Friday, May 26, 2006

Thoughts On Al Gore

I went to see Al Gore speak about global warming at something called A WIRED Town Hall on the Climate Crisis last night here in New York. Two of the producers of the film An Inconvenient Truth, Laurie David and Lawrence Bender, were also there, along with Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Institute for Space Studies in New York City. The event was hosted by WIRED magazine and moderated by John Hockenberry.

It was a truly moving night.

Watching Al Gore speak about global warming in such an eloquent, knowledgeable, intelligent way, I couldn't help but tear up thinking about what could have been for this nation. Gore won the 2000 election, of course, but George Bush stole it from him with the help of Karl Rove, James Baker III, the Diebold corporation, and the Supreme Court, and the nation has been on a downward course toward destruction ever since.

George W. Bush, a man who destroyed the two companies he ran before he became governor of Texas, has brought his incompetent management skills, his penchant for privileging cronyism over talent/knowledge and his discredited political and economic ideologies to Washington and sowed the seeds of future catastrophe. Environmentally, financially, and geopolitically this nation is headed for destruction. Bush took a budget surplus of $178 billion and turned it into a deficit in the $300-$400 billion range (depending upon whether you add the Iraq war costs to it or not.) Bush has made the United States a pariah in the world by pursuing a policy of kidnapping and torture of "terror suspects" and by launching a pre-emptive war on the flimsiest of excuses. Bush has allowed Exxon-Mobile and other major polluters to create energy and environmental policy, gutted the EPA and sold the nation out to corporate interests.

Watching Gore last night, I couldn't help but think this didn't have to be. But perhaps in the long run, letting George Bush run the country for eight years is just the thing the country needs to wake up to some inconvenient truths. Drunks have to hit bottom before they are willing to get help and I have a feeling the same is true for the American nation as a whole. We're so used to our cheap oil, cheap money, and economically/environmentally disastrous policies that we don't want to change until we absolutely have to. But after a few more Katrinas, after the evidence of the destruction we are wreaking on the planet becomes so obvious that even FOX News and Exxon-Mobile can't propagandize their way around it, maybe people will be ready to make some real and lasting changes to how we live our lives.

I want to write more about this in the future, but I already try and live my life in a way that doesn't negatively impact the environment. I don't own a car, I walk to work, I recycle as much as I can (my recycle garbage can is three times the size of my regular can and gets emptied more often), I try and purchase products that don't come with a lot of packaging. But I still have lots more to do on this front (including changing my relationship to air conditioning - god how I love air conditioning!) and electricty (i.e., I don't need to use as much as I do.) I hope everybody who sees Al Gore speak about global warming or who sees the film An Inconvenient Truth comes away inspired to make similar changes. Political change may not be easy to accomplish, but personal change is doable and the more people change their own habits, the better off we will be in the long run.

And change has to start with me.

Do you really believe that the 2000 election was stolen?
arch stanton, it's good to hear from you again. I haven't seen you over at praguetwin's for a while.

I do think something funky happened in Florida in 2000. I also think something funky happened in both Florida and Ohio in 2004 (voter roll fraud, voter fraud, electronic voting machine fraud, etc.)

But you know what? THe Al Gore of 2000 would have made a terrible president because he was still listening to the Bob Shrums and Donna Braziles of the political world. The Al Gore of today seems like a real person to me, intelligent, thoughtful and informed, who sees serious problems in the world and wants to address them before it's too late. I thought his speech at NYU last year about the state of our democracy and political discourse is just as important an issue to deal w/ as global warming. He's talking about issues he really believes in with passion and insight and he has given up the "consultant speak" so many other politicians engage in (Hillary, for instance, should just change her name to "polling data"!)

BTW, I also think the Kennedys stole the 1960 election from Nixon. That stolen election indirectly brought about Watergate, of course, because Nixon vowed he would never allow the Kennedy/LBJ tricksters to steal anything from him again. You can understand why he would have had the siege mentality he had between 1968-1972 because he thought, rightfully, that if he didn't win in a landslide somebody could steal the election from him again. Of course, his solutions turned how to be even more harmful to himself in the long run.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by, arch stanton. I know you probably don't agree w/ my pov, but I look forward to hearing your response.
Great stuff! I bet the show beat Simpson's re-runs hands down.
The great thing about exposing yourself to a truly inspirational event is that, regardless of the core topic it opens the mind to some often unrelated deep thinking.
It’s easy to get absorbed and distracted by the noise and ephemera. I envy you that opportunity.
And yes, there is ample independent evidence that Bush stole the election. As you suggest, this could well be a necessary warning to citizens of how fragile democracy really is.
Thanks for a great post.

And you're right about Gore - I think he has done some maturing as a public figure.
I was at Town Hall last night as well, and it was an inspiring evening for many of us.

My $.02: Re: the "2000" Gore vs. the Gore of today: I'd take any version of Al Gore over any of the Bush boys any day. Who among us hasn't grown over the years? Shouldn't we?
Great post RBE!

Especially good was hammering home the fact that we are burning up the world and that eventually that has to stop.

That point gets lost in the whole global warming arguemt. Scientists can come in and say that it isn't caused by man, or that antarctic ice is incrasing.

But the fact is that cutting down all the forests, pumping out all the ground water, burning all those fossile fuels, and damning up all the rivers is going to have SOME effect eventually. It probably is not going to be the effect you want.


I don't know man, I'm sure the event was cool, but Simpsons re-runs are pretty good.
cartledge, I'll tell you, I've been real busy at work lately, I had a big portfolio exhibition to put together yesterday and I didn't sleep well Wednesday night, but I still got juiced to go see Gore at Town Hall. I felt like I needed to go, like this was something I would regret not doing. And while it wasn't exactly like hearing Abe Lincoln give his anti-slavery speech at Cooper Union, I still felt like this was a seminal event for me. As I say, I have always tried to be environmentally aware and considerate, but Gore made me feel the need to change things more urgently. He didn't just scare you...he scared you, but he gave you hope too - which is why I felt ready to take action after I left the hall.

abi, Gore really has matured into his own skin. I know that's the cliche about him, but you could really see it. He's heavier now (Howard Fineman called him portly) but the weight makes him seem human, you know? Evan Bayh and Hillary Clinton parse everything through their consultants and polling experts before they say it and they manage to say nothing. Gore did that when he ran for 2000. He knows it was a mistake and he's decided he's not going to make it anymore. Which is really refreshing.

paul d. - glad to hear you enjoyed the town hall too. And you're right, of course. Any version of Gore would be better than schmucko - but I thought the version of Gore we saw last night would make a fantastic leader/statesman. Not a politican necessarily - but that's a whole different ballgame from a leader/statesman.

praguetwin, it is just common sense to think that 4 billion people living on a planet with hundreds of millions of cars, ten thousand power plants, a few hundred thousand less trees, etc. is going to cause SOME effect. But as you say, some scientists (i.e., those on the Exxon-Mobile payroll) are willing to sell themselves out, muddy the waters with bullshit science and fool people into doing nothing (and most people are predisposed to not want to do anything about the environmental problem anyway.)

I have a friend who does cancer research and some tobacco companies tried paying him to conduct some "experiments" years ago that would undercut the tie between tobacco and cancer. They weren't upfront about it, of course; they never stated it openly. But everybody in my friend's lab KNEW what kind of "experiment" the companies wanted and what kind of "results" they expected. My friend didn't take part, but one or two people from his lab eventually did join the "experiment." My friend said he never had any respect for those people ever again.
I think you are right, the new (real) Al Gore is better than the 2000 Al Gore. Its funny how Al Gore is what Howard Dean used to be: Honest and heartfelt about his positions and un-ashamed of them. (God I hope Al Gore runs in 08!)
Well said, arch stanton. I wish honest, heartfelt politicans who are unashamed of their positions and unafraid to offend people would run for office at all levels in both parties. I think the nation would be so much the better for it. The damage consultants have done to politics by overcrafting everything, from commercials to policy, is really the death knell of American politics. Arianna Huffington put it this way:

"The pressure on Gore to run will continue to grow because watching him speak out so eloquently, so passionately, and so personally on this issue -- in other words, displaying real leadership -- is like suddenly being served a steak after a steady diet of fast-food burgers. It's a stark reminder of just how far we've lowered the bar on what we expect from those we elect.

It's as if we've been so pummeled by ersatz candidates espousing focus-group approved piffle that we've come to accept as normal the idea that if you are going to be in politics you are going to have to sell out -- shaped and molded by campaign consultants and pollsters, your ideals and principles wrung out by the very process of becoming a candidate. Each disappointment (et tu, John McCain?) is like a wound, and the scar tissue that remains has desensitized us.

I love the phrase "focus-group approved piffle". When I hear that phrase, I immediately picture Hillary Clinton in my brain. And I'm really sick of the piffle (and Hillary.)
I seem to recall seeing three different Al Gores at three different debates, which was disturbing to me, and I gotta think others as well.

Had that not been the case, he may have more conclusively won. Also that self-serving, smug Ralph Nader was no fun that year.

I kinda wish you hadn't brought it up. I was on the verge of accepting the 2000 election results, and hoping to work on 2004. You've set me back months.
Anyone want to debunk this one for me?

We need to put 2000 to rest. I think this evidence is sufficient.
Re: Gore presidency, You can't live in what might have been. However, the hiting bottom metaphor does show a real gift for finding bright spots.

And, if you look at the numbers on carbon emissions, it's really cars and coal. Small cuts in those would have huge impact.

For instance, the "clean coal technology" that Bush is always talking about, coal gassification, actually would reduce emissions fairly subtantially, although calling it "clean" is a serious exaggeration. And, of course he wants the American people to subsidize the coal companies changeover.


4 billion people? You are showing your age!

And I mean that in the nicest possible way. I remeber when it was 4 billion too. Scary.
Mike, I was thinking about writing a post using the hitting bottom metaphor because I think it's true. Before people finally stand up and say "Enough," things have got to get really, really bad. Even with 70%/30% Wrong Track/Right Track numbers, I don't think we're there yet. I think people are still susceptible to bullshit p.r., consultant politics, etc. But at some point people WILL get sick and tired of the current bumper sticker/30 second spot political campaigns politicians run and demand real discussion of ideas in our campaigns. Maybe I'm being too hopeful about that, but a serious catastrophe a la the Great Depression/WW II can bring about serious, generational political change. Bush/Rove like to think 9/11 was that serious/generational change, and it could have been had they been less small-minded and partisan in the way they went about the 2002 midterms, the Iraq war, and a host of other issues where they either shut out the other side (i.e., the majority of the majority must support a bill for passage) or demonized them. (Sorry for the rambling nature of the response - I'm still a bit stunned from getting 8 hours sleep for the first time in a week.)

praguetwin, you're right! I am showing my age when I say 4 billion. The current population number is 6,518,466,372! Gee, how time flies!

arch stanton, I would agree that the early call of Florida for Gore could have supressed Bush votes in the pan handle (although calling it a media conspiracy is a little over-the-top in my opinion.) Gore's campaign would argue that Jeb Bush's gov't suppressed the minority vote and/or purged minority voters off the voting list (the link from for that allegation is after my comment.) I don't think the link you put up or the evidence contained therein is going to end the controversy over 2000 because of the partisan nature of the argument on both sides.
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