Bloggers on the California wildfires.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Oct. 25 2007 6:04 PM

Fanning the Flames

The blogosphere heats up over the wildfires in Southern California, and bloggers debate the implications of the Bush administration's newest sanctions against Iran.

Fanning the flames: Thousands of residents have been evacuated as wildfires raged across Southern California this week, fueled by the Santa Ana winds and severe drought. Eight people have been killed so far, and thousands have been left homeless. The fires have destroyed almost half a million acres and nearly 2,000 homes. President Bush declared the area a Federal Emergency Zone and visited the region today. Bloggers attack the fires from all sides.

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SoCal bloggers givetheirpersonal, insider's perspectives on the fires. Da Goddess describes her particular situation and includes pictures: "We have occasional clouds of ash fall on us, but mostly we're good. … I feel almost guilty having some normalcy in my life when so many others don't." She continues, "It's been heartbreaking to see the devastation. We watched a local newscaster stand before his burning home yesterday. Again, he was one of many. And that's what we all are -- one of many."

Doc in the Box highlights the uncertainties of the precarious situation. "No word on my house yet but I see the sky glowing over there, hopefully it's just streetlights shining in the smoke if not, then guess, I'll have to start going over my insurance policy." FBL at Fuzzilicious Thinking lives in a neighborhood where 14 to 22 houses are estimated to have been destroyed by the fire. "I'm firmly telling myself that the above still means at least 85% of the houses are okay," she says. "But I'm getting a little sick to my stomach. We had no idea so many homes in the neighborhood were affected."

Other bloggers quickly drew political conclusions, scrambling to lay the blame for the fires at someone's feet.

Some echo Al Gore's post-Katrina observations and blame global warming for the fires' intensity. Science blog ClimateProgress explains that "[g]lobal warming leads to more intense droughts, hotter weather, earlier snowmelt (hence less humid late summers and early autumns), and more tree infestations (like the pine beetle)," all of which contribute to forest fires.

Energy blogger Adam Siegel, posting at EnergySmart, cautions against overreaching and has some scientific analysis to back it up: "It is impossible to state that Global Warming did or did not cause the California wildfires. The flames that we see on television. The burned homes. The billowing smoke clouds. Global Warming is not the cause … or at least not the sole cause. Global Warming did, however, contribute to the conditions for these fires and, well, could be said to be fanning their flames."

Conservative Michelle Malkin disagrees and blames the "litigious environmentalists" for filing "lawsuits [that] have tied up the president's Healthy Forests Initiative passed in 2003," which was intended to reduce the risk of forest fires.

The self-described "Hollywood refugee" at ATLmalcontent compares the government's reaction to the California wildfires with the reaction after Hurricane Katrina, praising Governor Schwarzenegger: "When leadership was required in Louisiana, none was provided -- not from Ray Nagin, Kathleen Blanco or W. Bush's apologists say he doesn't like to 'get in the way' of rescue workers, but Schwarzenegger has stayed on the ground throughout the disaster, reassuring citizens that someone was in charge. That is an executive's job, after all."

Presidential candidate Bill Richardson links the California fires to his plan to reduce American presence in Iraq. Writing at the Huffington Post, Richards asks simply, "Where is our National Guard?" He elaborates, using the opportunity to reinforce his call to bring the troops home: "When a national disaster hits, our states depend on the National Guard. Right now, President Bush is robbing Peter to pay Paul to continue his disastrous adventure in Iraq, and when tragedy hits us here at home, Americans are stuck with the bill. This cannot continue."

Ken Ashford at the Seventh Sense has compiled a telling roundup of the presidential candidates' responses to the fires.

Conservative Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse tries to step above the fray, bemoaning the politicization of these fires: "Instead of doing everything we can to support these efforts, leaving the finger pointing and political gamesmanship until a decent interval has passed and life has returned to some semblance of normalcy for the afflicted, the professional bomb throwers on the right and the usual suspects on the left (almost everybody) are gleefully throwing around baseless and unproven charges of culpability."

Nature's blog, the Great Beyond, has published some striking NASA satellite images of the fires.

Read more about the California wildfires.

Freezing in Iran: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced new sanctions to be imposed on Iran and its Revolutionary Guard Corps, aimed at pressuring the regime to give up its nuclear program. The sanctions freeze any assets held by the Revolutionary Guard and label the Guard's elite Quds division a supporter of terrorism. Bloggers debate the significance of the move.

British conservative Steve Green blogging at the Daily Referendum is worried. "I hope that this is not just another step towards armed conflict with Iran," he says. "Though Iran need to be told in no uncertain terms that their actions are not going to go unnoticed, I can't help feeling that the US government are just looking for an excuse to attack."

Counterterrorism expert Andrew Cochran, [let's make sure he has some credentials for being an expert. If not, we'll call him something else, like self-proclaimed expert] posting at Counterterrorism Blog, analyzes the strategic implications: "The broad scope of this sweeping announcement signals a decisive foreign policy decision, in concert with other countries, to significantly ratchet up sanctions against Iran to avoid a more dangerous confrontation."

Left Coaster Steve Soto concurs, noticing that "there will be little direct impact upon Iran from these sanctions because of our minimal economic activity with them now. But the sanctions are aimed at pressuring the Iranians to come to the table, and our allies to be with us or against us in isolating Iran and addressing what the Quds Force is doing."

Righty mondoreb at Blogger News Network is puzzled by the timing: "The question is: why, after much evidence that Iran has contributed to the deaths of U.S. servicemen in Iraq, hasn't the economic screws been applied before? U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, complains of the Revolutionary Guards and their negative impact on U.S. operations in Iraq and this hadn't been done?"

Laura Rozen at MotherJones Blog suggests that the timing may be due to infighting at the White House, quoting a Hill staffer who says it "sounds like a tug of war between Rice/Gates and the VP office. They apparently cut down the middle, designating the entire Revolutionary Guard as a WMD proliferator, but limiting the state sponsor of terror designation to the Qods Force alone."

Marc Ambinder, blogging at the Atlantic, watches the political implications for Hillary Clinton, as her rivals claim that this proves a lack of judgment on her vote for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment labeling the Revolutionary Guard's elite Al-Quds force a terrorist organization. "It's a minefield for Clinton. The Bush Administration seems not to be interested in proposing any new diplomatic initiatives. So every action they take will play into the hands of Clinton's rivals. [Her rivals] will say: "Ok, Hillary, you promised us that Lieberman-Kyl was aimed at promoting a diplomatic course, but the Bush Administration seems to have a very different interpretation."

Read more about the newest sanctions on Iran.

Jake Melville is a Slate intern.