Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sign of the times

I saw a guy in his driveway yesterday peeling a "Bush/Cheney 04" bumper sticker off the back of his SUV, and I almost was tempted to stop and ask if this was a sign of a rat leaving a sinking ship. But I thought better of it.

I don't expect that the erstwhile Bush loyalists who only now are giving up on him are in good humor these days. They probably have felt isolated and politically out of touch with the American mainstream over these recent days and months.

And the situation for Bush is only getting worse. The latest CBS poll has his approval rating at an all-time low and shows that a solid majority of Americans want to see a reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq or a complete withdrawal. The results are much the same in all the other polls, even the one sponsored by Fox News, the pro-Bush channel.

Bush's only hope for even a little political gain in the near future rests on the chance that some folks might begin to feel sorry for him. But there's not likely to be much of even that.

It's Saturday morning cartoon time!

Let's go over to Uncle Bob Geiger's place, kids, and check out his weekly collection of political cartoons.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Uh-oh! They say The Rascal's a naughty boy

I went over to this Web site (H/T to What's Left in the Church) to get a decency rating on my blog, and they gave me this NC-17 thing.

It's unfair, I tell you. I've never dropped an F-bomb or said anything really obscene or profane. Okay, there's been the occasional S-word and B-S word and A-hole-word. But c'mon! I'm not running a Sunday school here.

Well, hell. If they're gonna rate me NC-17, I might as well let loose. Just you wait!

Run for your lives!

Scientists have discovered mysterious clouds (pictured above) creeping out of the Arctic and threatening us with who-knows-what.

The Rascal, ordinarily a brave sort, is scared witless and hereby repents all his sins (but doesn't necessarily vow to commit no more of them, especially if this cloud thing blows over).

Chi Trib spotlights The Rascal's hometown

Today's edition of the Chicago Tribune has a feature piece on the revival of pretzels in Freeport, Ill., which calls itself Pretzel City USA (and which is less noted as the birthplace of The Rascal).

Actually, Freeport's greatest claim to fame is as the site of the second and historically most important of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Which raises the question of whether the town is preparing anything special for next year's 150th anniversary of that debate.

Obama says ixnay on impeachment, but he wouldn't have a vote on the matter anyway

Barack Obama said Thursday that he's against any move to impeach either George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, despite their administration's "loose ethical standards...secrecy and incompetence."

Obama added that he thinks "you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president's authority. I believe if we began impeachment proceedings, we will be engulfed in more of the politics that has made Washington dysfunctional. We would once again, rather than attending to the people's business, be engaged in a tit-for-tat, back-and-forth, non-stop circus."

The Rascal, too, has been reluctant to advocate impeachment of Bush, at least thus far, but I'm not so sure about Cheney. And I think cases can be made -- indeed, several officially have been made -- for frog-marching some administration officials off to the pokey.

But let's not forget that Obama, as a senator, would have no formal say in whether Bush or Cheney are impeached. Impeachment is a matter to be decided only by the House of Representatives. Senators decide only whether to convict a person who's been impeached.

Bill Clinton, you'll recall, was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.

POSTSCRIPT: Impeached or not, Bush finds himself in deep doo-doo, as noted here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Well, there goes the dog-lover vote

The Rascal ordinarily doesn't make a big deal about certain non-political matters on the presidential campaign trail -- you know, stuff like $400 haircuts and such.

But this one's a worthy exception. This one has the potential to strike an emotional chord with animal lovers in general and dog lovers in particular.

And what with me being Irish and all, I feel a strong ethnic tie to this story.

UPDATE (Friday, June 29): More fallout from this story here.

Just another biased poll from the liberal media

No, wait! It's a Fox News poll. Can this be?

Wow! This, too, is from the Fox poll.

Isn't it strange how there's nothing about this on the Drudge Report? But then, Drudge often prefers bogus polls to the real thing, as we've noted here and here (the links on this latter one, by the way, now lead only to dry holes or irrelevant materials; the embarrassed offenders apparently have long since taken down the bad stuff).

Is this guy whipped or what?

President Bush seemed disturbingly stunned and breathless today in responding to the death of immigration-reform legislation in the Senate.

(H/T to Talking Points Memo.)

I knew this would happen

The Rascal, prescient as usual, had nothing to say the other day when the rest of the political world was all atwitter over Republican Sen. Richard Lugar's celebrated about-face on the issue of the war in Iraq.
My take on the matter was that Lugar, who's ordinarily no more given to political boldness than Dick Cheney is to serious constitutional scholarship, would back away from his apostasy once he found a horse's head in his bed courtesy of his party's henchmen.

Well, the head apparently has been delivered, and Lugar has backed off a bit. No matter his rhetoric on the Senate floor this past Monday, he now says he shan't be voting for any deadlines or any other such Democratic notions on how to end the conflict.

Still, the man's unbosoming of his doubts about the wisdom of staying the course in Iraq has served the salutary purpose of gaining headlines and advancing the perception that Republicans are becoming ever more unsettled about this stupid war.

So, thanks for that, Senator, if nothing else.

Rockford-area GOPer joins Obama lovefest

First it was Illinois State Sen. Kirk Dillard who raised eyebrows among his fellow Republicans by appearing in a TV commercial for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
Now we're getting comments from Republican State Sen. Todd Sieben, whose district lies just west of Rockford, about how Obama "has the intelligence, he has the passion, he has the legislative and now congressional experience as a senator to do the job" as president.

Sieben goes so far as to say that Obama has what it takes to rank historically with the other three presidents with connections to Illinois -- Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Ronald Reagan.

"I think he has that potential," says Sieben.

Oh, my!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The three (or four) branches of the federal government are not co-equal

The hubub of late over Vice President Dick Cheney's notion that he's a separate branch of government unto himself has given rise to lots of talk about the "co-equal" status of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

You'll hear no such nonsense from The Rascal. No, I'm not taking Cheney's side in this matter. I, too, consider his posturing ridiculous. My disagreement, however, doesn't rest on any of this fiction about "co-equal" branches of government.

Four months ago, I noted here that the Founding Fathers did not create a system of co-equal branches of government. Rather, they 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.

You'd think that my admonition in this regard would have settled the matter among all concerned. But, alas, too many people have not paid sufficient attention to me, which is not only personally galling but also deleterious to the cause of domestic tranquility in our great nation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Global-warming skeptics get suckered

It's amazing what some people will seize upon in the debate over global warming.

Take, for instance, something that happened today:

The Drudge Report posted a link this morning under the headline: "Survey finds 71 % of people believe global warming 'natural occurence.'" In a flash, global-warming skeptics across the fruited plain clicked on the link and nearly soiled themselves in delight at the story they found on a British Web site.

Wow! Not only did 71 percent of respondents say that global warming is just natural stuff and isn't caused by humans, but 65 percent said the scare stories about the big environmental risks facing us are "far-fetched."

Glory be! The tide, it seems, has turned. People are waking up to the lies about global warming spread by those terrible liberals and that awful Al Gore and all those pointy-headed scientists.

The bloggers among the global-warming doubters who followed Drudge's link to this story began banging on their keyboards with great glee so as to spread the word. A guy named Kevin Tracy was one of them. A guy named Fritz Hereid was another. A guy named Tony Spain happily intrepreted the poll results as applying to people in general, not just the Brits.

In the next few days, word of this earth-shaking poll is likely to spread from sea to shining sea and far beyond.

But wait! There' little problem. That survey of 4,000 people was conducted online. That means the respondents were self-selected. And that means the poll was worthless. You see, any poll that isn't conducted by time-tested scientific methods is ipso facto pure crapola, if you know what I mean.

Okay then, let's look at what the scientifically reliable polls are saying about global warming and how people feel about it. Well, gee, what a surprise! The results are completely different from those of the bogus poll touted on the Drudge Report. They show that clear majorities see global warming as a real problem and think it's been caused mostly by humans and want the government to do something about it.

Of course, these respectable polls only cover Americans. That other poll, the crappy one, apparently covers just British folks (although the story isn't really clear on that point). But then, it doesn't matter who's covered by the crappy poll. After all, crappy is crappy, right?

By the way, Kevin and Fritz and Tony might want to post corrections on their blogs. The Rascal will check back after a while to see if they've done so.

UPDATE: Peddlers of the bogus poll are multiplying like rabbits throughout the blogosphere -- here and here and here and here and here and here.

UPDATE II: The online poll at issue can be found here. Not only is it unscientific, but it's also skewed by skeptical statements about global warming.

UPDATE III: By the way, in a Harris poll earlier this year, global warming was blamed on governments, industries and people in general by 55 percent of British respondents, 61 percent of Spanish, 56 percent of French, 54 percent of Germans and Italians and 59 percent of Americans.

Would this roil the Republican Party or what?

Sally Quinn writes this in today's Washington Post about rumors that Dick Cheney will be ousted from the vice presidency on a health-issue pretext and replaced by actor-presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

How's that going to sit with Romney, Giuliani, McCain and the others vieing for the GOP presidential nod? Not well, I would think.

Illinois GOPer appears in Obama ad

Republican State Senator Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale is probably going to get a lot of grief from his party mates over his appearance in this TV commercial for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

UPDATE: Dillard's been saying nice things about Obama all over the place.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The 100 best movies?

Random notes on the American Film Institute's 10th anniversary list of the 100 best movies:

The first thing to understand here is that "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" wasn't even among the 400 nominated movies from which the top 100 were selected. Consequently, the entire exercise is bogus.

"Singing in the Rain," at No. 5, is way overrated. Without the great title-song scene, the film wouldn't even belong on the list.

"Vertigo," ranked No. 9, is one of Alfred Hitchcock's worst films. "I Confess," in which Montgomery Clift plays a priest and Karl Malden a cop, is far, far better. But, like "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," it wasn't on the list of 400 nominees.

"Some Like it Hot," No. 22, is the most overrated comedy ever made.

"Easy Rider," No. 84, was considered hip when it came out (and then, only if you were stoned when you saw it). Today, it's embarrassing. It's noteworthy only for the breakthrough performance by Jack Nicholson.

"Blade Runner," No. 97, doesn't deserve to be in the top 1,000 films, let alone the top 100.

Besides "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and "I Confess," here are a few other glaring omissions (randomly selected and any one of which was better than a dozen or more of the flicks that made the top 100 list):

"The Adventures of Robin Hood," "Stalag 17," "Bambi," "My Man Godfrey," "Dr. Zhivago," "Evita," "Sense and Sensibility," "Reds," "Five Easy Pieces," "The Right Stuff," "Paths of Glory," "How Green Was My Valley," "Gentlemen's Agreement." I could name scores more.

But, hey, it's all subjective. And as pianist Arthur Rubinstein once said, "Nothing in art is the best."

McCain slanders The Rascal; lawyers alerted

On several occasions in recent months, The Rascal has predicted that John McCain eventually will drop his hopeless bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and I still think he will.

But McCain struck back today, declaring that anybody who dares suggest that he'll quit the campaign has been "smoking something stronger than is legal..."

Well, I'm not going to take that kind of slander lying down. No, sir. The Arizona senator's rhetoric in this matter is outrageous, and he's going to be held to account for it.

If McCain has evidence that I've written disparaging things about him while under the influence of anything stronger than V-8, I'd like to see it. So would the countless admirers of this blog who visit here regularly for a political-wisdom fix (if I might use that drug-culture term in this context).

I'm currently conferring with lawyers from the firm of Dewey, Cheatham & Howe (whose clients have included Johnny Carson and the Marx Brothers), and we're contemplating legal action. You haven't heard the last of this.

Newcomer to Rascal's Favorites

The wits at Comedy Central, those wonderful folks who bring you the brilliant political slants of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on cable TV, have come up with a new political Web site, Indecision 2008.

The site promises: "Something approximating election news with something approximating honesty."

That's good enough for us.

You'll find a link to Indecision 2008 among Rascal's Favorites on the right-hand side of our own award-winning and widely-esteemed blog.

Be afraid, be very afraid

A Newsweek magazine poll of Americans about current events, history and cultural literacy has produced what the magazine calls "pretty disheartening results."

That's putting it mildly.

Forty-one percent of respondents think that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq was "directly involved" in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, despite a complete lack of evidence that it was involved in any way -- and despite countless media reports on the matter. (By the way, it's already been established that regular viewers of Fox News Channel are more likely than the rest of us to believe such nonsense.)

Most Americans also don't know that most of the 9/11 hijackers were natives of Saudi Arabia or that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president;

There are more people who can correctly identify last season's winner on "American Idol" than can name the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

POSTCRIPT: Actually, some of the questions in the Newsweek poll were kind of dumb to begin with. The magazine could have done a much better job of measuring the cluelessness of the American people.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cartoon time for boys and girls, moms and dads

It's time to visit Uncle Bob Geiger for the weekly showing of his collection of political cartoons.

Fighting over the flag, not just for it

The principal drawback of Americans' reverence for their nation's flag is that people are forever competing among one another over who has greater respect for Old Glory.

It's like a contest. My goosebumps at the sight of the flag are bigger than yours. No, mine are. Look at that hippie; I'll bet he has no goosebumps at all. Let's beat him up.

And every once a while, you'll hear of a case in which somebody will demonstrate that he's more patriotic than thou by hoisting in his yard a flag the size of Yellowstone Park, and then the neighbors will complain that they can't sleep at night for the noise, and then the matter will end up in the City Council or in court. Ah, America!

A few weeks back, The Rascal was driving past some building here in Rockford and noticed that the flag in front of the place was at half-staff -- but for no reason I could figure.

Perhaps it had something to do with one of the matters covered in this article today in The New York Times. The piece also deals with differing views -- again, competitive patriotism, in a sense -- over just when the flag should be flown at half-staff.

If we ever again come to civil war in this country, close quarters combat probably will involve fighting one another with flag staffs.

POSTCRIPT: Some contractor in Pennsylvania has been caught illegally outsourcing the manufacture of flag patches for U.S. military uniforms. He gets them from Thailand.

At least one patriot likens the offense to flag-burning. But, of course, the violation involves a law intended to promote American businesses. The law has nothing to do with respect for the flag. Lots of Americans fly American flags that were made elsewhere, even if only unknowingly.

(H/T to AmericaBlog)

Friday, June 22, 2007

What about us middleborns?

The Rockford Rascal is the middlest of Ma and Pa Rascal's five children and as such finds himself in sympathy with the question raised by Kevin Drum.

Will this flick be shown in Rockford?

I doubt it.

The trailer suggests that the movie is a doozie, but don't expect it to play at ShowPlace 16 or ShowPlace 14.

If Kerasotes proves me wrong, I'll buy the big tub of their popcorn (if the bank loan for it comes through).

Letter to RRStar deftly rebutted

I was going to perform one of my legendary smackdowns on this ill-informed letter in today's Rockford Register Star (the author of which, by the way, is a personal acquaintance), but I see that I've been beaten to the punch.

The StoryChat comments on the paper's Web site have sufficed to put the poor fellow in his place. (Click on the "view all" line at the top of the StoryChat section to the left of the letter for a full helping of the comments, conveniently arranged in chronological order.)

I don't even have to bother countering the letter's preposterous claim that no one knows for sure whether Valerie Plame was a covert agent for the CIA. As one of the commenters has noted, the agency's director knows for sure that Plame was covert and has publicly declared so.

Nor is there any need for me to chide the writer for daring to compare Bill Clinton's falsehoods about consensual sex with an intern in the White House with Scooter Libby's far more egregious lies about a matter relating to national security.

There was a time when ridiculous letters like the one in this case would go unanswered unless someone bothered to write a response, which wouldn't get published at least for a few days (and then without benefit of the entire text of the first letter appearing with it). The paper's Web site has changed all that. Now, the drivel often is countered within hours.

This is ridiculous!

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose shortcomings were lamented yesterday in the post just below this one, has now distinguished himself as grossly undemocratic.

Yes, his veto of legislation that would have speeded up collection of a higher sales tax to pay for Rockford road repairs only delays the process by six months. But his stated rationale presumes to substitute his judgement for that of the local electorate.

In an April referendum, Rockford voters approved the sales-tax increase in question by a landslide margin. But Blago, in defiance of the overwhelming will of the voters, said this today:

"Sales taxes are regressive and disproportionately impact consumers regardless of ability to pay. There are other methods of revenue enhancement that provide for the same worthwhile objective of infrastructure investment that are not regressive."
But, Governor, the voters said they wanted the sales-tax hike for that infrastructure investment. They're the ones (along with visitors to the city who make certain purchases here and avail themselves of said infrastructure) who will be paying those higher sales taxes. Who the hell are you to say they made the wrong choice? Nobody elected you to make such decisions on local taxation.

What an arrogant man!

POSTSCRIPT: Let's not have it said that Blago's veto was justifiable on grounds that the referendum allowed only for the tax hike to take effect in January. The governor's statement in favor of the veto had nothing to do with the timing. Rather, he said he's just flatly against a sales-tax for infrastructure improvements, no matter that voters took the opposite view.

Moreover, the local electorate's representatives in the General Assembly pushed the legislation that would have moved up the effective date of the tax increase, and they persuaded a majority of their colleagues to vote for it.

Blago was way out of line on this one.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

George Ryan, come back! All is forgiven!

We're stuck with this other guy for another three-and-a-half years, right?

Where's Judy Barr Topinka? Is it too late for a recount?

Hey, maybe Obama will appoint this guy ambassador to some island nation nobody's ever heard of. But, Jeez, it'll be another 19 months before Obama's in the White House. That's a long time to endure Blago, who's only getting worse by the day.

Is there an Elvis angle available? The guy's an Elvis nut. How about offering him a permanent gig at some lounge in Vegas?

Come on, people. Help me here.

Not everything is proportional

Speaking of Michael Bloomberg, as so many people are these days, there's an interesting (to me anyway) comparison to be made between his town and The Rascal's.

Bloomberg spent about $75 million in his successful campaign for re-election as mayor of New York City. Lest anyone figure that Larry Morrissey spent a proportional amount to become mayor of Rockford, I'm here to tell you otherwise.

The Big Apple is about 54 times larger in population than the Not So Big Rockford. Hence, if Morrissey had spent as much per capita as Bloomberg did to get elected, he would have doled out about $1.3 million. But, of course, he didn't. He spent less than one-third that much.

The moral of the story is that while Rockford has a lot of the same problems as New York City, but only in microcosm, it costs proportionately far less in our town to become the person chiefly responsible for tackling those problems.

Now you know.

POSTSCRIPT: While New York City, as noted, is 54 times larger than Rockford in population, it's only seven times larger in area. That means, of course, that population density in New York is nine times greater.

Where else are you gonna learn this stuff?

This is almost funny

A guy writes a letter to the Rockford Register Star accusing our local prosecutor of being crooked (while offering not a hint of evidence), and then the paper's Web site posts a comment from a reader in which we learn that the letter writer has an arrest record, which perhaps explains the guy's disdain for the prosecutor.

In the Internet age, a person with a shady background should be careful about whom he publicly disparages.

Only "good Americans" need apply

Where do they get fascists like this? Here's a guy whom the Bush administration appointed as a federal prosecutor (without Senate approval, under terms of the so-called Patriot Act) despite the fact that he had no experience prosecuting even a jaywalking offense.

Ah, but he's an ideologue.

No wonder morale is so low among career staffers in the Justice Department.

Fie on U.S. News' college rankings

It's about time that educators and the media blew the whistle on the annual ranking of American colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report.

This bogus exercise reminds me of Money magazine's phonus balonus ranking of American cities in terms of "livability." Rockford, beloved home of The Rascal, always ranked low in these worthless assessments.

I think Money has dropped the annual feature, perhaps in the face of criticism from academics. The weakness of the magazine's effort was demonstrated by the wild swings in the year-to-year rankings of some cities.

For example, St. Louis was ranked 40th among 300 cities in 1993. The following year, it fell to 208th (as if the Gateway Arch suddenly had been found to be carcinogenic). Similarly, Kenosha plummeted from a ranking of 25th one year to 261st the next. Come on.

The mainstream media have been to blame for the popularization of dubious rankings of this or that by various magazines and organizations. Wire services, newspapers and broadcast outlets, without any examination of the methodology, eagerly parrot such crapola as the annual list of America's fattest cities as determined by Men's Fitness magazine.

Indeed, as I've argued for years, the poor performances by some media companies -- Gannett, to name just one -- in dealing with polls and surveys belie any solemn claims they make about dedication to accuracy.

Abba cadabra

This video is exceedingly clever.

The music, of course, is great. And the lyrics uncannily suit the images.

Don't pass by this one.

(H/T to firedoglake.)

Rudy's had a bad week

Dependable Renegade surveys the damage.

As I was saying...

The Rascal made the point yesterday that it's hypocritical of President Bush to oppose federal funding of embyronic stem-cell research on moral grounds while he doesn't advocate an outright ban of the practice.

Steve Benen over at Crooks and Liars pursues that same point, noting that White House spokesman Tony Snow even brags that the very existence of privately-funded stem-cell research is "because George W. Bush made it possible."

In other words, the administration is proud that the president has spurred private funding of what he considers murder.

Is this double-speak or what?

When pigs fly

Both CBS and Fox have rejected this commercial for condoms, the latter on grounds that it will accept such ads when the pitch is to prevent disease but not when the message is to prevent pregnancy.

What think ye?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Rascal reaches a milestone

The post below this one is the 500th since this blog was launched a little less than five months ago, a rate of production that pales in comparison to the blogosphere's big-timers but isn't too bad for an endeavor that's not much more than a retirement hobby.

Comments have totaled 331, and that's not counting a few dozen that have been rejected or deleted for various reasons (none of which, mind you, includes simple disagreement on political point of view).

Revenues from advertising have been nil, I'm sorry to say, as have financial donations in response to the polite little plea on the upper right of this page. Speaking of which, any small change readers could spare would help avoid or minimize my having to take up other labors to keep the wolf from the door and thus having to cut back on the blogging.

I am grateful to all who have visited here, especially to those of you who have stopped by more than once or have contributed comments.

If I can crank out another 500 posts by Thanksgiving, I'll be happy.

Bush does his Monty Python bit

On the far-fetched theory that embryonic stem-cell research destroys tiny little babies, President Bush vetoed legislation today that would have eased federal funding for such research.

Bush's reasoning brings to mind a song from the movie "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life," the chorus of which goes like this:

Every sperm is sacred
Every sperm is great
If a sperm is wasted
God gets quite irate

The truth of the matter is that the embryos used in stem-cell research are not derived from eggs fertilized in women's bodies. They are fertilized in vitro, in a clinic, with the informed consent of the donors.

The typical embryo in such research is a four- or five-day-old microscopic cluster of cells called a "blastocyst." A blastocyst consists of about 150 cells. The brain of a fly, in comparison, consists of more than 100,000 cells.

If stem-cell research on blastocysts is immoral, as Bush contends, why doesn't he call for a law against it? Why does he content himself with merely blocking federal funding? Why aren't America's Catholic bishops leading a march on Washington to demand a total ban on embryonic stem-cell research? If every blastocyst is sacred, like every sperm in the Monty Python song, why are the pro-lifers so seemingly apathetic about embryonic stem-cell research that's not funded by the federal government?

Rocker thrills the young 'uns

The ultimate irony of Rick Nielsen's triumphant appearance at the Illinois State Capitol on Tuesday was that the leader of the rock band Cheap Trick is older than the vast majority of lawmakers and staffers who hosted him.

For example, Nielsen, at age 60, is more than a decade older than State Sen. Dave Syverson, the Rockford pol who's sponsoring a resolution honoring Cheap Trick.

Somehow this doesn't compute. Aren't rockers supposed to be junior to the grownups in the political establishment? Well, there was a time when that was the case.

Dissenters in uniform

Anna Quindlen has a good column in the current issue of Newsweek about antiwar activism among veterans of the Iraq war, and even some active troops.

By the way, The Rascal provides a link to Iraq Veterans Against the War over on the right side of this site.

Hillary spoofs "The Sopranos"

By way of a video that parodies the iconic finale of "The Sopranos," Hillary Clinton has announced that a number by Celine Dion has been chosen as the Clinton campaign song after a month-long public vote on Hillary's Web site.

The video, which co-stars a guy named Bill, is here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Southerners are different from the rest of us

At least, that's the way a lot of them see it, which sort of verifies it, right?

Kevin Drum touches on the subject here.

Damn! I'm likely to miss out on this

Just my luck!

Somebody's uncovered a letter written by Sir Isaac Newton in which the physicist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, alchemist and all-around good guy predicted that the end of the world will come in the year 2060.

I was kind of hoping to be around for the final curtain -- you know, just to see how everything turns out. But I'm already a little long in the tooth, which means, barring the sudden development of some miracle drug that cures everything that's wrong with me, I'll be long gone by 2060.

I'm especially interested to know if we'll still have troops in Iraq. Maybe the surge will have been successful by then. And what about Paris Hilton? What will have become of her? Man, I hate to think of dying before that question is answered.

You see, I always figured the world would last for centuries or millennia after my demise. But now Newton has raised doubts about that. It looks like I'll be taking my leave only a relatively short time before the curtain comes down. Drat!

Hey, maybe if I started taking better care of myself....Nah, what's the use? The effort would just ruin my final days, and I'd still come up short.

Oh, well, I'll just keep blogging until the Grim Reaper gets here.

Ready for Freddy?

The 10-member Republican field of presidential candidates is so lame that lawyer-lobbyist-actor Fred Thompson, who hasn't even officially thrown his hat into the ring, is now statistically tied with Rudy Giuliani for the lead in the race for the GOP nomination.

(Some outlets are reporting that Thompson's one-point advantage in the Rasmussen poll puts him ahead of Rudy, but as I warned you here, the media generally aren't very good at reading poll results.)

Anyway, Thompson's apparently the flavor-of-the-summer in Republican circles. Here in RascalLand, the writer of this letter to the editor of the Rockford Register Star is more than ready for Freddy, and there are plenty more like him all across the fruited plain.

Which raises anew a question I posed last month in another context: Why are Republicans, given their vaunted hatred of Hollywood, seemingly more likely than Democrats to fall in love with actors? Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Fred Thompson, et al. What's the deal?

The vast majority of Americans know nothing of Thompson beyond what they've seen of him in movies and on television. Are the ordinary folks who see him as presidential timber merely enamored of the kind of fictional characters he plays? Do they know that he's not really a Washington outsider? Are they aware that he was paid tons of money over several decades to pimp for corporations in the corridors of political power? Are they aware that his military experience has been pretty much limited to roles in movies like "The Hunt for Red October"?

I may be wrong about this, but it's my guess that the Democratic presidential nominee, whoever that turns out to be, will be happy if his Republican counterpart is Frederick Dalton Thompson.

"Pro-life" paean to an assassin planned

I provided a link to this item in an update on this previous post, but I think it deserves stand-alone attention.

It's about a rally planned for next month in Milwaukee, where convicted murderer Paul Hill (pictured here carrying the sign), will be honored.

The festivities, believe it or not, will include a re-enactment of Hill's assassination of an abortion doctor and an aide 13 years ago in Pensacola, Fla.

I'm sure a good time will be had by all.

Are the folks at Hallmark evil?

Roy Edroso (whose writing makes me jealous) adroitly gives a little what-for to some conservative twit.

State government honors Cheap Trick today

Good stuff about the tribute in Springfield to the Rockford band from Capitol Fax Blog right here. (Be sure to check the comments on that piece, too.)

The you-guysing of America

The Rascal was in a Rockford restaurant the other day -- JMK Nippon, a pretty good Japanese eatery -- where our server set what seemed to me to be a new world record for use of the term "you guys" while dealing with just one tableful of diners.

It was awesome. For an hour or so, in utterance after utterance, never once did this young lady refer to the six of us as simply "you" (as in "Would you like to have drinks before dinner?") No way. It was strictly "you guys" this and "you guys" that.

Of course, we've all become accustomed to the ubiquitous use of this term among wait staffers in restaurants -- even when the customers are elderly women (in which cases it's especially incongruous). But familiarity with the offense has not diminished my annoyance at hearing it.

I sometimes want to tell the offender: "You sound like an idiot. We're your customers and your elders. Don't address us as if we're your imbecile friends discussing some matter of little import on 'American Idol.'"

But I don't say that. I just sadly resign myself to the likelihood that this verbal rudeness will remain a blight on American service industries and other parts of our culture for the rest of my life. It's even evidenced at times in business meetings, where the user of it runs the risk of diminished stature.

Oh, there'll always be isolated exceptions. Some restaurants admonish their waiters to avoid "you guys" -- and to refrain from such atrocities as "I'm Derek, and I'll be your server tonight" (as if I care what his name is or don't know why he's standing there with a pen and order pad), or kneeling at the table to talk with the patrons (which is appallingly discourteous), or asking every 90 seconds if everything is all right. But those places are rare, indeed.

The cause is lost, my friends. According to linguist George Jochnowitz, "the you-guysing of America," as he calls it, is a fait accompli. All we can do now is warn our children against it and hope that they'll see the value of our advice. Fat chance.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The General's Report

Seymour Hersh, who is 70 years old, can still out-report journalists half his age.

Here's his latest.

What global warming?

Oh, you mean the global warming that has placed the Earth in imminent peril and will require nothing short of a planetary rescue to save it from environmental cataclysm, according to this new report.

Well, why didn't you say so?

Big laughs at the expense of brave hunters

This is funny stuff.

The American Muslim boogeyman

This letter to the editor in today's Rockford Register Star is representative of the undue alarmism spawned by a recent Pew poll of attitudes among American Muslims.

In this case, the writer not only yearns for national leaders "who can deal with" the Islamic threat in our midst (one can only imagine what he means by "deal with"), but he exagerrates the supposedly evil mindset among the Muslim citizens of our great country.

"Twenty-five percent or more of the Muslim people in the United States believe it is acceptable to act as a suicide bomber, taking tens, or even hundreds, of innocent lives in the process," he writes.

Actually, the Pew poll shows that 13 percent of American Muslims, not 25 percent or higher, say there can ever be justification for suicide bombings "to defend Islam." On the other hand, 78 percent of these people say such actions could "never" be justified.

One wonders how many Americans could find justification for violence against innocent civilians in defense of Christianity. I know of no such poll that poses that question directly, but I've seen survey results on questions that aren't too dissimilar.

For example, another Pew poll asked Americans in general if they think "the use of torture against suspected terrorists" can be justified. Forty-six percent of respondents said such treatment would be acceptable "often" or "sometimes." Another 17 percent would approve of it "rarely," but only 32 percent said "never."

Self-described "white evangelicals" were more inclined than other respondents to approve of the torture. And notice, please, that we're talking about torture of suspected terrorists, not necessarily certifiable bad guys.

Nor should we think of Christian Americans as mostly averse to killing innocent civilians in furtherance of our national interests. To this day, a majority of our citizens support the decision of 62 years ago to drop nuclear bombs on Japanese cities that were of no strategic military importance, killing tens of thousands of civilians. Rightly or wrongly, such bombings were acts of terrorism intended to force Japan into surrender. They were successful in that regard.

Much also has been made of the recent poll finding that 47 percent of American Muslims think of themselves as Muslim first and then American. How unpatriotic of them, right? Well, 42 percent of American Christians consider themselves Christian first and then American. So, on that score, our Christians and Muslims are pretty much the same.

None of my argument here is to suggest that there aren't American Muslims who might do this nation and its people harm in certain circumstances or that we shouldn't take reasonable precautions against such misdeeds. My point is that the vast majority of our Muslims are mainstream Americans except, perhaps, for cultural differences.

One of my concerns is that excessive suspicion of Muslims can be conflated to cover Arab-Americans in general, which is ignorant in the extreme. The facts are that 1) three-fourths of our Muslims are not of Arab descent, and 2) three-fourths of Arab-Americans are Christians, not Muslims.

Let's remember, too, that there are Christian terrorists among us. Does the name Timothy McVeigh ring a bell? Have you heard about the murders of abortion providers? Aren't some of us old enough to recall the lynchings of African-Americans and civil rights activists by God-fearing, church-going Southerners not so long ago?

UPDATE: Speaking of Christian terrorists, check this.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What every American should know about Iraq

David Michael Green has come up with a concise and invaluable summation of the situation in Iraq and how we got into this mess.

Save it. Print it out. Stick it in the face of the next pseudo-patriot you encounter who spouts ill-informed nonsense about this national tragedy.

Adapt it for a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Use it to rebut the votes and rhetoric of your representative in Congress. E-mail copies of it to your friends.

Read it and re-read it and remember all the salient facts. Spread the truth.

It's time for Saturday cartoons, kids!

Bob Geiger's weekly collection of political cartoons is right here.

Most political pundits are pinheads

Jamison Foser makes the case here.

Do they really want mob rule?

After an egregious error in this headline yesterday, The Rascal has a lot of nerve lecturing anyone on use of the English language.

But, hey, what the hell.

At issue here is this story in today's Rockford Register Star about disgruntled members of the local Firefighters Union slapping bumperstickers on their private vehicles that read: "Rescue Rockford -- Lynch Larry."

The object of such lovely sentiments, of course, is Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey.

But the firefighters seem not to understand that the word "lynch" is not merely a reference to hanging. It stands for vigilante justice, mob rule, execution without legal sanction (whether by hanging or any other means).

Or maybe they do understand the distinction.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rockford guy quits Justice Department

Rockford native Michael Elston, who's been embroiled for months in the controversy over the sacking of eight federal prosecutors, said today that he's resigning his post at the Justice Department.

More on Elston's role in the scandal can be found here (and through links therein).

UPDATE: More on Elston's resignation and the controversies surrounding his actions is available here.

DISCLAIMER: Over the past few months, The Rascal repeatedly has referred to Elston as a "native" of Rockford, following the lead of the Rockford Register Star in that regard. But I've never confirmed independently that Elston was born in Rockford, only that he grew up here and graduated from Auburn High School. At 5:17 p.m. today, the Register Star's Web site omitted any mention of Elston being a native, referring instead to his "local ties" and his having been a "Rockford resident."

Blago is a boob

It's stuff like this that sours me on Rod Blagojevich.

No, wait. There are countless reasons of far greater import that sour me on this guy. He's lucky that the Illinois Republican Party is such a joke.

I read once that Blagojevich has presidential ambitions. Can you imagine? He's got about as much chance of realizing that kind of dream as The Rascal does (and I'm just glad that my citizenship hasn't been revoked by unanimous vote of the national populace).

Are their buttheads on Obama's staff?

I would hope not, but there's cause for concern.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Do today's colleges secularize students?

It's an article of faith (so to speak) among conservatives that the secular humanists who dominate the faculties at colleges and universities these days are turning the students away from religion.

But the truth of the matter, as Kevin Drum notes here, is something else.

The macho imperative

Digby has a habit of getting it right, and this bit about the politics of masculinity-versus-femininity is no exception.

Your typical right-winger, especially, seems to live in mortal fear of losing his grip on his masculinity.

This helps explain the peculiar idolization of John Wayne, which I addressed here a few weeks ago on the occasion of the Duke's 100th birthday. It's funny how conservatives saw a rugged cowboy and a war hero in a guy named Marion who studiously avoided military service in World War II.

And then there's the truly strange penchant among some commentators these days -- especially Chris Matthews on MSNBC -- to display a man-crush on any politician who exhibits machismo. It probaby isn't really a gay thing, but a shrink could have a field day sorting out the implications of it all.

Is the heartland "prime territory for terrorists"?

Remember Derrick Shareef, that Rockford guy who was nabbed last year in an embryonic plot to blow up CherryVale Mall?

Well, this right-wing blogger in Wilmette sees Shareef as part of a broad threat of Al-Qaida-type terrorism in the Chicago area and beyond.

But, then, she also seems to regard Democrats as part of an evil conspiracy to sap us of our precious bodily fluids.

Politico is pathetico

For various reasons, The Rascal removed from the list of favored links on the right-hand side of this site a few months ago.

The decision is further justified with each passing week. Daily Kos has the latest example of Politico's egregious practices.

Bush still boffo in Bible Belt

Two-thirds of Americans consider George W. Bush a failure as president, but the true believers of the Southern Baptist Convention apparently think he's just wonderful.

Which fits nicely with Bush's messianic complex.

Is this insane or what?

Sunni insurgents in Iraq, like the guys pictured here, soon will be receiving weapons courtesy of the U.S. military on the promise that they'll use them only against Al-Qaeda forces.

Oh, yeah. That'll work.

The New York Times reports that some U.S. officers are opposed to this enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend strategy and consider it to be fraught with risk.

What we're talking about here is giving arms to people who have been known to attack our troops and innocent Iraqi civilians. This deal raises the distinct possibility that the next kid to come home to Rockford in a box from Iraq will have been killed by a weapon our government willingly gave to some crazed Sunni insurgent.

But, hey, have a happy Flag Day.

This is encouraging

As a First Amendment purist, The Rascal takes heart in this tidbit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ethanol gives me a headache

The human intellect -- or at least The Rascal's lame facsimile thereof -- can deal with only so many political issues in a society as complex as ours. In my case, the whys and wherefores of ethanol have fallen by the proverbial wayside.

I'm sorry. I know that lots of people here in the cornbelt are big on ethanol, but I don't give a damn about it.

Still, I have an obligation to this site's visitors to provide information on all manner of political crap, and I shan't shirk that duty with regard to ethanol. So, here's a big take on the subject from the fine folks over at

About Rockford's federal courthouse

A few months ago, The Rascal proposed, mostly in jest, a bold political strategy for freeing up the government money to begin construction of that long-awaited new federal courthouse in downtown Rockford.

My idea depended mainly upon the political partisanship of Lurita Doan, the boss at the General Services Administration, which controls the money for such projects as the Rockford courthouse.

But alas, Doan finds herself on the hot seat -- for the very partisanship I had counted on in my brilliant stratagem. Hence, my plan is rendered moot.

But there's still some fun to be had in this matter, if you're the kind who gets a kick out of watching political hacks squirm under pressure. Witness Doan's tortured effort today to explain away her threat of retaliation against department employees who had cooperated with federal investigators looking into her misdeeds.

The myth of a conservative America

On a whole host of political issues, Americans overwhelmingly hold to liberal, rather than conservative, views. Consider the findings published in this report (and follow the links therein).

Liberal media?

You mean this liberal media?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dr. Frank's here with disturbing news

The latest Gallup Poll shows that most Republicans don't believe in evolution.

Yipes! Even The Rascal didn't think the situation was that bad.

Gallup's Dr. Frank Newport has the numbers here.

Why does Fox News hate our troops?

The people at Fox News can't find much time to cover America's glorious adventure in Iraq.

For their sake, Frank Manzullo had better not hear about this (see below).

How soon they forget

Frank Manzullo, the brother of U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, has a letter to the editor in today's Rockford Register Star in which he sternly disparages politicians who don't march in lockstep with George W. Bush's ill-advised policy in Iraq.

He even implies that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

But Frank seems to have forgotten when brother Don was an antiwar activist who didn't stand behind his president in a time of international conflict and instead called for withdrawal of U.S. troops from the theater of war.

The story of Don's dissent is here. Perhaps it would refresh Frank's memory.

UPDATE: One wonders what Frank Manzullo thinks of all the retired generals, including former field commanders in Iraq, who have spoken out against the war. Are they unpatriotic?

UPDATE II: If he has a taste for satire, Frank might want to ponder this about retired Gen. George Washington.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Truths about the finale of "The Sopranos"

Why, oh why, must it fall to The Rascal to explain last night's controversial denouement of "The Sopranos"?

I've got bigger fish to fry, folks, but I suppose I'll get no rest until I spell it all out for you with regard to this trivial matter. So, let's start with the dumbest question of them all:

Did Tony & family get whacked in that diner at the end?

Hey, were you watching the program or not? Did you see them get whacked? Well, then, they didn't get whacked. And as for the question of whether they were snuffed after the end of the program, that's just silly. There is no answer. Nothing happened to them after the end of the story. They're fictional characters, for God's sake. The writer leaves it to you to surmise what might have happened if the story were true, but it wasn't true. The writer provides no answer. Hence, there is no answer. None. Get over it.

Will there be a movie that provides the answer to what happened to the family? Was all this just a cynical ploy to milk the franchise for more money?

Of course not. David Chase is not Aaron Spelling or some other such TV hack. The man's rep rests on his disdain of boob-tube conventions. He's not going to make a movie that follows up on that scene in the diner. And he's not going to come up with a DVD release that does that, either.

Now, will you all please just move on. Yes, you can have some fun discussing among yourselves whether Chase meant to imply that Tony, Carm and the kids got wasted. But, again, there is no final answer. There is no airtight case to be made one way or the other. That inescapable truth bespeaks the brilliance of the final scene and the events leading up to it.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting theory. But, of course, it's not definitive.

Moron Museum video

This is funny.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Issues? We don't need no stinking issues!

In choosing a president, you see, the important things are voice, hair, jaw, shoulders and all-around good looks.

Will Michael Elston be charged with perjury?

This guy thinks it's possible.

More on Elston, a Rockford native, is available here and here.

UPDATE: More on Elston's latest woes here.

How pathetic is this?

Ordinarily, I don't pay much attention to Michelle Malkin, the conservative blogger, shameless exhibitionist and one of the comparatively few Americans who still consider the war in Iraq a worthwhile undertaking.

But this little video, which I happened upon just today, is so excruciatingly embarrassing, I just had to pass it along.

The fall of Adam

There's a kind of biblical resonance to this story.

You might also find it funny.

It's Saturday! Time for cartoons!

Let's check in with Bob Geiger for his weekly collection of political cartoons.

So-called liberal media overlook GOP falsehoods

Paul Krugman notes here that even the Washington Post gave Mitt Romney a pass when he wrongly stated earlier this week that the war in Iraq could have been avoided if Saddam Hussein had let in weapons inspectors.

Saddam did, in fact, allow weapons inspectors to enter the country. They didn't find anything, so the Bush administration ordered them out to make way for the U.S. invasion.

Romney's version of events is entirely, provably, scandalously false. But the media mostly have ignored his prevarications in favor of focusing on relatively trivial matters.

So, what's the latest on John Edwards' haircuts? What's Hillary wearing today? Have lightning and thunder interrupted any of Rudy Giuliani's speeches lately?

UPDATE: Here's another take on Romney's lie and how it echoed George W. Bush's fiction on the same subject.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Is Wolf Blitzer the worst or what?

From his ever-present, phonus-balonus pen and note-paper props to his monotous droning to his...well, to almost everything about him, CNN's Wolf Blitzer is the worst news host on national television.

(Well, OK, some of the creeps on Fox are worse. But still...)

As a moderator in presidential campaign debates, Blitzer's beyond bad. On that score, Madison blogger Griper Blade adroitly nails the Wolf man.

Oh, the humanity!

Now that this spoiled slut is back in the slammer, can anything be done about also incarcerating anybody and everybody who gives a damn about her travails? How about revoking their citizenship? Taking away their voting privileges (not that they're the kind who would bother voting)?

It's disgraceful that MSNBC has required political talker Chris Matthews to lead his show tonight with this crap. Keith Olbermann probably will be forced to follow suit.

I'm not saying that there's not an audience for this nonsense. Television is awash in tripe that attracts huge numbers of mouth-breathers, but they're not exactly the same folks who can read stop signs without moving their lips.

What makes the network pinheads think that the reasonably literate political junkies who watch Matthews and Olbermann care one whit about Paris Hilton? Wait! Let me guess: It's focus-group feedback interpreted by junior executives who are convinced that celebrity bullshit like this on a political show will attract young viewers. As if.

Most people who don't chew gum or uptalk hardly even know who Paris Hilton is. Hell, I used to think she was an it -- and it was a hotel in France. I still don't know what she's famous for. How can such a cipher actually have what the supermarket mags refer to as "fans"?

We're on the road to perdition, people. Mark my words.

Rockford guy cited again in connection with Justice Department scandal

Rockford native Michael Elston, a high-ranking official in the Justice Department who's already been questioned by a congressional committee in the Prosecutorgate scandal, was publicly mentioned this week in connection with a tangential matter. has the story here.

Background on Elston's involvement in the flap over the firing of eight federal prosecutors can be found here and through the links therein.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

How can this be?

The latest Fox News poll shows that more Republicans than Democrats approve of the job the Democratic-controlled Congress is doing.

Well, that's because antiwar Democrats are disappointed in the recent vote by Congress to approve funding of the Iraq war without setting a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Another surprise in the Fox poll is that almost half of the Republican respondents consider Democrat Barack Obama "honest and trustworthy," and two-thirds of them consider him "likeable."

There oughta be a law

The National Weather Service has just issued a tornado watch for RascalLand until "12 AM," but what the hell does that mean? Noon or midnight?

Well, actually, I figure it means midnight, since it's already mid-afternoon. But still, it's the principle of the thing. There are situations in which "12 AM" might not readily be understood, like on transportation schedules and stuff like that.

I read once that neither noon nor midnight belong to AM or PM. So, why doesn't the Weather Bureau and everybody else simply refer to "noon" or "midnight" and avoid any possible confusion?

OK, call me an old crank -- but dammit anyway.

It's like "the pope in the pizza"

The Rockford Register Star's Web site posted this wire story this morning about claims -- preposterous claims, The Rascal would argue -- that a likeness of Donald E. Stephens, the late mayor of Rosemont, Ill., can be seen in the trunk of a sycamore tree in the Chicago suburb.

(A larger and clearer montage of Stephens and the tree can be seen here.)

This case reminds us of the classic "Saturday Night Live" bit by Don Novello (in the guise of Father Guido Sarducci, shown on left) wherein he tried to "finda the pope in the pizza."