Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Sunday, July 16, 2021

Appealing to civic duty doesn’t do much for getting out the vote, especially when it’s not a Presidential election year. So maybe Arizona’s scheme to blend a lottery-style jackpot with its general elections will result in a more representative democratic process.

Or, more likely, it’ll encourage politicians to target compulsive gamblers as a swing electoral bloc.

Mark Osterloh, a political gadfly who is behind the initiative, the Arizona Voter Reward Act, is promoting it with the slogan, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Vote!” He collected 185,902 signatures of registered voters, far more than the 122,612 required, and last week the secretary of state certified the measure for the ballot this fall.

If the general election in 2004 is a guide, when more than 2 million people voted, the 1-in-2-million odds of winning the election lottery would be far better than the Powerball jackpot (currently about 1 in 146,107,962) but not nearly as great as dying from a lightning strike (1 in 55,928).

“People buy a lot of lottery tickets now,” Mr. Osterloh said, “and the odds of winning this are much, much higher.” (And most of the time there is not much lightning in Arizona.)

If some see the erosion of democracy in putting voting on the same plane as a scratch-and-win game — and some do — Mr. Osterloh sees the gimmick as the linchpin to improve voter turnout and get more people interested in politics.

I’m sure it’ll increase political consciousness in the desert ever-so-slightly. And maybe it’ll depress sales of scratch-and-win cards in Phoenix, too!

If this actually gets enacted, I foresee a Powerball Presidential election in our great nation’s future…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/16/2006 11:45:35 PM
Category: Creative, Politics, Society
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Sunday, June 11, 2021

I guess I’m not the only one who’s viewed the weeks of giddiness from Democrats over their prospects in the November midterms with skepticism. The LA Times’ Ronald Brownstein pegs exactly why the optimism is premature:

All of that indicates that although [losing Democratic candidate for the special San Diego Congressional election, Francine] Busby benefited from discontent with the Republicans, she “didn’t provide the kind of agenda around which people can rally in a positive way,” as [UC San Diego political scientist Gary] Jacobson says. Democrats may be in the same situation nationally: In a new memo, veteran Democratic strategists Stanley B. Greenberg and James Carville warn that in recent months voters’ perceptions of the Democrats have deteriorated — even as the share of Americans dissatisfied with Bush’s policies has increased. The party, they write, is at risk of “underperforming” in November if it does not provide a more compelling alternative.

Senior Republican strategists recently calculated that turnout this year is down for both parties, relative to the average over the last 20 years, in almost all of the states that have held primaries. That pattern, Greenberg’s poll and, above all, the San Diego results send a clear message:

Discontent with Republicans in Washington is widespread, but it isn’t yet translating into consistent support for Democrats.

In other words, coming in a close second isn’t going to be enough. Even if the GOP wins by the skin of its teeth in key races, the point is, they’ll still win. They’ll still hold onto those seats, and whatever moral victory gained by the opposition’s showing will evaporate quickly.

It’s really the same old bugaboo for the Democrats: They offer themselves as an alternative, but without anything concrete. The party needs something to galvanize its position and support. There’s certainly no lack of issues to zero in on, but so far, there’s been a timidness in forcefully putting forth a counterview.

Aside from that, the overriding reality is that this is still a midterm election year. Even the most strident get-out-the-vote campaigns by both parties isn’t going to compel large numbers of people to go to the polls. If it’s not a Presidential election year, voters stay home, regardless of the issues.

There’s still lots of time between now and November, with untold variables coming into play until then. But barring anything truly earth-shattering, it’ll still be the Republicans’ game to lose.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/11/2021 02:23:28 PM
Category: Politics
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Friday, June 02, 2021

In a pre-mortem on New York State’s Republican Party and its expected poor showing this November, GOP strategist Nelson Warfield contributed this insightful assessment:

“In the last dozen years, the [New York] Republican Party has largely become all about Pataki. The governor never focused on trying to establish a farm team within the party, and now, as his era ends, it is apparent that the party has not prospered under him.”

Interesting, because that’s a similar summation of what sort of shape the national Democratic Party was left in after Bill Clinton’s presidency:

The Clintons’ Democratic Party was great for the Clintons but disastrous for the Democratic Party: during the 1990s, they lost the House and the Senate and a ton of governorships and state legislatures, and eventually, with nothing else left to lose, they lost the presidency. Clinton’s heat left the party so parched for talent they had no successful governors to run for president and were forced to turn to a stiff hack weathervane senator in the hope they could so damage Bush they could drag their boy across the finishing line.

Extending the comparison further, both Pataki and Clinton got to their chief executive posts by persuading an otherwise incompatible electorate. New York State leans Democratic by a 5-to-3 margin, and the country as a whole runs more conservative to the point where only disaffection in that base presents openings for more centrist/left candidates. Thus the perpetual operating mantra for the NYS Republicans is to never appear to be as conservative as the national party, which is perceived to be the only hope of succeeding in a statewide race. Same dynamic, with reversed ideology, on the national level for Democrats.

So it was that both men had to build their political capital by simultaneously running under their party label while pulling away from its rank-and-file. That left personal success for a seeming standard-bearer at the top, but an ineffective shell of a party apparatus below.

On the darker side, this suggests the need to create something of a cult of personality to achieve ends. The primacy of the individual candidate over the old-style party machine has been fact for half a century, but do Pataki’s and Clinton’s examples highlight an uncomfortable outgrowth of that trend?

That both a Democrat and a Republican pulled the same trick suggests this mechanism has more to do with American political culture, than with a particular party’s orientation. Fascinating mechanics.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/02/2021 05:30:03 PM
Category: History, New Yorkin', Politics
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Thursday, June 01, 2021

I guess the bright-side assessment of a 40 percent reduction in Homeland Security funding for New York and Washington anti-terror programs means that residents of those cities can breathe easy: They’ve been deemed less likely to be attacked by al Qaeda!

“I’m very sensitive to how leaders in New York City and Washington, D.C., feel about this,” [Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett] said. “This is about protection, and I think looking frankly at the history of terrorism, oftentimes what you can expect is that the next incident won’t be like the previous incident.”

In other words, the Bush Administration is subscribing to the homespun theory that if your house is robbed once, it’s less likely to be robbed again.

The biggest huff is over the DHS fund-dispersement assessment that New York’s grand total of “national monuments and icons”, subject to terrorist targeting, is zero. Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge… Nah, nothing to see here, folks.

With this sort of thinking, not only do I question whether or not the United States should be the world’s policeman — I question if the guys in charge right now are qualified to be their own country’s cop.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/01/2021 11:55:05 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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Thursday, May 18, 2021

The poll numbers are in the gutter, but Karl Rove and Laura Bush are convinced that folks still like Dubya — just not his Presidential handiwork.

Which brings about an interesting contrast with the prior Administration:

[Marist Poll’s Lee] Miringoff said this spin was sort of a reverse of the line the White House gave when President Bill Clinton faced poor poll numbers at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

“The notion then was, ‘You may not like him, but he’s doing a good job,’” he said. “Now it’s, ‘He’s not doing a good job, but you like him.’”

It’s always about the spin.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/18/2006 10:23:39 PM
Category: Politics
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Thursday, May 11, 2021

How fragile is Iraqi democracy? A ringtone in the form of a Shi’ite religious chant sparked a brawl among legislators that nearly scuttled the newly-formed Parliament.

The squabble started Monday in the lobby outside Iraq’s parliament hall when [lawmaker Ghufran al-Saidi’s] cellphone rang as [Mahmoud al-Mashhadani] was giving a television interview nearby, Saidi told lawmakers and reporters.

Mashhadani’s bodyguards asked Saidi’s bodyguard, who was holding her phone, to silence it, and the aide hung up on the call, Saidi said. When the disconnected caller called back, the parliament speaker’s guards attacked Saidi’s bodyguard and beat him, she said.

Saidi, who wears the head scarf of conservative Muslim women, said the Sunni guards were angered by the Shiite chant. She acknowledged that she joined the brawl.

At Wednesday’s session of parliament, when Saidi took the floor to complain at length, Mashhadani eventually ordered her microphone turned off, TV cameras shut down and the session recessed.

Some lawmakers walked out to protest what they called the speaker’s brusque behavior.

It’s a good thing none of the Founding Fathers were packing cellphones in Philadelphia. Like Thomas Jefferson needed extra incentive to clop Alexander Hamilton in the head…

Fortunately, my KC and the Sunshine Band ringtone (just ported onto a new phone, incidentally) has yet to start a riot. American democracy won’t take a hit because of my incoming calls.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/11/2021 09:38:29 PM
Category: Politics, Tech
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Wednesday, May 10, 2021

ah-ha, 10 downing
“The Thick of It” is the latest high-stylin’ Britcom to make noise in comedy circles. It’s a contemporized take on the classic “Yes, Minister”, imbued with the creative vigor that made the Alan Partridge shows so funny.

In fact, “Thick” owes its existence to the Alan Partridge character, which reveals how little has changed at 10 Downing Street since the days of “Yes, Minister”:

[Armando Iannucci] said the television series’s first direct inspiration came in 1996 when he got a call inviting Alan Partridge to interview Tony Blair as staged entertainment for a Labor Party conference in Blackpool. When Mr. Iannucci and [Steve] Coogan arrived, they were surprised by the greeting they were given by Mr. Blair’s chief image maker, Peter Mandelson.

“He was absolutely furious because he was expecting Alan Partridge,” said Mr. Iannucci. “He had to be taken to one side and explained that Alan Partridge was a fictional character played by Steve.”

“On the one hand, they tried to demonstrate this finger on the pulse of popular culture by knowing Alan Partridge was the one to be seen with. On the other hand, they demonstrated how little they know of popular culture by not realizing that it was a fictional character.”

“That’s when I started thinking, ‘Something is very odd about British politics right now.’”

Consider it a London version of the Beltway mentality.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/10/2021 11:16:53 PM
Category: Politics, TV
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Tuesday, May 09, 2021

If your only experience with coma patients is from their portrayal in movies, you’re getting fed a brain-dead scenario. That’s the conclusion of Drs. Eelco and Coen Wijdicks, who find Hollywood enactments of the comatose condition to contain an alarming lack of real-world grounding:

Dr. Wijdicks also found that many lay viewers were unable to identify inaccuracy in the depiction of coma - despite 39% admitting that those depictions might influence their decisions about a coma in real life.

He said: “Inaccuracy concerns me because the public sees an unrealistic portrayal of a neurologic disease that could lead to improbable expectations from a family of a patient in a coma; for example, that it will be just a matter of time till the patient awakens and everything will be fine and dandy.”

Actually, based on Tennessee Senator Bill Frist’s ham-handed video diagnosis of Terry Schiavo last summer, I’d say the celluloid glamorization manages to seduce even those who should know better.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/09/2021 10:56:13 PM
Category: Movies, Politics, Science
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Monday, May 08, 2021

In these United States, it’s all about the branding — even on Capitol Hill. Showing off your tax dollars at work, members of Congress have their staffs thumbing through the dictionary to devise clever acronyms to attach to otherwise nondescript bills.

Remember Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, the deficit-fighting bill? Or Sarbanes-Oxley, the corporate reform law? Bills named for lawmakers are pretty much passe. These days, an attention-getting acronym — the political equivalent of a vanity license plate — is in…

“You’d be surprised at how much taxpayer time is spent in offices coming up with clever names for bills,” said Michael Franc, a former congressional staff member.

Though some bills in the past did have acronyms, they rarely grabbed the public’s attention. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, or OBRA, for example, is remembered by few people other than Washington’s most die-hard number-crunchers.

Now, acronyms help explain what the bill is all about. They are proof that even bill names have become part of Washington’s all-consuming political spin.

“If it helps people remember your legislation, I think it serves a useful purpose,” said Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.). “But I’m starting to think people are starting to spend more time coming up with a clever acronym than they are worrying about the substance and the impact of the legislation they write.”

Here’s the list of the 14 acro-licious bill names mentioned in this LA Times article; not all of these actually got passed, but they are for-real, no-joking monikers tacked onto legislation reviewed by Congress. I’m sure there’s a treasure trove of past, present and pending legislative acts beyond these:

CAN-SPAM - Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act

CLEAN UP - Curtailing Lobbyist Effectiveness through Advance Notification, Updates and Posting Act

END - Elimination of Neglected Diseases Act

ENRON - Electricity Needs Rules and Oversight Now Act

OBRA - Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act

PETS - Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act

PUMP - Prevent Unfair Manipulation of Prices Act

SAFE - Security and Freedom Enhancement Act

SAFE CALL - Stop Attempted Fraud Against Everyone’s Cell and Land Lines Act

SNIFF - Safe Notification and Information for Fragrances Act

SOS - Sail Only if Scanned Act

START - Simplification Through Additional Reporting Tax Act

TEA-LU - Transportation Equity Act — A Legacy for Users (especially notable, as the “LU” part was mandated by bill sponsor Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), whose wife’s name is Lu)

USA PATRIOT - Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act

It’s funny: I wasn’t aware that the names of such oft-cited laws like USA PATRIOT and CAN-SPAM were, in fact, acronyms. I guess I should have known, from the all-caps; but somehow, it didn’t throw me.

Sure, it’s ultimately silly. But I admit, there’s a certain artistry to it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/08/2021 10:04:21 PM
Category: Creative, Politics
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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.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/30/2006 01:43:56 PM
Category: Politics, Society
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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.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/12/2021 11:51:05 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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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…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/06/2021 08:57:45 PM
Category: Politics
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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.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/04/2021 11:07:06 PM
Category: Movies, Politics, Society
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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.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/31/2006 10:17:25 AM
Category: Politics
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Friday, March 24, 2021

In response to last month’s South Dakota near-total abortion ban, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Cecelia Fire Thunder aims to open a Planned Parenthood clinic on tribal land, arguing that the reservation’s sovereignty overrides state law.

There are extenuating circumstances to be resolved first. The South Dakotan law is going to be challenged, probably all the way to the Supreme Court (which, after all, was the very point why it was passed, overriding any regional imperatives). And the state Attorney General argues that it would be a criminal act for non-tribal members to avail of the services of any such facility.

First it was extra-legalized gambling, now abortion. What iffy propositions will the Indians dip into next? Bear in mind, I’m not judging at all — I’m cool with gambling and support abortion rights. Just saying, the tribes are in for quite a bit of collateral PR damage if this goes through.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/24/2006 06:56:25 PM
Category: Politics, Society
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Friday, March 17, 2021

Katherine Harris is doggedly keeping her floundering U.S. Senate bid alive by injecting $10 million of her own money (inherited from her recently-departed father) into the campaign.

This, despite polls showing her trailing Democratic Senator Bill Nelson by 20 percentage points — basically the same deficit she’s been running against the incumbent this whole time. Not to mention her own party is doing everything it can to replace her with a more viable candidate.

What happens from here is fairly predictable: Harris will lose big to Nelson, and she’ll blame Florida Republicans for undercutting her and the media for sliming her. She’ll still hold onto her Sarasota U.S. House seat for as long as she wants it (see the comments, below) — they love her there, regardless of how incompetent she is — but her role as a major player in the GOP will be finished.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/17/2006 06:22:18 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Politics
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Thursday, March 16, 2021

In Oregon, Portland’s Wapato Facility took $59 million and two years to build. But now, despite rampant crime and a severe shortage of prison space, the 525-bed jail sits unused thanks to lack of money to staff it.

Actually, if the public money’s not there, perhaps Portland can emulate Oklahoma and start importing other States’ convicts, at a profit. Maybe the contracting fees could subsidize the whole operation.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/16/2006 07:50:07 PM
Category: Politics, Society
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Sunday, March 12, 2021

I don’t know about anyone else, but I get a strange sense of juxtaposition reading about the Democrats’ chances for a broad Congressional victory in this election year, and a poli-comic novel about the exhumation (literally) of long-dead American Socialist Upton Sinclair.

Of course, sensing its big chance to seize the center, it’s not at all likely that today’s Democratic Party would blow that by deigning to take in Sinclair as a forefather. Still, an ideological dive for the grave gives me a warm fuzzy.

And incidentally: Is it just me, or does the depiction of Sinclair on the cover of Chris Bachelder’s “U.S.! A Novel” (which I plan to pick up) look for all the world like Harry Connick Jr.? I’d accuse the publisher of movie adaptation pre-marketing, except for the unlikelihood of such a book ever making it onto the screen.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 11:46:53 PM
Category: Comedy, Politics, Publishing
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Thursday, February 16, 2021

With exurbs all the rage, and revitalization of downtown cores civic priority… Wither the suburbs? Despite holding 20 percent of the U.S. population, the ever-graying and dilapidating “first suburbs” are suffering from governmental neglect and outmoded operational plans.

It seems like the post-World War II buffer zone of suburban communities are being treated like a classic middle child. The metro region is the first-born: The commercial engine for the region that gets its due attention from economic and political powerbrokers. The exurbs are the newborn: Coveted for their younger voters (who invariably go Republican, owing to the relative affluence of those who can afford longer commutes and larger mortgages). The traditional suburbs, with their proximity to the urban core, are the neglected offspring: Assumed to be in fine shape, thanks to decades-old perceptions of wealth; that past has given way to migration patterns that make immediate bedroom communities more akin to the big city than the further-flung exurbs.

This isssue is more pertinent to me lately. I’m spending lots of time at my childhood home, which is in Orange County, New York. These days, Orange is technically an exurb, and there does seem to be more folks here commuting to NYC than I remember while growing up. But in other ways, it resembles more of a struggling suburb in Westchester or Nassau. I’ve noted, with bemusement, that there are a lot more older people around here than I noticed in Tampa Bay, where I just departed. And more obvious immigrant communities, notably from Mexico and South America.

As with most civic matters in the U.S., the perception shift has to take place before any tangible policy change can happen. The Brookings Institution study is only a starting gun.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/16/2006 11:35:43 PM
Category: Politics, Society
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Wednesday, February 15, 2021

If you want a nice capsule look into the mentality of the chronically closed-minded, I offer up Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms and her telling comments toward St. Pete Times columnist Ernest Hooper:

“And that newspaper guy right there thinks there’s nothing wrong with them.”

I turned around and said, “Excuse me?”

She explained she was talking about nude bars. She said the fact that I had never written a column against strip clubs indicated I must be for them.

I don’t want Storms to be burdened with explaining to people how I feel about adult entertainment, so let me set the record straight.

Classy way for Hooper to deflect Storms’ idiotic statement — not to mention a great way to serve up material for his column. If it were me, I’d have directed Storms to pucker up her warped mouth and kiss my ass.

This is completely indicative of the if-not-for-us-then-against-us mindset that demagogues like Storms possess. For people like her, silence itself is incriminating. Flapping your mouth — regardless of whether or not you have anything substantial to say — is all that counts. It doesn’t occur to Storms that her sensationalist crusades aren’t imperative to everyone else.

As far as the idea of silence on a subject serving as endorsement, I’ve encountered that assumption in the blogging realm before. Admittedly, the rules are different for the news media: Reporters have a duty to write about current events, and don’t have the option of cherry-picking like bloggers do. Still, to extrapolate based on lack of commentary is nothing but faulty filling in of the blanks, and ultimately asinine.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/15/2006 01:11:23 PM
Category: Bloggin', Florida Livin', Media, Politics
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Think the culture war over Intelligent Design concerns only the topic of evolution? Think again: By extension, governmental mentions of long-accepted astronomical theories like the Big Bang now come with qualifications.

Last week my colleague Andrew Revkin reported that a 24-year-old NASA political appointee with no scientific background, George C. Deutsch, had told a designer working on a NASA Web project that the Big Bang was “not proven fact; it is opinion,” and thus the word “theory” should be used with every mention of Big Bang.

It was not NASA’s place, he said in an e-mail message, to make a declaration about the origin of the universe “that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

In a different example of spinning science news last month, NASA headquarters removed a reference to the future death of the sun from a press release about the discovery of comet dust around a distant star known as a white dwarf. A white dwarf, a shrunken dense cinder about the size of earth, is how our own sun is fated to spend eternity, astronomers say, about five billion years from now, once it has burned its fuel.

“We are seeing the ghost of a star that was once a lot like our sun,” said Marc Kuchner of the Goddard Space Flight Center. In a statement that was edited out of the final news release he went on to say, “I cringed when I saw the data because it probably reflects the grim but very distant future of our own planets and solar system.”

An e-mail message from Erica Hupp at NASA headquarters to the authors of the original release at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said, “NASA is not in the habit of frightening the public with doom and gloom scenarios.”

Never mind that the death of the sun has been a staple of astronomy textbooks for 50 years.

It may seem surprising, but in terms of ID theory, it makes perfect sense. If the creator theory holds for the development of life on Earth, it should hold for the creation and development of the universe. If anything, it only makes ID’s underpinnings in creationism/Bible studies even more transparent.

In which case… It might eventually undermine Intelligent Design’s whole argument. As long as it was limited to just the always-hot evolution debate, it could have drawn modest popular support. But once it’s applied to less controversial areas of scientific inquiry, it might be harder for a wider audience to keep the faith in ID as an all-inclusive scientific theory.

Hopefully, all this conspires to give the ID crackpots enough rope with which to hang themselves. Then they can start working on the next iteration of sugar-coated pseudoscientific claptrap, while everyone else is content to keep their faith and their science separate.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/15/2006 09:45:34 AM
Category: Politics, Science, Society
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