True, the FBI early in the summer circulated a memo to the effect that an al-Qaida operative in custody claimed to be the mastermind of a plot to start forest fires in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah – from the locations perhaps while he was on vacation. The tactic of starting forest fires is hardly an original idea. The Japanese tried it in World War II, and it didn’t work for them. And all the talk of administration-sanctioned torture – sorry, “enhanced interrogation techniques” – makes all such admissions suspect. Did our al-Qaida operative also confess to being the Lindbergh baby and kidnapping Judge Crater? Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid advanced this explanation: “One reason we have the fires in California is global warming.” Having got off that shot at President Bush, who is the antichrist to the climate- change people, he later backed off that assertion. CNN eased right up to blaming global warming, but mainly it seemed to promo a series of theirs called “Planet in Peril.” (Hmm. Wonder where they come out on that issue.) One explanation taking shape on the Internet and call-in talk shows is breathtaking in its own way: The wildfires are somehow the fault of the people who live there; they brought it on themselves. Not everybody, mind you, just the people in Malibu. The argument starts something like this: “Well, nobody made them live in a place that’s prone to mudslides, wildfires and earthquakes.” This is true of a lot of California, but what the caller really means is that the residents are rich, famous, have fabulous houses with ocean views, drive fancy cars and generally have it coming to them. The call typically winds up in the spirit of generosity, “And, anyway, they can afford to rebuild.” Let’s take a slightly higher road. If somebody gave you a beachfront house in Malibu, would you live there knowing that one day it might burn down and you’d be back living in the trailer park? Darn right. Dale McFeatters is a Washington-based editorial writer and columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! By Dale McFeatters We are always cautioned against the “blame game,” but in truth it is one of America’s favorite pastimes. We can’t accept that bad things simply happen. No, sir; somebody – or something – had to be responsible. When Florida was being racked by hurricanes, some loopy preachers blamed the bad weather on gays, godlessness and abortion rights. None of this talk about thermoclines and isobars and cyclical storm activity for them. And when Katrina hit, the Bush White House knew instantly whom to blame for New Orleans being underwater: corrupt local Democrats. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.But a scapegoat has yet to emerge for the Southern California wildfires that have displaced about a half-million people, done immense property damage and sent, because of the lurid visuals, cable-TV reporters into paroxysms of something akin to sexual ecstasy. There has been a paucity of political blame, probably because the fires have incinerated liberal Democratic and conservative Republican precincts alike. Given the proximity of the fires to the Mexican border, I thought for sure the blame would fall on every aspiring politician’s favorite issue: illegal immigrants. However, illegal immigrants don’t seem to figure into the story, except that some of them may have been trapped and killed by the fast-moving inferno. It will be interesting to see where the localities stand on illegal immigrants when the fires finally are put out and a plentiful supply of cheap, semi-skilled labor is needed to rebuild and replant. For disasters that could be humanmade, terrorism is always a quick and simple early explanation, even if it’s only offered to be retracted later. But the terrorists have been conspicuously absent from official speculation, perhaps because there’s no election this fall.