Big Ten Leaders Alone At Top of College Football Rankings

Congratulations to Oregon State for upsetting USC! This guarantees that, barring a highly unlikely upset, Ohio State and Michigan will go into the game as the number one and two teams in the country. They are already ranked one and two in most polls, but USC had the potential of jumping back ahead of Michigan to retake the number two spot if they could finish the regular season without a loss. No other teams have the potential to move ahead of Michigan and Ohio State as long as they remain undefeated, and both face teams with losing records prior to their meeting in three weeks.

Al Qaeda Threatens Canada

It’s been common for Americans traveling abroad to wear Canadian flags to divert anti-American sentiment. It looks like the days when everybody loved Canadians might be over according to this report in The National Post:

An al-Qaeda strategist has warned Canada to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan or face terrorist attacks similar to 9/11, Madrid and the London transit bombings.

The threat, attributed to a member of the al-Qaeda information and strategy committee, condemns Prime Minister Stephen Harper for refusing to pull out of Afghanistan.

It also refers to Canada’s “fanatic adherence to Christianity” as well as its purported attempts to “damage the Muslims” and its support for the “Christian Crusade” against al-Qaeda.

I suspect that conservatives will be all over this story, claiming that we must fight the terrorists in Iraq so that they don’t attack Canada as well as fight us at home. Perhaps if the United States had finished the job in Afghanistan, as opposed to diverting resources to Iraq and strengthening al Qaeda, there wouldn’t be enough of al Qaeda left by now for this to be a credible threat.

There has probably never been a time before when the folly and ignorance of one man has placed so many people in danger. Every death from al Qaeda, as well as from a nuclear North Korea or Iran, will partially be a consequence of the incompetence of George Bush.

A Country Ruled by Faith

Garry Wills writes about A Country Ruled by Faith in The New York Review of Books. He begins with:

The right wing in America likes to think that the United States government was, at its inception, highly religious, specifically highly Christian, and even more specifically highly biblical. That was not true of that government or any later government—until 2000, when the fiction of the past became the reality of the present.

After expanding on this introduction, Wills explains how religion is influencing policy in the Bush White House:

Bush promised his evangelical followers faith-based social services, which he called “compassionate conservatism.” He went beyond that to give them a faith-based war, faith-based law enforcement, faith-based education, faith-based medicine, and faith-based science. He could deliver on his promises because he stocked the agencies handling all these problems, in large degree, with born-again Christians of his own variety. The evangelicals had complained for years that they were not able to affect policy because liberals left over from previous administrations were in all the health and education and social service bureaus, at the operational level. They had specific people they objected to, and they had specific people with whom to replace them, and Karl Rove helped them do just that.

It is common knowledge that the Republican White House and Congress let “K Street” lobbyists have a say in the drafting of economic legislation, and on the personnel assigned to carry it out, in matters like oil production, pharmaceutical regulation, medical insurance, and corporate taxes. It is less known that for social services, evangelical organizations were given the same right to draft bills and install the officials who implement them. Karl Rove had cultivated the extensive network of religious right organizations, and they were consulted at every step of the way as the administration set up its policies on gays, AIDS, condoms, abstinence programs, creationism, and other matters that concerned the evangelicals. All the evangelicals’ resentments under previous presidents, including Republicans like Reagan and the first Bush, were now being addressed.

Wills goes on to discuss in further detail faith-based justice, faith-based social services, faith-based science, faith-based health, and faith-based war.

The New Puritanicalism

It seems that everywhere I look this week people are using attacks on sex to replace true political discourse. Earlier this week Pamela Leavey and Ginny Cotts of The Democratic Daily used the fact that I have incluced magazine covers such as the Harper’s Bazaar cover of Britney Spears above in blog posts on popular culture and the media as some sort of “justification” for their defense of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism and for preventing me from condemning Gibson’s anti-Semitism when I was a writer on that blog. At the time I thought it was a totally irrational and irrelevant argument. Apparently I missed something. Pamela and Ginny have turned out to be trend setters as a new Puritanicalism has become the “in technique” of character assassination being used by Republicans.

One prominent example was George Allen quoting sexually graphic passages from Jim Webb’s novels. These included passages such as this one from Lost Soldiers:

“A shirtless man walked toward them along a mud pathway. His muscles were young and hard, but his face was devastated with wrinkles. His eyes were so red that they appeared to be burned by fire. A naked boy ran happily toward him from a little plot of dirt. The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy’s penis in his mouth.”

This book is clearly shocking to Republicans, except to John McCain, who Publishers Weekly reports endorsed the book: “Webb (Fields of Fire) is no stranger to the bestseller lists; endorsements from heavy hitters like Sen. John McCain will help put him there once again.” Hotline reports McCain also had a blurb on the back cover of the book. Presumably this will be the main issue in the 2008 race should McCain enter it.

Maureen Dowd sums up the Virginia race by writing, “So the Old Dominion race now comes down to one guy denying he’s a racist and the other denying he’s a sexist, and the supposed sexist attacking the supposed racist as a sexist.” She notes the change in Republican political strategy:

The Republicans’ usual trick — having Dick Cheney terrify women into thinking that terrorists will kill their children if they vote for girly Democrats — isn’t flying this year, so now the G.O.P. is resorting to more personal, and goofy, attacks.

Republicans have also launched commercials against Harold Ford accusing him of attending “parties with lingerie-clad Playboy Playmates while he also films political ads in a church.” One of the ads ends with a scantily clad woman saying, “Harold, call me!”

Fortunately the Democrats are on top of these attacks. It might have taken the party five years to respond to the false Republican claims of keeping the country safe after 9/11, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is firm in their defense on this one. They sent out the following talking points:

  • In 1981, Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife Lynne wrote a book called Sisters, which featured a lesbian love affair, brothels and attempted rapes. In 1988, Lynne Cheney wrote about a Republican vice president who dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress.
  • Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich co-wrote a thriller called 1945, featuring such titillations as biting foreplay, “pouting sex kitten,” “exotic mistress” and “after-bout inhalation.” At one point, the mistress of the president’s chief of staff sits “athwart” her lover’s chest and hisses that he must tell her a secret “or I will make you do terrible things.”
  • In 1996, former Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby wrote The Apprentice, a novel that includes references to bestiality, pedophilia and rape.
  • In 1999, former GOP Governor William Weld said of his book, Big Ugly, “I think of the theme of this book is sex and money meets the great outdoors.” Weld’s thriller included sex, bribery and murder.
  • This week, it was discovered that a Republican statewide candidate in Texas, Susan Combs, wrote a romance novel “full of steamy sex scenes.” The book’s heroine is “a freckle-faced brunette” who is drawn to “the gray-eyed bodyguard” and his “powerful, strong arms,” and desires him to “fill the aching void at her center,” where a “deep heaviness throbbed in her belly.”

Personally I find it a relief to find that those Republicans aren’t all that Puritanical after all. As for America, all I can say is that the Britney Spears cover above is the number one search engine hit on this blog. Make that not just America but the world as this picture regularly receives hits from virtually everywhere, including those countries where women are expected to wear burkas and this type of cover would never be allowed. Review of search engine hits also confirms that America is still trying to figure out what Britney Spears meant by “poodle balling” on her appearance on Will and Grace. Of course such searches receive an exaggerated prominence as they are popular searches for a unique term, while there are hundreds of variations of searches for various political issues, with each individual one having a relatively low percentage of hits.

Update: It’s been brought to my attention that The Democratic Daily repeated their attack with a rather hypocritical post in which any sexual reference in a book by a Democratic politician is acceptable as while any sexual reference or photo in my posts on popular culture, the media, or what drives the blogoshere is somehow not acceptable. You cannot have it both ways, but somehow Pamela believes she is the judge of when it is right and when it is not right to report on matters involving sex.

It is also worth repeating that these attacks from The Democratic Daily remain a warped response to my criticism of their defense of anti-Semitic comments. Pamela Leavey never complained about any of these posts in the past, but suddently she thought that raising these personal attacks on me would distract from the support given to anti-Semitism on her blog. As she has no defense for her actions, she is playing the Republican attack game.