The ethanol scam

New energy legislation is careening toward a calamitous collision with American lives, especially ethanol provisions that will hike food prices and foul the environment while saving little or nothing on fossil-fuel consumption.

The mandate that tens of billions more subsidized gallons of ethanol be used in our cars each year by 2022 is little short of a scam, a gift to politically important corn farmers and others under the pretense that you, the taxpayer, are thereby awarded the enhanced prospect of energy independence and less global warming. No such thing.

A complex but Merry Christmas

We Americans can’t do “simple holidays.” We probably wouldn’t recognize one if it cropped up on the calendar.

This year’s Christmas, a boisterous and appealing mix of the sacred and the secular, will be bigger and gaudier than ever. Let us browse some of the Census Bureau’s collection of gee-whiz facts:

Christmas trees are a half-billion-dollar business. China is our leading supplier of tree ornaments and our leading foreign source of artificial trees. Texas is our leading supplier of candles, $16l million worth at last count. Jewelry-store sales will jump 155 percent this month.

A clear moral issue

In this Christmas season of peace, love and goodwill, we find ourselves debating, in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail, whether torture is ever justified. And whether waterboarding, an ancient interrogation method favored by the Nazis and prosecuted as a crime by the United States for a century, constitutes torture. Of course waterboarding is torture, even if our attorney general can’t bring himself to say so, and it is illegal under U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions.

If not torture, then what?

The dilemma is of such magnitude that there really may never be a satisfactory answer or solution that doesn’t leave us all losers one way or the other. We can forgo any form of interrogation that might be interpreted as torture and risk missing an opportunity to save lives or we can use long discredited methods and give up the moral high ground that we always have claimed in the “home of the free and the land of the brave.

Tape destruction proves torture

The CIA’s destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects gives more reason to fear that detainees face torture, a UN human rights expert said Thursday.

It “is one more argument that supports the contention that the CIA has been involved and continues to be involved in the use of interrogation techniques that violate the absolute prohibition against torture,” special rapporteur Martin Scheinin told journalists.

FBI probes Iraq IG misconduct

The FBI is investigating the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Justice Department officials said, following allegations of misconduct from former employees.

The investigation of Stuart Bowen involves possible electronic tampering, including alleged efforts by the inspector general to go through e-mails of employees in his office, said two officials close to the inquiry Thursday. It is being handled by the FBI’s Washington field office, according to law enforcement officials, who like the first officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The gypsy children of Beirut

I grew up in Warwick, R.I., and, while attending elementary school, I was cast as an orphan in a production of the musical “Oliver!”

I can probably speak for most of my cast mates and say the production was our first exposure to Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist,” about a young orphan by that name.

What’s your carbon footprint?

Carbon is the new guilt.

And if you don’t feel guilty about the carbon you exude, thus threatening the penguins, the polar bears, lower-lying nations, not to mention prime beachfront real estate, do-good groups will soon be around to see that you do.

The alcohol cure

“We are financing a war against ourselves,” writes Robert Zubrin, nuclear engineer and author of a new book responding to the distressing fact that Americans and Europeans are sending trillions of dollars to militant Islamists whose goal is our destruction.

Tolerance cannot be tolerated

From the Department of Flogging Dead Horses, I offer one last thought on Mitt Romney’s JFK moment, when he tried to ease the concerns of conservative voters concerning his Mormon religion. Actually, the horse I want to trot out is of a different stripe than the one much commented upon by some of America’s great pontificators.