Blogs

BP and Chevron Go Virtual and Green

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 1:55 PM EDT

What do Chevron and BP have in common, besides being leading members of Big Oil? Computer games, apparently. Yesterday, the New York Times reported on BP's latest rebranding move—a "collaboration" with Electronic Arts on the video game company's latest version of SimCity, due out November 15th. Unlike previous versions of the popular video game that lets players build their own cities from scratch, this one will include a more "nuanced power generation and pollution simulation" that will "show the trade-offs among three aspects of electrical power: cost, power output and pollution." Translation: BP's colorful, green, and yellow sunburst logo will happily adorn "clean" energy options like solar farms, wind farms, natural gas plants, and even gas stations, while "dirty" energy options like coal will remain BP logo-free!

In September, Chevron and The Economist teamed up for a similar venture. Their online, interactive game, Energyville, allows players to decide how to outfit a city with solar, wind, coal, biomass, hydro, oil, and nuclear power. The catch? If you try to use only renewable energy sources to supply your city, you'll be politely informed you need petroleum. So much for thinking outside the box, huh?

And, of course, it comes as no surprise that these companies' online ventures promote more clean energy than their real counterparts. BP's 2006 annual report indicates the company spent approximately $29 billion on oil exploration and production (an increase of $4 billion from 2005), compared to a meager $8 billion they plan to spend on their alternative energy projects over the next ten years. Game over.

—Michelle Chandra

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Rudy Giuliani Out Flubs the Republican Field

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 11:16 AM EDT

I've blogged before about how much I love factcheck.org. They come through again with some real treats on the Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson got the facts straight for his GOP debate debut Oct. 9. But former Mayor Rudy Giuliani added to a lengthening string of exaggerations and misstatements:
Giuliani claimed Sen. Hillary Clinton once called the free-market economy "the most destructive force in modern America." She didn't say that. She quoted another author who said free markets were "disruptive." She also said free markets bring prosperity.
The mayor falsely claimed Clinton proposes to give $1,000 to "everybody." Her proposed subsidies to workers' retirement accounts would be for couples making up to $60,000 a year and would be $500 for those making up to $100,000.
Giuliani falsely claimed that more than 2 percent of the nation's gross domestic product is spent on "frivolous" lawsuits. The figure is from a study about the cost of all lawsuits.

Another Reason to Suck It Up and Buy a Minivan

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 11:10 AM EDT

One of the great enduring myths created by the American auto industry is that SUVs are safer than regular cars. The Ford Explorer rollover scandals in 2000 helped pierce this image a little, but Americans still seem to believe that an SUV is a safe place to store a family on the road. (The Frost children, in fact, who've been attacked by right wingers during the SCHIP debate were nearly killed when the family SUV slid off the road and hit a tree.)

The data, however, continue to show that most people would be safer in a Mini Cooper (or a minivan) than a Chevy Trailblazer. The latest news comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, whose new crash tests show that most SUVs perform poorly when hit from the side, even though they're much higher off the ground than other cars.

"People often think they're safer in one of these vehicles, but many cars hold up better than some of these midsize SUVs in this test," David Zuby, the institute's senior vice president, told the Associated Press.

You can watch the crash videos here.

Candidates' Kids Can Blog Better Than This

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 9:28 PM EDT

By now, you may have heard some of the buzz surrounding McCain Blogette, the new blog put out by John McCain's daughter, Meghan, and her friends (including "political fashionista" La-Toria Haven, thank goodness). The second family campaign blog this cycle, McCain Blogette is more of a shameless self-promotional vehicle than, say, a shameless pander for family-values votes like the Romneys' Five Brothers. But this new genre has real potential. Here are some other efforts we'd like to see:

  • Chelsea Clinton—McKinsey Confidential: Chronicling an ambitious young woman's quest to make it in the all-boys club consulting world
  • Grace and Christina Dodd, Malia and Sasha Obama, Emma Claire and Jack Edwards, Jenna Brownback—The Playpen: Influential group blog for intelligentsia of the under-10 set
  • Randy Tancredo—Minuteman: Liveblogging the immigration fight, straight from the borderlands
  • Caroline Giuliani—My Obama Girl: Caroline signs on as occasional guest blogger at fan site
  • David Huckabee—Huck's Heart: Online community service clearinghouse, part of court-ordered restitution for animal cruelty incident, weapons charges

Readers, let's see what you can come up with! There's a Beau Biden gag just begging to be made here.

—Justin Elliott

Anybody Else Having Trouble Downloading In Rainbows?

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 8:42 PM EDT

RadioheadPerhaps it's my own fault. I didn't try and pre-order the album, I just thought I'd head over to inrainbows.com this morning and spend, I dunno, £5 on the thing. That's like 70 bucks at this point, right? However (and I'm assuming it's because of high demand and not a "denial of service" attack) the site was so desperately slow I wasn't ever able to get through. And now, heading over there gets you a request for a username and password, which, when you don't enter them, because what the hell, you get this lovely, personalized message from the band: SSI error: recursion exceeded. Beep! Well, people have been telling me my recursion is looking a little excessive lately. I don't appear to be the only one having this trouble, either. Hmm. Perhaps reports of the music industry's death have been greatly exaggerated?

Lieberman Says No To Investigating Blackwater

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 8:26 PM EDT

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, says that he has no intention of investigating Blackwater USA and other government contractors who have been accused of criminal action.

Lieberman said he gets "angry when I hear about fraud or corruption in the spending of American dollars," but "You've got to set your own priorities, and it was clear to me that other committees were going to pick this up."

Where I come from, the alleged murder of seventeen people is not classified as "fraud" or "corruption," but Lieberman sees it another way. His counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Henry Waxman, is holding hearings on the Blackwater incident.

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Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 6:09 PM EDT

Swedes and Aussies and, uh, Chicago-ites, oh my!

Kylie Minogue – "2 Hearts"
In which the Aussie star vamps it up over a swinging beat, and you watch nervously to make sure she doesn't fall off that piano

The Hives – "Tick Tick Boom"
In which the Swedish combo find themselves enlarged and installed in a museum as a high-concept art piece that takes its revenge on the museum for some reason

Lupe Fiasco – "Dumb It Down"
In which the Chicago rapper lets his complex lyrics take center stage, since there's not a whole heck of a lot else going on in this video

Robyn – "Handle Me"
In which the underappreciated Swedish songstress gets, uh, boxed in, wocka wocka

Halo 3: Now You Can Kill Mother%*#$@#*s in Church

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

Halo 3, the violent video game that made Microsoft hundreds of millions of dollars in its first week on store shelves, is now being used to attract young men to church, the New York Times reports today. "Teens are our 'fish,'" one youth pastor wrote in a letter to parents. "So we've become creative in baiting our hooks."

The headline of the article is "Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church," which seems to be trying to paint church leaders as hypocritical for using Halo parties to get kids in the door, and then selling them the gospel. Sure, being against violent media and then using that same media to recruit churchgoers is hypocritical. But even though the author mentions evangelical opposition to violent games, he never presents an example of a pastor who condemned violent games and then used them for outreach. Without that, there is no evidence of hypocrisy. There are just some pastors disagreeing with other pastors about what is appropriate.

Simply believing in the 10 Commandments and then playing a violent video game is not hypocritical. Killing virtual aliens is not equivalent to violating the 5th (sometimes 6th) commandment, and it's insane for the Times to imply that it is. Most religious scholars agree that killing animals doesn't violate "Thou shalt not kill." Why would killing imaginary characters be prohibited?

But even if the author didn't want to hunt down actual evidence of hypocrisy, there were still plenty of other interesting questions left unasked. As I wrote in an article two weeks ago, the Halo games have always been an online playground for bigots of all stripes. Homophobia, racism, and antisemitism are rampant in the smack talk that is a staple of the multiplayer game. So it's especially interesting to learn that some of the young men (they're almost all men) who are playing Halo are doing it at church. Are they shocked to hear what other players say? Do their pastors insist that they play with the mute button on? Or, more disturbingly, are some of these young Christian soldiers and the hate-spewers one and the same?

Let's Hope the Clinic Showed Baywatch Reruns

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 5:28 PM EDT

The missing mayor of Atlantic City has officially resigned after spending a week in a psych hospital. Robert W. Levy may have been in a little over his head as mayor. Before getting elected, he had served for decades as the city's chief lifeguard...

Che-nniversaries

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 4:38 PM EDT

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the killing of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. World Hum has the stories behind the popularity and endurance of the Che image, and Gridskipper has a list of all the places in San Francisco you can go to talk about The Motorcycle Diaries and sip mocha frappa whatevers. As they put it: "Oh socialist politics, you are so delicious when you're co-opted for a capitalist enterprise." Viva La Revolucion!