GREEN MACHINE?

At Detroit’s premier auto show this January,

General Motors

unveiled plans for an unlikely “green”

Hummer HX

–a 6.75-foot-wide model that will run on ethanol. Eager to appeal to an increasingly petrol-wary public, GM also recently struck a deal with energy company

Coskata

to investigate cheaper methods of producing ethanol. Overall, ethanol production is on track to reach an estimated 11.4 billion gallons this year and as much as 35 billion gallons by 2017.

Putting aside the hype, ethanol’s environmental credentials leave much to be desired. Converting corn into fuel is a resource-intensive process that actually uses more energy than it produces. Corn also requires more insecticides, herbicides and nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop, to say nothing of the 1,700 gallons of water needed to produce one gallon of ethanol. If scaled similarly to the smaller Hummer H3, the HX will require almost 450 pounds of corn to fill its twenty-three-gallon tank with pure ethanol. That’s enough corn calories to feed one person for an entire year. At a fuel efficiency of barely fifteen miles per gallon, a full tank will get the “outdoor adventure” vehicle approximately 345 miles closer to nature.   BRETT STORY


A PREMATURE ANTIFASCIST:

When 21-year-old

Milton Wolff

met

Ernest Hemingway

during the Spanish Civil War, he wrote to his girlfriend in Brooklyn, “Ernest is quite childish in many respects. He wants very much to be a martyr….” One year later, Wolff was commanding the

Abraham Lincoln Battalion

, the US volunteers who fought against

Francisco Franco

‘s fascist rebellion.

After Madrid fell in 1939, Hemingway, who once described Wolff as “tall as Lincoln, gaunt as Lincoln,” foresaw his comrade’s future: “He is a retired major now at twenty-three,” wrote Hemingway, and “pretty soon he will come home as other men…came home after the peace at Appomattox Courthouse long ago. Except…[now] no good men will be home for long.” Before Pearl Harbor,

William “Wild Bill” Donovan

‘s Office of Strategic Services asked Wolff to recruit Lincoln Battalion veterans for Allied intelligence, welcoming their left-wing contacts in occupied Europe. Their work contributed to victories in Italy and Normandy, but a military blacklist named Wolff a “premature anti-fascist”–the first of his many fights with anticommunist witch hunters. “When you stop struggling,” he avowed, “you are dead.” Wolff died at 92 of heart failure in Berkeley, California, on January 14, an inveterate antifascist.   PETER N. CARROLL

SUPER BOWL SLAVERY:

Bridgestone Firestone

is the sponsor of the 2008 and 2009 Super Bowl halftime shows. It also runs one of the world’s largest rubber plantations, in Liberia. There, in a structure akin to modern-day slavery, workers are shackled by a quota system that withholds pay unless a set number of trees are tapped each day. Firestone says this number is 650, but rubber tappers place the number at 1,125. According to a CNN report, it would take a tapper twenty-one hours each day to reach even the lower rate. This unattainable quota forces workers to bring their children to work or risk losing the meager daily wage of $3.19; children as young as 7 are working on the plantation.

In November 2005 the

International Labor Rights Fund

brought a federal case–now in its discovery phase–against Firestone for violations of child labor rights. Ironically, NFL commissioner

Roger Goodell

is a board member of

Action for Healthy Kids

, which promotes the idea that “all kids develop the lifelong habits necessary to promote health and learning.” How, then, could Goodell allow sponsorship from a corporation linked to child labor? It’s a mistake for the NFL to allow Firestone to use the Super Bowl to showcase its brand to more than 1 billion viewers around the world. It may be too late for

Super Bowl XLII

, but Firestone’s deal for next year’s game must be revoked.   EMIRA WOODS

OSCAR MIAs:

There’ll be no quibbling from us about the Academy’s nominees in the Best Documentary category, which include Michael Moore’s

Sicko

, Alex Gibney’s

Taxi to the Dark Side

and Charles Ferguson’s

No End in Sight

. Nation film critic

Stuart Klawans

called Moore’s healthcare doc a chronicle of “heartbroken, worried, angry, feisty, funny and valiant people” and applauded Ferguson’s insider tale of the Iraq War fiasco as “indispensable and peculiarly damning.” As we scanned the rest of Oscar’s picks we were less than impressed, and asked Newsday‘s

Gene Seymour

for his thoughts. What follows is his take on who’s missing from the field:

Was 2007 that good a year for movies to have allowed the following non-nominees to slip under the Academy’s radar? Apparently so, and it is with some regret that I acknowledge the following Oscar MIAs, in no particular order.

Frank Langella

: Sublimity of the type Langella displays as an aging literary lion in Starting Out in the Evening rarely, if ever, gets love from Oscar voters. But how could anyone be immune to Langella’s consummate mastery of mood and shadow?

Angelina Jolie

: A Mighty Heart tanked and did not deserve to. Nor does Jolie deserve any gratuitous schadenfreude for not making the cut for Best Actress. The world will someday be sorry it dissed both the film and her impassioned turn as

Mariane Pearl

.

Naomi Watts

: Viggo Mortensen had the thick accent, camp haircut and bravado nude-wrestling scene. But Watts’s blend of brittleness and melancholy gave Eastern Promises its heart and soul. She routinely punches in excellent work–which makes it easy for people to take her for granted.

Irrfan Khan

: In a surprisingly decent year for father roles, Khan’s performance as the Gogol-phile dad in The Namesake was a stirring, heartbreaking depiction of quiet dignity and unyielding love under stress. Khan could also claim a Best Supporting Actor nomination as the cool-witted Captain in the aforementioned A Mighty Heart.

Robert Downey Jr.

: When he goes gonzo as he does in Zodiac, people think he’s not really acting. But as good as the movie was throughout, you find yourself really missing Downey when he’s not onscreen.

Jonny Greenwood

: For that itchy, insistent score for There Will Be Blood, which proves so potent that it blends seamlessly with the third movement of Brahms’s violin concerto.