t resist placing bets when lotto jackpots get big enough, government officials in at least a dozen states are considering lottery privatizations — what would collectively amount to the biggest privatization of a government enterprise in American history.

In addition to California, investment-banking proposals for lottery-agency buyouts have been prepared for Indiana, Florida, and Texas. Other states, including big ones like New York and Illinois, are strongly considering the move.

The social issues are well-known: Lotteries, regardless of their best-intentions positioning as fundraisers for education, are essentially regressive taxes, and they appeal disproportionately to those who can least afford to sink money into them. And the fundamental issue is whether or not states should sell a high-profit margin operations for one-time lump sums, or else lease them with restrictions that would devalue them in the eyes of prospective investors.

But what I find most interesting is the appeal this concept holds for small-government proponents:

“It appeals to the governor because the state can get out of the gambling business,” says Robert Black, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

Which is ludicrous, since even a wholly-privatized lottery would still be subject to some degree of regulation, just as parimutuel gaming and casino licenses are. But the idea that a divestiture, at any level, could be presented as a cleansing from direct involvement in games of chance, is what makes this palatable for some statehouses.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/13/2007 07:42:56 PM
Category: Business, Politics
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Friday, October 12, 2021

trashy terror?
Good to know that the town of Dover, New Jersey is securing the homeland via gumball-machine inspections:

[City alderman Frank Poolas] was not, he told the reporters and photographers who assembled in this northern New Jersey town, really all that concerned that candy posed a terrorist threat.

“Our main concern was health. Period,” Mr. Poolas said, explaining why he and some colleagues started a project six months ago to inspect all of the town’s candy and gum vending machines to make sure they were properly licensed.

Sure, he had mentioned terrorism, Mr. Poolas said, but only as a “worst-case scenario.”

If rogue candy wind-ups are causing this much of a fuss, imagine what Dover would make of the Trashball treats being dispensed in Washington DC, pictured above. I’m thinking town council would ban the artistic expression as a public health and/or security risk.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/12/2021 09:15:32 PM
Category: Politics, True Crime
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Tuesday, September 25, 2021

What would have been more tasteless than charging a highly-symbolic $9.11 per head for a Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign fundraising event?

I guess removing that decimal point, thus making the price of admission $911. After all, unlike the motive behind the under-$10 plan:

According to the invitation, “$9.11 for Rudy” is an “independent, non-denominational grass-roots campaign to raise $10,000 in small increments to show how many individual, everyday Americans support ‘America’s Mayor.”‘

Campaign fundraisers, especially for White House runs, tend to carry big-ticket pricetags. I wouldn’t doubt that some Republican counterpart to Norman Hsu had been planning just such a shy-of-a-grand soiree, and now feels like s/he just dodged a bullet.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/25/2007 08:22:25 PM
Category: Politics
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Saturday, September 22, 2021

Acknowledging high divorce rates and the well-known term limit for most wedded relationships, German politician Gabriele Pauli proposes that all marriages be sanctioned with a seven-year expiration date, at which point couples either re-affirm their union or else amicably split.

Really not a bad idea. You’re required to renew other licenses via demonstrated competency: Driver’s, fishing, professional certifications — why not for marriage?

Somehow, Pauli is running for the leadership of the Bavaria’s Christian Social Union party, about as conservative a poli-club as you’ll find in Europa. And to boot, she represents the same area which the current Pope calls his home region. Not exactly the ideal proving ground for radical experimentation with a sacred institution.

Then again, not every politician does magazine spreads wearing dominatrix-like latex garb. I suppose even that gets old after seven or so years, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/22/2007 02:10:16 PM
Category: Politics, Society
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Monday, September 17, 2021

hangin'The accompanying image is, in fact, a for-real advertisement for Manhattan Mini Storage, one of many socially-charged ads the company runs. I encounter them chiefly on the subway.

Edgy? Yes. Eye-catching? Yes. Appropriate? That’s for you to vote on.

Obviously, taking potshots at the Bush/Cheney conservative agenda plays well in NYC (along with digs at Paris Hilton and fashionistas). Any business MMS loses through right-wing offense is probably more than offset by liberals needing storage lockers for their overflow hookahs and tie-dye t-shirts and such.

All I know is that, if you live in the typical New York shoebox dwelling, you inevitably need off-site storage for your excess junk. That you’d rely upon freak-flag flying left-wingers to safeguard the results of your conspicuous consumption seems appropriately ironic.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/17/2007 06:36:22 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin', Politics
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Sunday, September 16, 2021

What would the skyline of a modern metropolis look like without all the practically-ubiquitous billboard advertising?

São Paulo, Brazil is finding out. The world’s fourth-largest city is combating “visual pollution” by having all oversized outdoor ad installations removed:

Under the new law, all oversized ads must come down. Signage standards are shrinking, too. Stores with a shop front exceeding 100 meters (328 feet) in length are allowed two signs, but each smaller than 10 square meters (33 square feet). Smaller stores can have one sign no bigger than 4 meters (13 feet) square.

Although many of Brazil’s laws are ignored, compliance here has been high and the effect has been dramatic. Nowhere is the change more evident than in the once grand downtown area, a confused commercial district where the narrow streets are choked with cars and the sidewalks are overrun by vendors.

For a peek on the ad-less landscape and reaction, this Flickr collection provides insight.

Should Clear Channel and other outdoor media companies worldwide be nervous? Actually, they already are, lest it catch on in U.S. markets:

Multinational corporations, on the other hand, didn’t take it so well. Clear Channel Outdoor, the notorious American company, purchased a large share of Sao Paolo’s billboard market a few years ago. Weeks before the ban took effect, they launched a counter-campaign, with slogans such as: “Outdoor media is culture.”

I don’t see a broad ban working in New York, San Francisco or any other American metro. For one thing, existing regulations already keep the skyward clutter to a minimum, relatively. Compared to Third World urban centers, the visual advertising in the States is tame. There’s always going to be complaints of commercial blight regardless of degree, but believe me, it ain’t that bad.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/16/2007 12:29:18 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Politics
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Thursday, September 13, 2021

How is Buffalo carrying out its urban renewal? By knocking down big swaths of itself:

Mayor Byron W. Brown recently unveiled a $100 million five-year plan to rip down 5,000 houses, about half of all the vacant houses in the city, which ranks second only to St. Louis in the percentage of vacant properties per capita nationwide.

The best way to save Buffalo, he reasons, is to mow down the buildings on these properties — starting with the ones deemed the worst fire hazards or those near schools — and encourage church groups, entrepreneurs and neighbors to build homes in their place.

I guess if there’s less of the city left standing, there’ll be less left to revitalize.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/13/2007 10:55:58 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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Friday, September 07, 2021

The sixteen Federal agencies that make up America’s spy brigades simply won’t play nice with each other. So maybe a for-your-eyes-only MySpace-like website will encourage them to swap their scuttlebutt:

The classified “A-Space” ultimately will grow to include blogs, searchable databases, libraries of reports, collaborative word processing and other tools to help analysts quickly trade, update and edit information.

It comes on the heels of the year-old Intellipedia, a Web site modeled after the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Intellipedia has been gaining traction among the intelligence agencies and already has nearly 30,000 posted articles and 4,800 edits added every workday.

Isn’t the tendency to blab online indiscriminately something you’d rather not have in your ideal secret-agent man/woman? At least there’s the prospect of hyper-abbreviated Netspeak serving as a near-indecipherable code for passing along sensitive information.

All this does hinge on generational mores effecting organizational change:

Organizers acknowledge it may be difficult to erase generations of territorial tendencies and prevent spats among the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, which often want credit for their own discoveries.

But they hope the influx of younger operatives — half the intelligence analysts employed by the U.S. government have been on the job for no more than five years — will help shelve old feuds and embrace Web tools already in widespread use.

If the nation’s national security is now hinging on social networking dynamics, I think the terrorists have won.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/07/2021 06:33:46 PM
Category: Internet, Politics
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Friday, August 24, 2021

Not that it’s terribly hard to get a political mudslinging session started, but here’s one way:

Extract a minor demographic detail from a recent Associated Press-Ipsos public opinion poll that indicates one-quarter of Americans don’t read any books:

There was even some political variety evident, with Democrats and liberals typically reading slightly more books than Republicans and conservatives.

Next, take that partisan factoid and wave it like raw meat under the nose of an outspoken former liberal Democrat Congresswoman:

“The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: ‘No, don’t raise my taxes, no new taxes,’” Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. “It’s pretty hard to write a book saying, ‘No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes’ on every page.”

Finally, extrapolate that into a characterization of the book publishing industry as laden with liberals, thus producing tomes that are alienable to the conservative masses.

Voila! Liberals second the idea of simplemindedly dittoheaded conservatives, and right-wingers deride lefties as obfuscating eggheads.

Now pardon me as I go crack open a new novel…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/24/2007 08:45:16 AM
Category: Politics, Publishing
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Friday, July 27, 2021

Houston, we have a problem. NASA is reeling from allegations of astronauts getting liquored up prior to mission lift-off.

I’m sure a couple of shots of the “right stuff” take the edge off that antsy time between countdown and achieved orbit. Hell, I’m sure the Russian cosmonauts have vodka intake as part of their pre-flight regimen!

Between this, and the whacked-out Lisa Nowak jealous lover story (that almost became a Movie of the Week, sorta), the nation’s space agency is starting to look like dysfunction junction. Better start watching the skies for (literal) fallout!

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/27/2007 03:17:21 PM
Category: Politics, Science
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Wednesday, July 11, 2021

Never have I been so proud of my Euro heritage than when I view this climax-filled paean to cinema and European “unioning”:

This mini skinflick is the most popular contribution from EUtube, a YouTube channel devoted to promoting the virtues of the EU.

“The European Union is not the Bible belt,” Martin Selmayr, a commission spokesman, said. “These clips come from award-winning films and they show the E.U.’s rich cinematic heritage, which we can all be proud of.”…

Announcing EU Tube on June 29, Margot Wallstrom, the commission’s vice president in charge of communication strategy, explained: “This initiative reflects the commission’s commitment to better explain its policies and actions on issues which concern citizens across the E.U., such as climate change, energy or immigration.”

Understandably, then, Brussels officials have been a bit frustrated to see their great communications project hijacked by sex. Efforts by some British tabloids to stir up protests about officially blessed “pornography” have come to little, but officials can hardly feel that “Film Lovers Will Love This!” is conveying their full message.

What are the Eurocrats worried about? There’s no fuller message than the promise of rampant sexual relations via the breakdown of national borders. Makes me want to renew my passport for a visit!

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/11/2021 07:54:34 PM
Category: Comedy, Internet, Politics
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Thursday, July 05, 2021

In 1808, Portugal’s King Dom Joao VI fled Lisbon to avoid being captured by Napoleon’s invading army. He subsequently established his imperial residence in Rio de Janeiro for the next dozen years, which set in motion the eventual independence of Brazil.

So, if any budding Brooklynite secessionists are looking for a historical-parallel catalyst for splitting from the other boroughs: Starting this coming Monday, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his office will relocate to downtown Brooklyn for a couple of weeks, while City Hall in Manhattan gets renovated.

Will having the municipal seat of power in Kings County lead to the re-establishment of the City of Brooklyn? Following the Portuguese-Brazilian example, Bloomberg could designate borough president Marty Markowitz as his regent-in-absentia, thus laying the groundwork for future breakaway. Knowing Markowitz and his well-established Brooklyn boosterism, he’d go for it in a heartbeat.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/05/2021 07:11:54 PM
Category: History, New Yorkin', Politics
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Tuesday, June 19, 2021

Never a dull moment when Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg flirts with Presidential ambition. A lifelong Democrat who converted to the GOP only when he realized he was a really really rich guy, Bloomberg today officially unaffiliated himself from the Republicans, a move interpreted as groundwork for an independent 2008 bid for the White House.

Should he choose to throw his hat into the ring, Bloomberg may effectively negate another former New York mayor’s election prospects:

What is more, Mr. Bloomberg has arguably at least as strong a claim on New York City’s prosperity as his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is seeking the Republican nomination. If Mr. Bloomberg decides to run as an independent or third-party candidate, he might find that he enjoys the benefits of New York City’s successes without the ideological burdens that Mr. Giuliani has faced in trying to win the Republican nomination while being identified with such positions as supporting abortion, gay rights and gun control.

The early line is that it’s unclear from which party Bloomberg would siphon more votes. Republicans are the more disaffected electorate, which is reflected in the relative disarray in the current GOP nomination field; and Bloomberg could appeal to that sentiment. On the other hand, his moderate stance on most hot-button issues could draw plenty of moderate Democrat votes.

That’s all if he decides to blow his money on a Ross Perot-like run. He could just as easily finish out his term as NYC mayor, and then prep for a 2012 White House bid.

But if he does press “go” this year, consider: The nation could have a slate of candidates with New York roots: Giuliani as the Republican candidate, Bloomberg as the Indy, and Hillary Clinton — current Senator from New York, remember? — as the Democrat. Youse got a problem wit dat?

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/19/2007 11:12:00 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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