Blogs

Dilbert Creator for War Czar?

| Thu May 17, 2007 1:11 PM EDT

We might be a little late to the party on this, but Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, has a plan to end the Iraq war that might have put him in the running to be the White House's war czar.

Adams suggests that we withdraw from all combat operations and instead build a heavily fortified perimeter around all of Iraq's oil interests. As long as the civil war blazes, we continue to pump the Iraqis' oil, with all proceeds going to help the Palestinians (and presumably other downtrodden members of the Arab world). When the sectarian fighting ends and a stable government is established in Iraq, the Iraqis can start pumping the oils themselves and use the natural resources that are rightfully theirs to benefit their own country.

In addition to giving the Iraqis a strong incentive to stop killing one another, the plan should end the loss of American lives because (1) American troops would no longer be in the streets trying to tamp down sectarian violence and (2) they wouldn't be attacked while guarding the pipelines because any disruption to the flow of oil only hurts the Palestinians, and public opinion and diplomatic pressure fro the Arab world would probably keep that from happening.

Is it fanciful? Yes. Is it impractical? Yes. Is it ripe for corruption and exploitation? Yes.

Is it just about as good as anything else we've got going on right now? You bet.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Climate Change Could Displace One Billion People

| Wed May 16, 2007 8:35 PM EDT

The world currently has about 153 million displaced people. But there will be one billion by 2050, due to global warming. That's the prediction of Christian Aid, an organization formed 60 years ago to help the tens of millions of people displaced by World War II.

Internally displaced people are much worse off than international refugees, who have legal status and protection. So in Uganda, for example, the DP camps are more like rural prisons. The worst displacement crisis triggered by climate change already is Darfur. The one-billion figure is based on the IPCC's figures, for example, that droughts will halve the agricultural yields of many countries.

Another shocking part of the report, Human Tide, is the damage done by cultivation of palm oil for biodiesel. Biofuels are a modern-day goldrush. The EU will require one tenth of fuel to be biofuels by 2020. But in Indonesia alone, 350 conflicts have come out of developers wresting land away from people to cultivate palm oil. Dozens of people have been murdered and about 500 tortured. When pushed off their land, these people have no choice but to work on the plantations.

Bush Stages Show-Stopper to Protect Vestiges of Wolfowitz's Honor

| Wed May 16, 2007 7:48 PM EDT

The Bush Administration is really going out on a limb to save its favorite neocon son, Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz has been embroiled in an ethics scandal as president of the World Bank. As it became clear yesterday that the World Bank board would unanimously support firing Wolfie, Bush offered a compromise: Wolfowitz would step down voluntarily and the bank would share the blame for his ethics violations. (Wolfowitz claims he asked for guidance on handling the ethics of getting his Arab girlfriend a security clearance-required position in the State Department where she earns more than the Secretary of State.)

The board didn't bite and continued moving towards a statement that Wolfowitz had broken the bank's ethical standards and damaged its credibility (Note: His primary campaign was to hold borrowing countries accountable for government corruption). Bush's latest desperate intervention was to shut today's proceedings down early, before the board could issue its statement. The stunt bought time for Bush's precious Wolfie to resign rather than being fired. The board and Mr. "They will greet us as liberators" Wolfowitz are now huddled in closed negotiations. If experience serves as any guide, Wolfie would rather be fired than admit he was wrong.

How Gullible Is Christopher Hitchens?

| Wed May 16, 2007 5:14 PM EDT

He's gullible enough to believe that Orthodox Jews have sex only through a hole in the sheet, and gullible enough to repeat that myth in his latest book. Ok, ok, a lot of people fell for this one, including Hitchens' editors, reviewers, Larry David, and me. But we're not Christopher Hitchens, and we didn't write The Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice. Mark Oppenheimer blogs:

As a lie, it's not as bad as the blood libel, but it's not so far from the old tales of sexual perversion in Catholic monasteries and convents -- it's a lie meant to discredit a whole people by making them seem sexually bizarre and far outside decent society.

One possible derivation of the urban legend:

Seeing Jews in religious neighborhoods hanging their "talitot katan" out to dry. This poncho-like garment is about two feet by four feet, has a fringe on each corner, and a hole in the center for the wearer's head, and it looks somewhat like a small sheet with a hole, and many people have vivid and warped imaginations.

Hey Hitch! Did you know "gullible" isn't in Wikipedia?

Jerry Falwell, Unintentional Free Speech Hero

| Wed May 16, 2007 3:19 PM EDT
falwell.gif

Let's take a short break from the Jerry Falwell posthumous pile-on to remember the one thing we can thank him for. As Hustler publisher and Falwell foe-turned-amicable sparring partner Larry Flynt pointed out yesterday:

The most important result of our relationship was the landmark decision from the Supreme Court that made parody protected speech, and the fact that much of what we see on television and hear on the radio today is a direct result of my having won that now famous case which Falwell played such an important role in.

Flynt's referring to the 1987 libel lawsuit the reverend filed after Hustler ran a spoof ad in which Falwell described having sex with his mother while "drunk off our God-fearing asses." The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of Flynt, upholding our First Amendment right to take the piss out of public figures. Amen to that! Now we return to the blowhard-bashing already in progress.

Contingency Plans for Skiers, as the World Warms

| Wed May 16, 2007 2:49 PM EDT

Skiers were very disappointed by a lack of snow last season. But within a few years, they may be able to ski just outside of Fort Worth in the summer, according to Jennifer S. Forsyth in today's Wall Street Journal (behind subscription wall). Some ambitious businessmen plan to develop a $695 million "Alpine Village" called Bearfire Resort, with chairlifts, ice rinks, a retail center and hotel, all on a flat prairie in Texas where temperatures reach 100 degrees. They'll use a polymer surface called Snowflex, like wet, white Astroturf with bristles. It's not my idea of a vacation. But at least it's not refrigerated, like a domed ski resort in Dubai, a city soon to import polar bears as amusement. Speaking of defying nature and ignoring global warming, did you know that the Cardinals play in an open-air stadium in Arizona, air-conditioned in 100-degree plus heat?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

F-16 Pilot Ignites Massive Wildfire in New Jersey

| Wed May 16, 2007 2:35 PM EDT

A military pilot began a wildfire that now encompasses nearly 13,000 acres in New Jersey, forcing 2500 people to evacuate. Is New Jersey wildfire country?, you ask. It didn't used to be. Read more on The Blue Marble's Weird Weather Watch.

Weird Weather Watch: Wildfire in New Jersey, Started by the Military

| Wed May 16, 2007 2:28 PM EDT

New Jersey officials called a wildfire begun yesterday afternoon by an F-16's flare "one of the larger fires we've had for quite a few years." That's saying something. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's website, which lists historically significant wildfires, shows an increasing frequency of major fires since the 1990s. As it turns out, flares dropped in military exercises have caused more than one. Careless smokers have been arrested for starting fires—will military pilots face the same punishment?

An additional note on the fires currently burning in Florida and Georgia: Not only is fire ravaging a historically huge swath of Georgia's landscape, but people with respiratory illnesses were told to stay inside today. Add their lost productivity and potential illnesses to the tally of the cost of global warming. On the Florida side of the border, flames have already destroyed more than half that state's yearly average of acres destroyed. (The current fire covers 120,000 acres; a representative from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services told me the state loses about 200,000 acres a year.)

Future of State Gun Laws in the Hands of D.C.'s Mayor?

| Wed May 16, 2007 2:20 PM EDT

Last week, I wrote that the case, Parker v. District of Columbia, which repealed D.C.'s gun ban, is likely headed to the Supreme Court. The district's federal circuit court, which ruled in favor of Parker in March, denied D.C.'s request for review before the court's full panel of judges. (The case was originally heard before a three-judge panel.) The court's decision brought the case one step closer to a Supreme Court hearing. Parker marks the first time that a broad interpretation of the second amendment has been used to overturn a state's gun regulations. If the case is upheld before the high court, state gun laws across the nation could be in jeopardy.

Today, in an Op-ed in The Hill, Robert Levy, the man who wielded the second amendment, illuminates an interesting twist in the potential fate of Parker. Levy writes:

Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has the Second Amendment in his crosshairs. He faces a crucial choice over the next 90 days with major implications for residents in D.C. and across the country.

The crucial decision -- should Fenty fight the case and risk a victory for Parker before the Supreme Court, which would have far-reaching implications for state gun laws across the nation, or change the District's gun laws, avoid a Supreme court battle, and face the music at home? Mayor Fenty will likely not be making this decision on his own. Anti-gun groups across the nation will urge Fenty not to appeal to the Supreme Court, while his constituents will push for the opposite. D.C.'s mayor is left to decide whether he acts to serve the interests of his citizens or those of the nation. I don't envy him.

Thanks, Exxon: Families Spend $1,000 More on Gas Per Year

| Wed May 16, 2007 1:42 PM EDT

There was a mini-firestorm Monday when I reported that the average price for a gallon of gas is at its highest level ever and asked SUV owners to justify their choice of car in the comments. You can see the results here.

Today, a follow up. A study led by consumer groups shows that American households spend $1,000 more per year on gasoline than they did just five years ago.

Click the chart for a larger version.

 gas_chart300.jpg

You know how every so often there is a news story about how ExxonMobil has set a new record for quarterly profits? They did it again in the first quarter of 2007. Their earnings from January to March of 2007 exceeded their already astronomical quarterly earnings record by 10%. Total take in three months: $9.3 billion.

Thoughts?