Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Manzullo says government effort to keep jobs in America is "communism"

In an interview with the Freeport Journal-Standard the other day, U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo , the Ogle County Republican, said he "wouldn't want" government to interfere with any company's plans to move jobs overseas.

(Scroll down on the J-S Web site for the best parts.)

Gosh! I sure hate to bring this up, but...

You've got your red states, and you've got your blue states, and they tend not to be the same in some respects.

For instance: Your blue states -- you know, the states that voted Democratic in the last presidential election -- are mostly made up of residents who are better educated than the people in your red states -- you know, the states that voted Republican in the last presidential election.

Your red states also have higher rates of divorce, lower rates of high-school graduation, higher percentages of cigarette smokers, lower pay for teachers, higher rates of teenage pregnancies, higher infant-death rates, lower wages, higher birth rates among unmarried women, higher traffic-death rates, and on and on.

Illinois, if you don't know, is a blue state.

Speaking of gays, Marine Corps hero in Iraq war decides to come out of the closet

Eric Alva, who was the first American injured in the war in Iraq (he lost a leg), says he lied about his sexual orientation when he signed up for the Marines.

He's not lying about it anymore but lots of other U.S. military personnel apparently are.

Funder of "Swift Boat" lies contritely concedes that John Kerry is a hero

The Rascal would have enjoyed watching this weenie's mea culpa.

Maybe Keith Olbermann will have a video clip tonight.

Why do some Christians spread lies?

There's a letter to the editor in today's Freeport Journal Standard in which it is falsely claimed that certain pending legislation in Congress would make it a crime for a preacher to proclaim from the pulpit that homosexuality is a sin.

The legislation at issue is HR 254 (details here), which would increase penalties for violent crimes motivated by hatred of the victim's sexual orientation. In effect, it would amend an existing law covering violent crimes based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, or disability of the victim.

The bill deals only with violent crimes, but the inveterate prevaricators of the Religious Right are warning their gullible sheep that it's an effort to make sodomites of us all or to ban the Bible. Their hysteria is evidenced here and here and here.

These people are the ideological descendants of those from a few generations back who argued that the Bible mandates separation of the races.

(By the way, if you want to drive a homophobic Christian crazy (or crazier, as it were) ask him or her to cite anything Jesus had to say about homosexuality.

(Funny thing, but Jesus never said a single word on the subject, at least not according to the New Testament. You'd think he'd have had something to say about a subject that so preoccupies so many preachers these days, but no. Nothing.

(Yes, the Old Testament has some passages in which homosexuality is condemned. They can be found amid the admonitions against eating shellfish, getting tatoos, wearing clothing made of more than one kind of fabric and other such terrible sins.

(One other thing that makes homophobes squirm, especially the men, is to tell them about studies showing that vehement gay-bashers often are gay themselves. Look at the Rev. Ted Haggard, for example.)

Pentagon tells wounded troops at Walter Reed to shut the hell up

Army Times has a story that ought to get your blood boiling.

By the way, if this Walter Reed scandal had occurred on Bill Clinton's watch, can you imagine the uproar among our pseudo-patriotic friends on the political right?

But since it's happened under the bold and brave leadership of George W. Bush, all we get from Republicans on Capitol Hill is a few tsk-tsks and promises that hearings will be held.

Support the troops

What does it mean when we say we "Support the troops" or when we urge others to do so?

This guy deconstructs the term "Support the troops" and raises some troubling issues.

Fault-finding in northern Illinois

Here's an interesting piece about earthquakes here in RascalLand.

Why have I not previously heard about the 5.5 temblor in these parts in 1909?

Migrating toward Rockford

The Trib has a story today about more Chicago-area residents pulling up roots and heading to exurbia.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Argument's over -- No global warming!

The latest meme among some elements of the political right is that since Al Gore has a big house that uses a lot of energy, he's a hypocrite and wrong about global warming. That's what passes for logic with your average GW denier.

Of course, the story about Gore and his energy usage isn't as simple as the simple-minded are quick to believe. But even if you allow as how he probably could do better, that has nothing whatever to do with the veracity of what Gore says about the environment, observations with which the vast majority of the world's scientists agree.

A crackhead who stays straight enough for an hour to warn a classroom full of kids about the dangers of drugs isn't wrong in what he says.

Are extra-green troops going to Iraq?

According to this story, some of the troops headed for Iraq have been forced to skip training specifically tailored to the Iraq experience.

This sort of thing probably wouldn't happen if the U.S. military wasn't stretched so thin. And it wouldn't be so thin if all the military-age bloggers and like-minded folks who support this war and Bush's new surge would sign up for duty in Iraq.

Or, in the case of the war hawks who are too old, perhaps they could talk their sons or daughters into putting their butts on the line (although probably without benefit of all the proper training).

What d'ya say? Huh?

(Cue the crickets.)

The Rascal's gonna start something big, too

Matt Drudge clearly loves it when the respectable media carry stories like this.

And the very thought that he touched off the market plunge probably makes him soil himself in delight.

Well, two can play this game, Winchell-head. I don't what it'll be --a clothing fad, a phrase that every self-respecting Yuppie in America will ride like a hobby horse for a few years, an exclusive story that spawns a scandal over mail-in rebates, something -- but The Rascal is going to out-Drudge Drudge.

Then I'll hire some guy to show me how to get this damn blog looking better with lots of bells and whistles and shit.

Then you'll all come flocking to my feet to bask in my glory.

Stock-market slump. BFD.

What Reagan Revolution?

If you're one of those Republicans who look back on Ronald Reagan's presidency as a time of reduction in the size of the federal government, you should read this new book about the truth of the matter.

The Rascal always has preferred tax-and-spend Democrats to borrow-and-spend Republicans.

Baseball Hall is a joke

Once again, Ron Santo and Gil Hodges have fallen short in balloting for the Hall of Fame.

The Rascal has been arguing for years that the Hall is a sham, a disgrace, a blot on our National Pastime. Some of the players enshrined therein don't belong -- Dizzy Dean? Come on. The guy won a piddling 150 games -- and some who haven't been so honored should have been.

It's altogether fitting that the Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, N.Y., a town whose only connection to baseball arises from the ridiculous myth that the game was invented by Abner Doubleday. There's no good evidence that Doubleday ever saw a baseball game, much less devised the sport.

By the way, the Doubleday myth was the nefarious work of Albert G. Spalding, a native of Byron who spent his formative years in Rockford.

Anyway, this is the year that The Rascal finally will come up with a respectable alternative to the Hall of Fame, one in which unqualified dipshits are not part of the selection process.

So long, Diz! Welcome, Charlie Hustle!

Put out or get out!

Some of these jobs in Illinois state government are quite demanding.

Still more stuff on the guy who got booed off the stage at Rockford College

Chris Hedges (about whom The Rascal posted here and here) is hoping Ralph Nader runs for president again.

Nader, you'll recall, cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000. Oh, all right, the Supreme Court had something to do with it, too.

Poor Al. He beat George W. by 500,000 votes in the popular tally but lost by one vote on the high court. And look at what W has done!

None of this would have happened were it not for Nader.

Sound and fury signifying nothing

Does anybody really believe that Illinois state lawmakers are going to do something about higher electricity rates?

Not a chance, friends. Zip, zero, nada.

Yeah, but what if your party's candidate is an old black gay atheist woman?

The Rascal wouldn't necessarily have a problem voting for a presidential candidate in any of these categories, or any combination thereof.

How 'bout you?

Deja vu all over again?

Sy Hersh's startling report in The New Yorker kind of reminds The Rascal of those wonderful days when the Reagan administration secretly sold arms to Iran.

The patriotic geniuses who serve under Republican presidents seem to have a weird penchant for playing patty-cake with nasty groups and regimes that later turn against America. Consequently, we end up sending troops to fight characters whose political power and weapons are of American manufacture.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Bulletin: High Court rules in Bush's favor

Brace yourself for this stunning news.

Should Illinois legalize medical marijuana?

The Capital Fax Blog has got a pretty good debate going on this subject.

The Rascal votes yes.

Republicans can be peculiarly hypocritical

It's hard not to laugh at the results of a recent CBS poll on the question of whether Hollywood celebrities should get involved in politics.

Two thirds of Republican respondents say the Hollywood crowd should stay out of politics.

But is not the GOP the party whose adherents typically consider Hollywood celebrity Ronald Reagan among our greatest presidents?

Is it not the party of the late U.S. Sen. George Murphy, a song-and-dance man from the movies? Is it not the party of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Is it not the party of such outspoken Hollywood conservatives (past and present) as Charlton Heston, John Wayne, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Pat Sajak, Mel Gibson, Bob Hope, Gerald McRaney, Robert Stack, Fred Thompson, Doris Day, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Walter Brennan, Red Skelton, Roy Rogers, William Holden, Ginger Rogers, James Cagney, Pat Boone, Irene Dunne, Dick Clark and on and on?

Just asking.

Manzullo defies GOP orthodoxy on using "Democrat" as an adjective, inviting wrath of party's purists

Belatedly, The Rascal has found the text of Rep. Don Manzullo's remarks on the floor of the U.S. House regarding that non-binding resolution on the war in Iraq.

The brief speech is nothing special -- except for its proper use of the word Democratic as an adjective. Many of Manzullo's fellow Republicans, including President Bush, insist on ungrammatically referring to the "Democrat Party," the "Democrat agenda" and so on.

(The Rascal addressed this issue a few weeks back.)

If Manzullo's apostasy in this matter is discovered by the self-appointed guardians of Republican orthodoxy, his party loyalty likely will be questioned in some quarters.

UPDATE: Upon re-reading the text of Manzullo's statement, The Rascal noted a reference to "Iran" and "six other Arab nations." Ah, but Iran is not an Arab nation. Folks there are Persians, not Arabs.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is this is a case of cut and run?

If this sort of thing actually happens, one wonders if the war hawks -- you know, the more-patriotic-than-thou crowd -- will accuse these generals and admirals of treason.

One also wonders how many advocates of this widening of the war will volunteer for active duty. Probably not many, if our experience with the countless homefront chickenhawks during the Iraq debacle is any indicator.

Have they ever tried this in Rockford schools?

You know how kids sometimes act up in school? You'd like to give the little brats a swat, but the bleeding hearts in our society won't let you. They've got laws against that sort of thing , except maybe in some Southern states, where corporal punishment has long been a favorite pastime among teachers and parents alike.

When The Rascal went to Catholic school back in the Dark Ages, misbehavior in the fifth grade often would earn you a good beating from a certain nun who tended toward the sadistic. But it was worth the pain just to see how worked up she could get. Sometimes I'd intentionally invite a thrashing to relieve the boredom in a classroom where the only learning was self-administered. Sister wasn't much of a teacher. She just wandered about with the leg of a broken chair in her hand, looking for somebody to whack.

But I digress. What I wanted to mention here is this unique approach to dealing with misconduct they've tried at an elementary school down in Florida.

Bush isn't my commander in chief

About a week ago, The Rascal, with help from eminent historian Garry Wills, disabused the huddled masses of the notion that the three branches of the federal government are co-equal.

Well, it's time to call on the good professor again to let the proletariat know that George W. Bush is their president but not necessarily their commander in chief.

The two titles are not always interchangeable.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Onion's got Rudy down cold

This is some funny stuff on "America's mayor." What a guy!

The Rockford pledge needs reworking

The Rascal is all for local boosterism, but the online "Postively Rockford pledge" is nothing I would sign, mainly for two reasons.

The pledge, which is available at reads as follows:

"By entering your name below, you commit to being POSITIVE about ROCKFORD. This means responding positively when people ‘go negative’ on Rockford in meetings, in the press, and in the community. It also means looking at your community through the lens of hope, not despair. Encouraging our children, our leaders and our neighbors to think bigger and more optimistically about Rockford’s future. It means catching people doing things right, rather than complaining when they mess up. Go on, be POSITIVELY ROCKFORD.”

Most of that is fine, especially the parts about hope, rather than despair, and about encouraging optimism with respect to the community's future. But the part about responding positively when some folks, including the media, go negative gives me pause. So does the part about "catching people doing things right, rather than complaining when they mess up."

That last part, no matter how you parse it, is an admonition to not complain when local government or other institutions screw up. Well, include me out on that one -- and on the one that encourages casual dismissal of problems cited in the media.

Look, it's a great idea to encourage area residents to take notice of and promote the community's good points. Nor am I blind to the need for Rockford's incessant detractors to rethink their negativism (an issue addressed in this post by The Rascal). But let's not get carried away. Let's not promote a local version of the mindset among some Americans that complaints about the federal government and its current military misadventure are unpatriotic.

Frankly, this Rockford pledge smacks of a loyalty oath, one of the repugnancies of the McCarthy era.

Therefore, The Rascal offers his own pledge:

"I promise to promote Rockford's good points and defend the community against unfair criticism, whether from within or without. But this pledge should not be construed as a vow of silence in the face of local corruption, mismanagement or injustices."


Even the Wall Street Journal sees Obama's record as one of pragmatism and bipartisanship

Here's the story, which belies the notion that Obama is some kind of unswerving ideologue.

Rockford Republican Dave Syverson is among those who worked well with Obama in the Illinois Senate.

A good attack on junk statistics

The Rascal may or may not favor a ban on smoking in Illinois workplaces (I've yet to weigh all the factors), but I don't like the use of bogus stats, even in support of the side I'm backing in a political argument.

This piece does a pretty good job of challenging some dubious stats used to sell the smoking ban.

Money ruins the process

Former Iowa Gov. Tim Vilsack dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination today, a victim of the unlikelihood that he could raise tens of millions of dollars in the next few months to give him even an outside chance.

Too bad. The process has become so tainted by money that candidates like Vilsack never get an opportunity to present themselves to the American public. The playing field isn't level. This is a hell of a way to choose the next leader of the free world.

But, hey, we get what we deserve, right? And look at what we've got now: the most unpopular president in more than a generation and arguably one of the worst in American history.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Rascal takes a pass on a boycott threat

The Rascal hates the Fox News Channel as much as the next guy. Its blatant bias and its Orwellian claim to fairness and balance are appalling.

Still, there's something terribly wrong with efforts like this one by some of my fellow lefties to bring pressure on local businesses that buy ad time from cable companies on the channel that carries Fox.

If the threat of boycotts -- which is what we have here -- makes advertisers wary of being even remotely associated with political opinions expressed on radio or television, the networks and local stations, in turn, will offer us only pablum.

If you choose not to buy a car from a dealer who runs ads during local cable breaks on the channel that carries Fox, that's your business. But it's wrong, I think, for anyone to organize a campaign or otherwise put pressure on that car dealer.

You'd think my so-called liberal friends would understand this. Some, I'm sad to say, don't.

If Rockford would just knock the competition, it might be able to get rid of a negative element in the city's character

The Register Star has a story today about a consultant's recommendations on how to attract young professionals to the community and thereby improve the local economy, culture and social dynamics.

For $50,000, the booster groups that picked up the tab got a lot of ideas from the consultant, including a suggestion that the city market itself to Yuppies who have moved away from Rockford and perhaps lure some of them back.

At no charge whatever, The Rascal hereby offers some thoughts on that marketing notion.

My first suggestion: Don't follow the consultant's proposal that the campaign be dubbed "Why Rockford?" All that does is beg snide answers, even if they're inaccurate and unfair. Never ask your target market a question that isn't rhetorical (which is to say, make your question one that is posed strictly for effect and implies its own answer). Smart advertisers will ask questions like "Why pay more for less?" or "Why settle for less than blah, blah, blah?"

My second suggestion: Market aggressively by knocking the competition. Pull together all the stats that allow you to say that Rockford has more of certain good things and fewer of certain bad things than Peoria, Madison, Aurora, Naperville or specific other communities. Refer to those other locales by name. Come right out and say that Rockford has more of this or less than that than does Madison, for instance. Or say that Rockford is closer to this or that than is Aurora.

Pile these comparisons on top of one another and complement them with other favorable observations about Rockford. Change Rockford's negatives to positives with numbers that show dramatic improvements (as in "the sharpest decline" in such-and-such or "the fastest growth" in such-and-such in all of Illinois or in the Midwest or whatever).

List the community's attractions in quick succession without dwelling on any one of them. For example, note that the area has professional baseball, hockey and football teams. Emphasize that the area hosts more amateur soccer and softball tournaments than any other community in the region (if that, in fact, is the case). Crow about the number of hotel rooms and the total acreage of parks and forest preserves. Use big numbers wherever you can. Shift your comparisons around to your advantage ("in the state, "in the region," "in the Midwest," "outside of Cook County," "for any city its size in America," etc., etc.).

My third suggestion: If you're going to use video and music in your campaign, make it as slick and professional as you can. Settle for nothing less than what Madison Avenue would produce on a good day. The right kind of video can make Rockford look like the most attractive community in the Western world. Good music can raise a campaign from hokey or mundane to compelling. Don't emulate the work of ad shops or TV stations used by most local retailers. Costs? Twist arms for the money or services to achieve marketing excellence.

As for the consultant's recommendation that certain steps be taken to tamp down Rockford's notorious penchant for negativism among its populace, well...lots of luck with that. The idea of local folks signing "Positively Rockford" pledges on some Web site is, as the consultant concedes, "hokey." Pledges smack of coercion and lockstep. They go against the grain of free expression. Perhaps the negativism problem can be solved in part by exposing area residents to the marketing campaign that's otherwise aimed mainly at oursiders.

The challenge is nothing new. In a piece in The New Yorker magazine in 1976, legendary journalist Calvin Trillin wrote:

"In Rockford, there is always a lot of talk about negativism. Rockford people discuss negativism the way college students in the '50s used to discuss apathy -- as an endemic, mildly regrettable, permanent condition. Apathy is also discussed in Rockford, usually in conversations about negativism...

"When people talk about negativism in Rockford, they are talking not about some new condition brought on by standard urban problems, but about some element in the city's character that evolved from history or geography or chance -- an element that would be present in the best of times."

Well, maybe that "element in the city's character" can somehow be eradicated -- perhaps with an influx of Yuppies.

The war hits hard in the sticks, and the sticks turn against the war

In human terms, rural America is paying a big price in Iraq and understandably has turned against this awful misadventure.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Okay, let's wrap it all up

Here's a good summary of the flap over the lame-o Republican poll that purports to show a quick turnaround in public sentiment regarding the war in Iraq.

(Sorry, but The Rascal has been posting only lightly in the past day or so because of other pressing matters. A more sprightly pace will resume soon.)

Yet another update on phonus balonus poll

Even a prominent Republican pollster says the survey covered in The Rascal's two most recent posts (below) is bogus.

Update on that rat The Rascal smelled

Regarding that dubious "poll" showing Americans waxing more hawkish on the war in Iraq (see the post just below this one), the only media touting this nonsense are a few far-right bloggers and the New York Post, the trashy tabloid owned by the infamous Rupert Murdoch.

Just about everybody else, to the extent that they're mentioning the matter at all, are dismissing the "poll" as the work of a notoriously biased outfit. Check here and here and here and here.

Meanwhile, most of the major conservative outlets are shunning this "poll" like the plague. Even the Drudge Report, which broke the startling news Tuesday afternoon with big headlines, dropped the matter five hours later and hasn't mentioned it since. Drudge apparently sees it as a loser.

That odor, it seems, really did come from a rat.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Rascal smells a rat

At a little past 3 p.m. today, Rockford time, the Drudge Report excitedly posted a story about a new national poll purporting to show that the American people have suddenly turned hawkish on the war in Iraq.

Five hours later, the story strangely disappeared from Drudge's front page, which prompted The Rascal to actually do a little digging (which was not his plan for a pleasant Tuesday evening and which too closely resembles actual work). But I couldn't help wondering why Drudge suddenly got cold feet over this poll.

Let's consider several factors:

1) The poll was conducted by an outfit called Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm that's been accused in the past of doing "push polls" -- that is, surveys with questions calculated to elicit desired responses.

2) The Public Opinion Strategies poll was conducted two weeks ago, but the results are only now coming out.

3) More recent polls conducted by major independent organizations show results that are dramatically different from those reported by Public Opinion Strategies.

But, hey, don't let The Rascal's skepticism sway you. Check it out for yourself. Here's all the data from the Public Opinion Strategies poll, and here's a whole passel of results from other polls.

Some of the right-wing elements of the blogosphere -- this one, for example -- already are waxing ecstatic in light of the item on the Drudge Report, but none of the major conservative Web sites has weighed in yet.

We'll see how this all plays out. If the poll initially touted by Drudge proves bogus, The Rascal will say he told you so. If it doesn't, I'll point out that I hedged a bit in this post.

When you're as careful and cunning as The Rascal, you always come up smelling like a rose.

Reporter, heal thyself

A reporter for the St. Petersburg Times bothers the Hiccup Girl for a story on how the news media are bothering her.

Apparently, the dictionaries at the Times, if they have any, don't include the word "hypocrisy."

When Indian mascot is gone, then what?

Chief Illiniwek, the controversial Indian mascot at the University of Illinois, will dance his last at Wednesday's night's basketball game in Champaign between the Illini and Michigan.

What happens at the school thereafter will test the popular claim that the Chief was intended only to honor Native American culture, not to give offense. We'll see what other conspicuous ways the university's administrators, students and alumni can find to pay tribute to Indians after Illiniwek is gone.

If nothing significant happens, we'll be left to assume that all the talk about the Chief having been "an honorable symbol" came from forked tongues.

I'm betting that all concerned will do themselves proud, which would distinguish the university as a truly classy place.

Go Orange and Blue!

NASA is spending your money refuting a literal reading of the Book of Genesis

Our favorite general, taking up an issue addressed the other day by The Rascal, writes a funny letter to a Texas politician who's elevator seems not to go all the way to the top.

FDR and Rockford

For the past few days, much of the chatter on Rockford radio station WNTA, a news-talk outfit, has been about presidents of the United States and their relative rankings. Naturally, mention was made of Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal domestic programs.

The point could have been made that FDR virtually saved Rockford, which had been hit as hard by the Great Depression as any city in America. The story is told in part by these passages from the book "Rockford -- Big Town/Small City":

"The onset of big trouble for Rockford was indicated soon after the 1929 stock-market crash.

"In 1930, only 158 local building permits for housing were issued, less than half the number in the previous year. When the implications of that decline were felt in the workplace, the trend snowballed. In 1933, just 11 building permits were issued; the next year, only two.

"Untold thousands of people in the Rockford area lost their jobs. In the city, factory payrolls fell to barely 10 percent of the population of more than 85,000. Welfare rolls peaked in 1935 at more than 8,000 people, but many more were on relief at one time or another...

"(In the early years of Roosevelt's first term,) the Federal Civil Works Administration put hundreds of local people to work planting trees and installing new street lights at an average weekly wage of $15. When that program was replaced in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration, the city was ready with a list of road improvements, bridge and culvert construction, school repairs and flood-control projects...

"By the following spring, 4,153 people were on WPA payrolls in Winnebago County.

"In all, WPA projects in the Rockford area included: an 800-foot flood-control dam on Keith Creek; a disposal plant in Pecatonica; 44 miles of sanitary sewers and 31 miles of storm sewers; 22 miles of streets and alleys; 12 miles of curbs and gutters; 11 miles of water mains; 31 miles of sidewalks; a pedestrian underpass at Highland School; 46 other schools repaired; 200 street lights installed; and 4,500 maples trees planted and 5,000 dead trees removed."

Soon, Rockford experienced an economic comeback, and the worst of the Depression was over.

One shudders to think what would have become of Rockford and the country as a whole without FDR and the New Deal.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Good news from Mt. Hood, but........

Three stranded climbers were rescued today from Mt. Hood in Oregon, two days after five others who had encountered trouble on the same mountain were similarly saved from death.

I can imagine the great relief these adventurers and their families must feel. The same goes for members of the rescue crews and their loved ones.

But I can't help but feel that the climbers are selfish idiots to have trekked up one of the tallest mountains on the continent -- in the middle of winter, for God's sake -- with such callous disregard for the potential heartbreak for their spouses and children and those of the people who came to their rescue.

Climbing tall mountains is purely an ego trip. It does little or nothing to advance the cause of science or otherwise serve the interests of humankind. It's just a thrill. If climbers without families or friends met their demise on some forbidding slope, I would have little cause for sympathy.

Consider the odds in some of these situations. Take Mt. Everest, for instance, the tallest mountain of them all. Hundreds of people have died trying to reach the top, and an astonishing 20 percent who have made it haven't survived the trip back down.

You might say, well, they can risk their lives if they want. It's their choice. Yeah, but what of the lives of their rescuers? What of the feelings of their families?

Some critics also raise the issue of the public monies spent in rescue efforts -- by the State of Oregon in the Mt. Hood case. The hell with the money. The principal issue, as I see, is the lives of little kids who have lost moms and dads to such reckless adventure. I feel sorry for the spouses, too, but a little less so. If they allowed their husbands or wives to take such risks, they're enablers whose losses are partly their own fault.

Sure, I could be killed driving across town on slippery streets, but I take such trips usually out of necessity, or at least for convenience, not for the thrills or to build my ego.

Stop it, dammit! Stop it now!

The Rascal long ago gave up on any hope that the masses -- or even your typical conservative -- would someday learn to refrain from misuse of the plural word "media" as a singular (as in "the media is...blah, blah, blah").

My greatest disappointment in this regard is that even my fellow liberals (including liberal bloggers) tend to singularize "media," which only promotes the myth that the media constitute a monolith.

Look, there are liberal media and conservative media, serious media and silly media, mass media and specialized media, broadcast media and print media, religious media and secular media. They ain't all the same thing; therefore, it's wrong to refer to them in the singular.

One of the few acceptable uses of the term "media is" is to point out, as I'm doing here, that "media" is a plural, not a singular.

Pass the word.

Are we supporting the troops? (Part 2)

Here's the second installment of The Washington Post's series on mistreatment of wounded Iraq war vets at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. (See this from The Rascal for Part One.)

This just in: Clintons involved in the death of Marilyn Monroe nearly 45 years ago

Somebody throw a net over this guy.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Founding Fathers did NOT create a federal government with three "co-equal" branches

Among the many ample helpings of bunkum served up by lawmakers in last week's congressional debate over the war in Iraq, the one that has drawn the least criticism -- perhaps no criticism until mine -- is that the Constitution provides for three "co-equal" branches of government.

The Democrats, unfortunately, were the principal peddlers of this fiction. Their intent, of course, was to argue against any presumption that the presidency is pre-eminent, which, indeed, it is not, at least not under the Constitution.

In fact, the Founding Fathers intended for the legislative branch to be dominant, as is evidenced in the Federalist Papers and even in some of the arguments against ratification of the Constitution from people who would have preferred "co-equal" branches.

Historian Garry Wills presents a convincing case against the "co-equal" nonsense -- and against various other popular myths about the Constitution -- in his wonderful book "A Necessary Evil," which was published in 1999.

In that same year, Wills addressed the "co-equal" issue in this lecture at Harvard University. (Scroll down to pages 14 through 17 for the salient parts.)

Are we supporting the troops?

When President Bush visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washinton this past Christmas to talk with U.S. troops who had been wounded in the war in Iraq, he said of them:

"We owe them all we can give them, not only for when they're in harm's way but when they come home, to help them adjust if they have wounds or help them adjust after their time in service."

But what the troops are getting at Walter Reed is not always what we owe them. Often, it's simply abuse.

Here's the disturbing story.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Here's an interesting little piece on how a few "journalists," Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune and the increasingly irrelevant Larry King of CNN, are afraid of the blogosphere.

(Incidentally, don't miss the part near the bottom where King tells a little secret about his movie reviews.)

Friday, February 16, 2007

This is just too, too wacky

A demonstrably daffy Republican state representative in Georgia is circulating materials among similarly unhinged lawmakers in other state legislatures (including the Illinois General Assembly, according to media reports) with a cover letter arguing that evolution theory is part of a Jewish conspiracy to destroy Christianity.

Ben Bridges is the guy's name, and the stuff he's peddling includes the claim that the Earth does not revolve around the sun but rather stands still.

One of the recipients of this nonsense from Bridges is Warren Chisum, a Republican and the second-ranking legislator in the Texas state House, who was so impressed that he's distributed copies to all his fellow lawmakers.

Josh Marshall at has the story here.

The Rascal told you so

Untold millions of people scoffed at The Rascal when he declared last week that neither Rudy Giuliani nor John McCain will win the presidency next year.

How can you say that?, they asked. Giuliani and McCain are riding high in the polls in the race for the Republican nomination, they said. You know nothing of politics, they scoffed.

Well, who's scoffing now? Check these latest poll results. Mr. Straight Talk and America's Mayor are in free fall. Eventually, both of them will be out of the running.

You see, right-wingers dominate the nominating process in the Republican Party, and them folks ain't gonna nominate neither of these dudes.

Oh, you're free to doubt the political wisdom of The Rascal, but it's risky to say so publicly. More likely than not, you'll become a laughingstock.

U.S. House votes against troop surge, 246-182

Here's the story on the final vote.

Seventeen Republicans broke party ranks to support the non-binding resolution, but Don Manzullo of the 16th District in Illinois was not one of them

It's official: Chief Illiniwek is out

Here's the story from the Associated Press.

Early reaction can he found here and here and here and here and here.

We'll see lots more discussion, pro and con, in the coming hours, days and perhaps weeks.

Hail (and farewell) to the Chief!

The University of Illinois likely will announce today that school mascot Chief Illiniwek will be dumped by the end of the month.

Prepare for an explosion of negative reaction from students and alumni and lots of moaning and groaning about "political correctness."

More stuff on the guy who got booed off the stage at Rockford College

This is an interesting piece on Chris Hedges, his new book and his experience of four years ago at Rockford College.

There are also lots of links, including several to videos of the RC incident.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another thing about Lincoln and dissent against war

Amid all the hubub about Republicans using a fabricated Lincoln quote to disparage dissenters against the war in Iraq (covered in several posts below), The Rascal is ashamed at having forgotten that Old Abe himself made a famous antiwar speech while serving in Congress.

The pseudo-patriots of that time used Lincoln's speech against him, effectively driving him from Congress. But the incident demonstrates to us today that Lincoln not only was not opposed to congressional dissent against war, as has been falsely suggested by certain Republicans, but actually engaged in it.

Here's an excellent overview of the matter.

Even most regular churchgoers oppose the surge

Praise the Lord! Here are the numbers.

Steve Goodman is spinning in his grave

The suits at the Tribune Company (shares of which haven't been faring well on the stock market) have decided to vandalize Wrigley Field so as to scare up a few more bucks. They're going to sell advertising space amid the sacred ivy on the outfield walls.

The late Steve Goodman, who wrote "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" (lyrics here), must be shedding oceans of tears from his perch in the Great Beyond.

But the dipshit Cub loyalists, most of whom are callow youths who can't hold their beer, will continue to flock to the Friendly Confines and pay exorbitant prices to see their team fall short of a berth in the World Series yet again.

Screw 'em! Go Sox!

What's Don Manzullo gonna do?

The Ogle County Republican representing the 16th District of Illinois in Congress has been a solid Bush loyalist on the issue of Iraq, but one wonders if he'll break ranks and vote for the resolution against the surge -- as will this GOPer and perhaps 30 others.

Don't ask me why I have even the slightest doubt that Manzullo will toe the party line in this matter. Call it wishful thinking -- arising, perhaps, from the man's relative silence of late while so many of his Republican colleagues are running around spouting phony Lincoln quotes (see below) to impugn the patriotism of anti-surgers.

Anyway, you could contact him to tell him how you feel. Tell him The Rascal sent you.

Fictitious Lincoln quote won't die

Don Young, a Republican congressman from Alaska, is moving up in the ranks of the most simple-minded lawmakers in Washington.

A few hours ago, Young expressed disdain for congressional critics of the war in Iraq by using a bogus Lincoln quote that's been widely discredited in recent days (including in this post by The Rascal).

You'd think that one of Young's staffers would have been keen enough to steer the boss away from such potential embarrassment. Or perhaps they figure the folks back home in Alaska are dumb enough to be swayed by the phony reference to Honest Abe.

After all, those people also have elected the detestable Ted Stevens to the U.S. Senate.

Is Tim Hardaway gay?

Just asking. Oh, sure, the former NBA star says he hates homosexuals, but there are lots of vehement gay bashers who are gay themselves.

The Rev. Ted Haggard comes readily to mind. (By the way, it's utterly laughable that some of Haggard's pals on the Christian right now claim that he's been "cured" after a three-week treatment. Only the most thick-headed in the flock are going to believe that nonsense.)

Actually, Hardaway has done the gay community a huge favor. The backlash against his bigotry has been swift and widespread, even among people in sports. It's also made the pathological homophobes feel increasingly isolated, as evidenced in the comments sections at, a popular Web site among knuckledraggers.

Some stuff about God you may not know

Renowned doofus Virgil Goode, a Republican congressman from Virginia, took to the floor of the U.S. House on Thursday to opine that failure to support President Bush's military surge in Iraq could lead to America someday having the words "In Muhammed We Trust" on our money.

Which raises some interesting issues. Among these is the likelihood that Muslims would feel no inclination whatsoever to rid our currency of "In God We Trust." You see, Muslims, Jews and Christians believe in the same god (as noted in this piece).

There might be some validity to Goode's point if our money said "In Jesus We Trust," but it doesn't (nor would the Constitution allow it, because it would amount to a government endorsement of Christianity over other religions).

So, thanks a lot, Virgil. Your idiotic utterance has given The Rascal cause to educate the masses on this common belief in the god of Abraham among Christians, Jews and Muslims.

And at no extra charge, I'll pass along the counterintuitive fact that 75 percent of Arab-Americans are Christians, not Muslims.

The Rascal is always here to serve.

Flat-earthers beaten back

Gee, why don't we ever have any fun controversies like this in Rockford or anywhere else in Illinois?

Mayor Morrissey, how would you like to buy an automaker to go with your hockey team?

Daimler might want to sell all or part of its Chrysler operations.

This is a chance for the city of Rockford to diversify its holdings and expand its boundaries. It could buy the assembly plant in Belvidere and eventually annex it to Rockford.

Words to ponder

As Congress debates the war in Iraq this week, lawmakers who are inclined to cast critics of President Bush's "surge" as spineless, insufficiently patriotic or unfriendly to the U.S. military would do well to consider these words from a few distinguished Americans during the Vietnam War:

Gen. William Wallace Ford, a veteran of both world wars and a developer of Army aviation systems used in Vietnam:

"In my judgment, the war in Vietnam is wrong politically, militarily and morally. It is an immoral business, and we shouldn't be in it. We are crucifying our souls. We are pursuing a war that has no moral or political justification."

Gen. David Shoup, Medal of Honor recipient and former commandant of the Marine Corps:

"I don't think the whole of Southeast Asia, as related to the present and future safety of the people of this country, is worth the life or limb of a single American. I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of oppressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own."

Gen. Robert L. Hughes, a much-decorated here of World War II:

"We are prosecuting an immoral war. There is not a piece of real estate over there that has any particular strategic value to the United States...This is one hell of a war to be fighting. We must disengage from this tragic mess."

Gen. Hugh B. Hester, decorated veteran of both world wars and Korea:

"The so-called draft-dodgers and war protestors are not the enemies of our people, nor are they letting our boys in Vietnam down. On the contrary, they are the best friends of both. The real enemies of our people and the boys in Vietnam are those who originally plotted the war of aggression there and those who continue to promote it."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rockford blogger buys GOP B.S. about Pelosi

Phil Pash, a local blogger fond of spreading anti-Democratic stories whether they're true or not (including certain fictions about Barack Obama) is at it again. This time the target for his errant shot is Nancy Pelosi.

Says Pash: "Poor Nancy, She Wants a Bigger Plane: I see where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is complaining about the size of her airplane. Typical, isn't it, always complaining about something? Maybe she could haul out her broom and fly to California on that. All the Democratic Dames have a broom in case of emergency."

It's not enough that Pash doesn't check the facts, including the fact that Pelosi made no such complaint (the truth can be found here), but he has to throw in some sexist garbage about "dames" and "brooms." (Dames? He sounds like a character in a 1940s movie.)

Pash can at least take solace in the fact this his handling of the Pelosi story isn't much worse (except for the childish "broom" angle) than what we've seen from many of the major media.

Finally! A political candidate who admits he's a comedian

Hey, if the laughable Alan Keyes can run for the Senate here in Illinois, Al Franken can do so in Minnesota.

The difference is that Franken might ultimately be taken seriously and could win, two factors that never entered into the equation with Keyes.

By the way, Keyes will become a footnote in history if a certain somebody becomes president. He's the guy Barack Obama trounced at the ballot box to become a senator.

Remember that guy who got booed off the stage at Rockford College graduation ceremonies?

Chris Hedges is his name, and he's out with a new book on what he calls the fascists on the Religious Right.

Warning! Don't be fooled by this one!

The Rascal takes a back seat to no one in reverence for Abe Lincoln. (Hey, Rockford Rascal World Headquarters is in the Land of Lincoln, right?) And it pisses us off to no end when the Great Emancipator is exploited for nefarious purposes.

There's a first-class example of such in the latest tactic by certain evil Republicans to diss congressional critics of the war in Iraq. They're quoting Honest Abe as having once said this:

Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.

But Lincoln never said any such thing. It's the creation of some nitwit writing for Insight magazine, the Moonie rag that also hatched the utter falsehood about Barack Obama having attended a Muslim terrorism school as a boy.

Here's the full truth of the matter.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Half of the soldiers listed on that wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat from Pennsylvania and a veteran of the war in Iraq, pours out his heart today on the floor of the House:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it.

I take the floor today not as a Democrat or Republican but as an Iraq war veteran who was a Captain with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad.

I speak with a heavy heart for my fellow paratroopers Specialist Chad Keith, Specialist James Lambert and 17 other brave men who I served with who never made it home.

I rise to give voice to hundreds of thousands of patriotic Pennsylvanians and veterans across the globe who are deeply troubled by the President's call to
escalate the number of American troops in Iraq.

I served in Baghdad from June of 2003 to January of 2004. Walking in my own combat boots, I saw first hand this Administration's failed policy in Iraq.

I led convoys up and down "Ambush Alley" in a Humvee without doors -- convoys that Americans still run today because too many Iraqis are still sitting on the sidelines.

I served in al-Rashid, Baghdad which, like Philadelphia, is home to 1.5 million people. While there are 7,000 Philadelphia police officers serving like my father in
Philadelphia, protecting its citizens, there were only 3,500 of us in al-Rashid, Baghdad.

Mr. Speaker, the time for more troops was four years ago. But this President ignored military experts like General Shinseki & General Zinni, who in 2003, called for several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq.

Now, Mr. Speaker, our President again is ignoring military leaders. Patriots like General Colin Powell, like General Abizaid and members of the bi-partisan Iraq
Study Group who oppose this escalation.

But most importantly, Mr. Speaker, Congresses in the past did not stand up to the President and his policies. But today I stand with my other military veterans some who were just elected -- like Sergeant Major Tim Walz, Admiral Joe Sestak and Commander Chris Carney. We stand together to tell this Administration that we are against this escalation and that Congress will no longer give the President a blank check.

Mr. Speaker, close to my heart is a small park on the corner of 24th and Aspen streets in Philadelphia. This is the Patrick Ward Memorial Park. Patrick Ward was a door gunner in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. He was killed serving the country that he loved. He was the type of guy that neighborhoods devote street corners to and parents name their children after -- including my parents, Marge and Jack Murphy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask you -- how many more street-corner memorials are we going to have for this war? This is what the President's proposal does -- it sends more of our best and bravest to die refereeing a civil war. Just a month ago Sgt. Jae Moon from my district in Levittown, Bucks County, was killed in Iraq.

You know, a few blocks away from this great chamber, when you walk in the snow, is the Vietnam Memorial, where half of the soldiers listed on that wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.

That's why, Mr. Speaker, sending more troops into civil war is the wrong strategy. We need to win the War on Terror and reasonable people may disagree on what to do, but most will agree that it is immoral to send young Americans to fight and die in a conflict without a real strategy for success.

The President's current course is not resolute, it is reckless. That is why I will vote to send a message to our President that staying the course is no longer an option.
Mr. Speaker, its time for a new direction in Iraq.

From my time serving with the 82d Airborne Division in Iraq, it became clear that in order to succeed there, we must tell the Iraqis that we will not be there forever. Yet, three years now since I have been home, it's still Americans leading convoys up and down Ambush Alley and securing Iraqi street corners.

We must make Iraqis stand up for Iraq and set a timeline to start bringing our heroes home. That's why I am proud to be an original cosponsor, with Senator Barack Obama and fellow paratrooper Congressman Mike Thompson, of the Iraq De-Escalation Act, a moderate and responsible plan to start bringing our troops home, mandating a surge in diplomacy and refocusing our efforts on the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

Mr. Speaker, our country needs a real plan to get our troops out of Iraq, to protect our homeland and secure and refocus our efforts on capturing and killing Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. There are over 130,000 American servicemen and women serving bravely in Iraq. Unfortunately, thousands more are on the way.

Mr. Speaker, an open-ended strategy that ends in more faceless road-side bombs in Baghdad and more street-corner memorials in America, is not one that I will support.

The damned "liberal" media are at it again

This time it's Newsweek flogging a dead horse.

This one's a keeper

While foraging recently, The Rascal stopped by the Web site of The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society (which is based in Rockford) and stumbled upon the transcript of a good debate on the issue of same-sex marriage.

The participants are Howard Center President Allan Carlson and Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn. The tone is civil. Flashes of eloquence abound. And, from The Rascal's perspective, Zorn clearly gets the better of the exchange.

But don't let me prejudice your take. Read it for yourself.

Monday, February 12, 2007

This is getting pretty sad

In his futile quest for the Republican presidential nomination, this guy will do anything to curry favor with the party's flat-earthers.

Or the pace at which he's losing his senses has tragically accelerated.

Or both.

Hello! Earth to Mr. Straight Talk!

John McCain is losing his grip on reality, as this evidence indicates.


Check this photo from last Thursday's Rockford Register Star. In the background are portraits of Michael Richards (the actor who played the "Kramer" character on "Seinfeld") on the right and Adolf Hitler (mostly obscured) on the left.

Now, there's a pair for ya.

The pic accompanied a story about the 1965 Plymouth Fury, which was made at the Chrysler assembly plant in Belvidere.

How's this for heresy?

Not all Christians are creationists, as this observance will attest.

"Illinois' political future is dark blue"

That's what this guy from Roosevelt University says.

No wonder the GOP can't find anybody to run against Dick Durbin next year, as The Rascal recently noted here.

Dixie Chicks rule!

The Rascal stopped listening to Rockford country-music station WXXQ a few years ago when its parent company, Cumulus Broadcasting, banned the playing of recordings by the Dixie Chicks in a gesture of patriotism.

The suits at Cumulus wanted to ingratiate themselves with those loyal Americans who had taken umbrage at Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines' dissing of George W. Bush over his misadventure in Iraq.

The Chicks were similarly shunned by other radio chains and by yahoos across the fruited plain, as good and decent folks repaired to the politically jingoistic lyrics of Toby Keith's music to make themselves feel goosebumpy.

But at Sunday night's Grammy Awards, the Dixie Chicks walked away with five trophies and Toby Keith with none.

Which got The Rascal to wondering if the Cumulus boycott of the Chicks was still in effect. Apparently, it isn't. There was a photo of the ladies on the WXXQ web site this morning.

Cumulus prefers to go with the flow.

A couple of 198th birthdays

Abraham Lincoln was born on this date in 1809.

So was this other guy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I think I'm going to be ill

If I hear one more pseudo-patriotic American contend that the U.S. military adventure in Iraq must continue so as to prevent the chaos that surely would follow withdrawal of our troops, I'm going to wretch.

There is no logic in such an argument. There is only "double-think," as Retired Army General William E. Odom puts it in this column in The Washington Post.

Odom writes:

Undoubtedly we will leave a mess -- the mess we created, which has become worse each year we have remained. Lawmakers gravely proclaim their opposition to the war, but in the next breath express fear that quitting it will leave a blood bath, a civil war, a terrorist haven, a "failed state," or some other horror. But this "aftermath" is already upon us; a prolonged U.S. occupation cannot prevent what already exists.

Ah, but Odom's point has no appeal to the flag-wavers who insist that anything but full support for the Bush administration's ill-conceived war policy is tantamount to disloyalty to our troops.

Nonsense. Our troops don't make policy. They just follow orders. This war wasn't their idea. Continued support for a policy that only gets more of these young men and women killed or injured -- and to no good end -- is the ultimate disloyalty to them.

Of course, the rankest sort of disloyalty is exhibited by those Americans of military age who fully support this war but can't muster the courage to volunteer to serve in it themselves. Creatures of this specimen are called chickenhawks. That's what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were during the Vietnam conflict. They were supportive of that war, lest anybody question their patriotism, but not brave enough to fight in it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bush's strange sense of humor

Against the backdrop of reports that his administration is preparing for war against Iran (scroll down to earlier post, "Here's some exciting news"), President Bush finds cause to chuckle about the matter.

Consider this incident reported the other day by UPI:

At a farewell reception at Blair House for the retiring chief of protocol, Don Ensenat, who was President Bush's Yale roommate, the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine's Soroush Shehabi.

A grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers, Soroush said, "Mr. President, I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized."

"I know," President Bush answered.

"But does Vice President Cheney know?" asked Soroush.

The president chuckled and walked away.

'Republic Party' gets a little payback

In a four-minute speech the other day on the floor of the U.S. House, Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner referred 10 times to the "Republic Party" -- retribution, no doubt, for the silly penchant among GOPers to ungrammatically use the word "Democrat" as an adjective.

Here's some background on the matter from a newspaper column of a few years ago.

Barack Obama and Charles Box

(On the occasion of Barack Obama's announcement of his presidential candidacy, The Rascal's very first post on this site is republished here.)

Political junkies in the Rockford area, as much as in any other locale, should recognize that Sen. Barack Obama's African-American heritage is more likely to be a boon than a bane in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. We have the example of Charles Box as guidance in this matter.

Box, a black man, won three terms as mayor of Rockford in the '80s and '90s, the first two by massive landslides -- in a city where blacks made up only 15 percent of the population. He benefited from the same dynamic that some observers expect to help Obama in next year's presidential race.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown puts it this way: "There are more white people than ever before who would like to think they are at least fair on matters of race -- and who might be willing, even eager, to demonstrate it by voting for somebody like Obama. For them, Obama's race is a plus, not that they necessarily even think of it in those terms. I think we saw that to some extent in Obama's Senate race in Illinois. I think there was a large part of the country hoping at one point that Colin Powell would be the one who gave them the chance to prove it."

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn concurs. He writes: "Black voters will turn out in huge numbers for Obama, no doubt. But, as others have noted, many white Americans are eager to demonstrate to themselves and to the world that we are evolved enough to elect a president of African-American heritage. Their number will dwarf the number of wild-eyed racists who'll vote only for whites."

That's what happened with Charles Box in Rockford in 1989. The city had never before had even a black candidate for mayor, and at least one seasoned observer of the local political scene -- State Rep. Zeke Giorgi, the reigning Democratic poohbah of 25 years standing at the time -- figured the electorate was not yet ready for a person of color in that post.

Said Giorgi: "You're not going to take away the built-in hang-ups that people have when they go into the polling place. If they're bigots, they're going to vote that way...I'd like to say it was possible for him (Box) to be elected, but knowing Rockford as I do, I don't think the numbers are there...(Rockford) is too racist to elect a black mayor, even if he was qualified...So help me, I've heard a lot of people bring that up."

Even after Box won the Democratic primary by a wide margin over two well-known opponents, Giorgi clung to the theory that the general election would be different. But the only thing different about it was that Box's margin of victory over Republican Len LaPasso was even wider. He carried all 14 wards and prevailed by more than 10,000 votes.

Box later said that his campaign had strategized from the outset to allay the notion that a black candidate had no chance. The method was the planting of yards signs in white neighborhoods -- 2,500 of them -- quickly creating a widespread perception of Box's candidacy as far more formidable than Giorgi had anticipated.

When white folks saw Box's campaign signs on their neighbors' lawns, they knew it was all right to jump on the bandwagon. Indeed, many of them seemed eager to demonstrate that a new day in local race relations had dawned.

We shouldn't be surprised if similar attitudes among white Americans give Barack Obama a big boost in his quest for the White House.

Don't bet the farm yet on any presidential candidate, but there are a few you can count out

Barack Obama's announcement today of his presidential candidacy naturally raises the question of whether he can win, the answer to which is yes. He can win, but that doesn't mean he will.

One big gaffe on Obama's part and he's toast. The same can be said of Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or anybody else in either party who emerges as a front-runner.

As The Rascal sees it, it's too early to bet for any candidate, but not too early to bet against more than a few (for various reasons).

My money says you can already write off the following announced or potential candidates (in no particular order): Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Rudy Giuliani, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Dennis Kucinich, George Pataki and --remember where you heard it -- John McCain.

That leaves a passel of relatively strong contenders and comparative longshots, including (in addition to Clinton, Edwards and Obama) Sam Brownback, Bill Richardson, Tom Vilsack, Tommy Thompson, Mike Huckabee, Chuck Hagel, Al Gore and probably a few other people I'm forgetting.

The best bet now -- mainly because you probably can get some takers -- is against McCain. Mr. Straight Talk, my ass! I can't understand why so many moderate-liberals like this guy. But it doesn't matter. The Republican right-wing won't let him get the GOP nomination.

The King is dead

Eddie Feigner, the softball pitching wizard whose incomparable act the Rascal saw on several occasions as a boy, has died at age 81.

Here's some exciting news

The Guardian reports today that preparations for a U.S. war against Iran "are at an advanced stage."

Kind of gives you patriotic goosebumps, doesn't it?

But, alas, the cowards in Congress, including most Republicans, are said to be opposed to this glorious adventure. The spoilsports.

Says the Guardian:

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The State Department and the Pentagon are opposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans.

Here's the full story.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Can Obama endure the slings and arrows?

The New York Times is out tonight with a piece about the end of Obama-mania.

This would only confuse the Freeper-types for whom it's an article of faith that The Times would invariably write of Obama's candidacy with unswerving fealty -- if Freepers actually ever read The Times. (Most of them, I suspect, can't read a stop sign without moving their lips.)

Check the comments at the bottom of the Times' piece, especially those expressing suspicions that the paper is doing Hillary Clinton's bidding.

Don't forget what our kids in Iraq are dying for

The next time somebody from the Rock River Valley comes home from Iraq in a flag-draped box or with a limb or two missing, remember that falsehoods like these were used by the Bush administration to convince the gullible among us that Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaida and thus was involved in the attacks of 9/11.

Remember, too, that many of the Republicans who impeached Bill Clinton for lying about having consensual sex in the Oval Office with somebody other than his wife can't seem to get upset about the lies of their buddies in the White House that have led to the deaths of thousands of young Americans.

Where is their patriotism? How do they face themselves in the mirror? Have they no shame?

Rockford TV newscast touts worthless "poll"

On its 10 p.m. newscast Thursday night, WIFR-TV reported the results of a worthless poll it conducted on its Web site earlier in the day on the matter of the drunken-driving arrest of Rockford City Administrator Jim Ryan.

The poll asked what kind of administrative sanctions the city should impose on Ryan if he's convicted: the loss of his job, a suspension, a requirement to perform special public service, or a pass on the grounds that his "embarrassment is enough."

A plurality of poll respondents favored firing Ryan. But that doesn't mean the results would be the same if public opinion had been measured in a survey conducted by acceptable scientific methods.

The proliferation of news media Web sites has spawned an epidemic of such worthless polls. Oh, they're innocuous enough when the questions are as trivial as whether respondents like or dislike the harsh winter weather. But when the poll poses questions on serious matters or public policy, the exercise is irresponsible. And then, when the results are reported in an on-air newscast, the irresponsibility is only heightened.

A disclaimer that the poll is "unscientific" (or, as WIFR notes in fine print on its Web site: "The opinions expressed in this poll do not necessarily represent the collective views of the community.") doesn't absolve the survey's sponsor of irresponsibility. When numeric values from an unscientific poll are reported as news, the public has been ill-served.

In a poll conducted this morning by The Rascal, 100 percent of respondents said WIFR should be ashamed of itself.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Anna Nicole Who?

The death of Anna Nicole Smith -- a tragedy, of course, given her tender age of 39 -- is interesting mainly because of what she was and wasn't and how the mainstream media have reacted to her passing.

The nightly network newscasts seemed almost embarrassed to give Smith's demise prominent play. After all, Smith was, as ABC put it, a woman of no significant achievements. She was, as NBC noted, only "famous for being famous." CBS called her a model and actor, which is a stretch on both counts.

What was she? She was a small-time stripper who lucked into marriage to a rich and addled geezer who promptly died, leaving her a pile of money, which occasioned a court fight with the old dude's other relatives. She also appeared in the altogether in the pages of Playboy for the masturbatory pleasure of that faded mag's readers. Beyond those negligible feats, whatever qualities she possessed were known only to those close to her. To the world, she was a cartoon who captured wide public attention for reasons one is hard-pressed to pinpoint or explain.

Smith has been likened in some quarters to Marilyn Monroe, a comparison not completely without merit. Monroe became a Hollywood star of iconic proportions, though she couldn't act, sing or dance and talked like a dope. And like Anna Nicole, Marilyn was a bottle-blonde with ample bosoms. Oh, and both women died suddenly before they reached the age of 40.

The legacy of Anna Nicole Smith will amount mostly to ponderous analyses of why she was so famous and what her fame says about the millions of people who bothered to pay any attention to her. The lives of those people, like hers, seem somehow tragic.

The right-wing version of PC is called CC

This guy explains it all.

Obama frenzy blankets Springfield

Journalists from around the world are beating a path to the Land of Lincoln for Obama's big announcement.

Is there no end to Pat Robertson's idiocies?

One of the Republican Party's principal pipelines to God tells us about plastic surgery and eyes.

Further thoughts on flap at Forreston High

Educators at Forreston High School in Ogle County would do well to use the controversy over kids wearing symbols of the Confederacy (see below) to teach a few truths about the Civil War.

The first thing students should be taught is that the central issue of the conflict was slavery, at least from the South's viewpoint. Historical revisionists sympathetic to the Confederate cause are inclined to dispute this fact, mainly out of embarrassment, but they're mistaken.

Absent slavery in the South, there would have been no war, no matter the preposterous claims by neo-Confederates to the contrary. Hence, the sporting of Confederate symbols in the 21st century does not honor any noble heritage.

It doesn't matter that Confederate soldiers fought bravely. So did Hitler's troops in World War II. The fact remains that in both cases, the warriors fought on the side of evil institutions.

Teachers at Forreston and at other schools in the region have been presented a golden opportunity to impart a few valuable lessons about American history. If they don't seize it, they're in the wrong profession.

Another stupidity at U of I

First it's Chief Illiniwek, and now this.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

What's next at Forreston High School? Swastikas?

Redneck students at the Ogle County school show their colors.

Should Illinois rush to mandate inoculations against cervical cancer?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's executive order has raised questions among doctors.

And now the Illinois General Assembly will debate a proposal to emulate Perry's mandate.

By the way, cervical cancer, like all cancers, is not contagious.

On the other hand...

The Rascal made reference the other day to Rudy Giuliani's heroic stature in some people's minds because of his actions in the wake of 9/11.

Here's a different take on the matter.

Perhaps Rudy should resist the urge to run for president, lest the ensuing scrutiny mar his image.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Speaking of violence...

Did you see the Super Bowl commercial in which two mechanics accidentally kiss while eating the same Snickers bar from opposite ends?

A violent alternate version of the ad can be seen here.

Will Rockford hockey fans settle for fewer fights?

This guy in Davenport is skeptical about Rockford's hockey deal and says local fans might not appreciate the American Hockey League's tendency toward less thuggery on the ice.

Geez! Is that what they go to those games to see? And the city wants to market such bloodlust?

The Rascal hasn't paid much attention to the controversy over this deal, but he's going to follow it more closely now that he sees that the success or failure of the venture might pivot on the extent of the violence.

What decadence!

By the way, the Rascal also can't understand why State's Attorney Paul Logli doesn't prosecute hockey players who engage in fights.

Fighting is against the rules in hockey, isn't it? And fighting is illegal if it happens in a saloon or on a street corner, right? So, why isn't fighting on the MetroCentre ice a prosecutable offense? If a couple of spectators in the arena start throwing punches, they'll get busted, won't they? Well then, so should the cretins wearing hockey uniforms.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Global Warming? What Global Warming? (Part 2)

A new poll shows that congressional GOPers (much to the delight of their industrial sponsors) are disinclined to believe the theories on global warming advanced by most of the scientific community.

They probably also believe that dinosaurs and humans once co-existed, which is what students in some religious schools are taught.

Rudy's ready to run, but the dimwitted Republican rank-and-file eventually will learn the truth about him

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who's a hero in some people's eyes because of his fearless trek into Ground Zero territory on 9/11, made a move today toward launching a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Polls show Rudy running neck-and-neck with John McCain for the GOP nod, but there's also evidence that most Republicans are blithely oblivious of Giuliani's past and his views on the issues.

Here's a guy who's pro-choice on abortion, who's been married three times, who favors gay rights and who embraces god-knows what other positions that won't sit well with your average right-wing nutcase.

He's going to get laughed out of the race before Labor Day. Remember where you heard it. (Actually, if you've been paying any attention, you've heard it from lots of other observers.)

Super Bore

Super Bowl LXI was a bore, and not just because the Colts beat the Bears.

The weeks-long pre-game hype was excessive. The rain made the game a fumblefest. The commercials were godawful. The announcers weren't much better. Yeah, the halftime show with Prince was okay, but not this good.

The best that can be said about the whole affair is that we now have until autumn before we have to endure again the odd penchant among people associated with this sport (coaches, players, broadcasters and others) to use the word "football" six times in every sentence ("football game," "football player," "football field," "football," "football," "football)."

What's that all about? Baseball people can discuss their sport at length without using the word "baseball" more than once, if at all.

Today is an important anniversary

Do you remember how Colin Powell ruined his reputation by selling a pack of lies to the United Nations four years ago today?

Atrios does. He also remembers the bullshit with which certain prominent folks reacted to Powell's bullshit.

"Ask anyone from Rockford."

That's what this guy says about whether Illinois Senate President Emil Jones gives a damn "when others whine about him."

The context has to do with Jones pushing the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Bradley U. has no mascot; U of I has no class

Well, at least folks at the Peoria school don't deny that the issue is about a mascot. The same cannot be said of certain supporters of Chief Illiniwek at the University of Illinois, who contend that their mascot is not a mascot, but rather a "symbol."

Bullshit. Don't they have a dictionary at the U of I? The Rascal's copy of Webster's Ninth New Collegiate defines "mascot" as "a person, animal or object adopted by a group as a symbolic figure." That fits Illiniwek to a T.

Denying that the Chief is a mascot is the intellectual equivalent of denying that the Civil War was about slavery, which is what neo-Confederates are wont to do out of embarrassment over the truth of the matter.

If Chief Illinwek is "an honored symbol," as his defenders argue, how come you can get toilet paper bearing his likeness?

Friday, February 2, 2007

Global warming? What global warming?

No matter that the experts are in agreement about global warming, right-wing flat-earthers like this guy could be up to their chins in water from melted ice caps and still not agree with those "liberal" environmentalists on this matter.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Gore, Limbaugh nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, a coincidence that gives left and right alike plenty of red meat

Environmentalist and former Vice President Al Gore has been nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. So has radio blowhard and prominent prevaricator Rush Limbaugh.

The mouthbreathers who consider Limbaugh a font of wisdom will argue that their guy surpasses Gore as Nobel timber. Those of us who walk upright will take the opposite view. In the end, the prize likely will go to somebody else, probably a non-American.

But if Gore is somehow the choice of the prize committee (Limbaugh has as much chance as I do, perhaps even less), the dittoheads and their ilk will dismiss the outcome as the devious work of godless European leftists. They'll also mistakenly assume that Limbaugh finished second.

The Landmark Legal Foundation's formal nomination of Limbaugh lauds him for his "tireless efforts to promote liberty, equality and opportunity for all humankind, regardless of race, creed, economic stratum or national origin."

Reads like satire, doesn't it?

Gore was nominated for his environmental work by Boerge Brende, a Conservative Party member of the Norwegian Parliament and a former minister of environment and trade.

Said Brende: "A prerequisite for winning the Nobel Peace Prize is making a difference, and Al Gore has made a difference...Al Gore, like no other, has put climate change on the agenda. Gore uses his position to get politicians to understand."

Gore's documentary film on global warming "An Inconvenient Truth," has been nominated for an Oscar.

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize usually is announced in October, and the presentation ceremonies are held on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.