Life In The Vast Lane

It is hard to imagine that anyone has had a more difficult spiritual path than Al Gore. The struggle against personality is central to all esoteric systems of inner work, and life has placed obstacles in his path at every turn: a privileged boyhood in a powerful political family, an Ivy League education, election to both the House and the Senate — followed by two terms as Vice President of the United States, and a photo finish for the White House. And if losing the Presidency to a fellow like George Bush caused him any doubts as to his own natural superiority, they were soon put to rest by his being awarded both an Oscar and the Nobel Prize (helped along, no doubt, by the effect of the Bush victory on the political climate in Hollywood and Stockholm). Small wonder, then, that he is such a smug, self-righteous windbag, as was recently in evidence in Chicago as he bestowed, with grandiloquent and orotund bombast, his coveted Endorsement upon Mr. Obama — a performance in which he apparently set aside environmental concerns for the moment, oblivious as he was to the enormous volumes of greenhouse gas he released in the process.

Anyway, the man really can’t help himself, I suppose, given the challenges he’s had to face; it’s fair to say that any of the rest of us, given similar circumstances, might have become overbearing prigs as well. So in the interest of giving the man a leg up, inner-development-wise, here’s a recently published item that might help him to take himself down a peg.

16 Comments

  1. Charles says

    Wait… so the overhaul actually made his house less efficient? I is confused.

    On the bright side, though, I learned a new word today: orotund. Cheers!

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 5:38 am | Permalink
  2. JK says

    Again I didn’t read the links but I know the subject, well not the individual in the spotlight:

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jun/17/pruden-not-dead-yet-and-cooling/

    And (not to cast doubt on the Nobel Committee) for which I’ve nominated Jeff’s “Gypsy Scholar”-or was that for the Pulitzer Prize Committee? Uhmmm…

    Google, Pacific Decadel Oscillation

    Not to worry Malcolm, I’ve nominated you for the “Northern Arkansas Neighboring Hillbilly Ozarkian Privy Relocation Award.”

    I’m uncertain as to the precise qualifications but you did recently visit California.

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Thanks for that link, JK. Readers, please have a look.

    And from this article on the Pacific Decadal Oscillation:

    From a societal-impacts perspective, recognition of PDO is important because it shows that “normal” climate conditions can vary over time periods comparable to the length of a human’s lifetime.

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  4. Why are the research results so different from those done by Scienists who are independent from the oil industry?

    It is not new, that the will to drill has superceded the will to preserve natural conditions the world over…We can always find excuses for our bad behaviors, even those who would spew massive amounts of pollution have defenders, who will stand-up for reasons which many find indefencible of themselves.

    We can clean-up our planet or not. We can destroy habitat or not. While many recognize the reality of pollution’s dangers, others will look to slur the barers of inconvenient truths..

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  5. the one eyed man says

    The piece you cite does not hold up under scrutiny. The “estimate” of a $100 million profit from “speaking fees and investments” sounds implausibly high. That’s a whole lot of speaking and some terrific investments. It’s also exponentially more than Bill and Hillary Clinton made since leaving office, and one would think that they could command much higher speaker fees than Gore, not to mention income from their books.

    However, the “facts” in the press release which the right wing site sent out are full of holes:

    1) Gore’s renovations were completed last November, so it’s more than a little premature to trumpet how his energy consumption increased. Presumably a hot summer in Nashville requires more energy than their temperate winter. Hence, the yearly energy consumption – which of course could fluctuate due to local weather, how often the Gores were home, etc. – includes both pre- and post-renovation data.

    2) The conclusion is wrong: Gore’s energy bills do not show a sustained rise in electric consumption — his energy bills are online (!) at http://www.nashvilleistalking.com/node/48299 on the bottom of the page.

    3) The hit job only looked at his electric bills and ignored the natural gas bills. Collectively, his carbon footprint decreased by 40%, certifying the Gores with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Award from their power company.

    4) The Gores participate in the Nashville Green Power Switch program, which allows them to pay more to get electricity from renewable sources such as solar power and wind. Hence they have a much lower carbon footprint now than before, a fact which of course is omitted from the right wing site looking to smear Gore. If Gore gets his power from solar energy, I really don’t care how many kilowatts he uses.

    So we have a right wing website (the reference to “global warming hysteria” is a tip off, as well as its self-description in the Overview) purporting to be objective, which eagerly sends out a press release sliming Al Gore with “facts” which are wrong and misleading. Despite its inaccuracy, it floats around the Internet and is warmly received by those too gullible or too lazy to find out what the facts really are. In this way, it becomes an urban legend, similar to the remark taken out of context which had most Americans thinking that Al Gore claimed to invent the Internet. This is the way the right wing operates: set up front organizations which spread false rumors, make no effort to find out the truth or admit error when wrong, and then move on to the next target. It’s like Whack-a-mole. The refutations of rubbish like this get little or no attention, and the purveyors of this slime simply move on to other targets.

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Well!

    First of all, it’s amusing that you refer to being a “right-wing” organization as if it were a crime of some sort – the phrase “tip-off” is a tip-off.

    There is a lot of scrutiny on this story today; I’m sure Gore’s own spokeswoman is no less partisan than those despicable right-wingers. We’ll see how it unfolds. I just wanted to bring it to people’s attention.

    I make no secret of my dislike for smug, sanctimonious, we-know-better-than-you-what’s-good-for-you progressives like Gore, and I don’t think “hysteria” is too strong a word for the way global warming is discussed at the moment. It provides the perfect “war footing” for classic Statist crisis-management programs, and all the usual propaganda moves are there, including the tarring of dissenting voices as the enemy.

    However you slice it – an enormous amount of power is being consumed (and that’s just one house of 4!) – which is the point, really.

    I couldn’t care less how much power the Gores use: they are wealthy, and have my blessing to live as high on the hog as they like. What I don’t like is being lectured by him.

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    By the way, Pete, I’m glad you finally showed up with an indignant comment: I was afraid something must have happened to you!

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  8. bob koepp says

    jeebus!
    Pete, are you actually defending Gore against the charge of hypocrisy? OK, maybe he’s a bit less of a hypocrite than some of his critics suggest. But he can’t very well accuse them of exaggeration without adding to his own hypocrisy. And please, don’t buy into that carbon credit nonsense. Accumulating credits might work to soothe his conscience, but it doesn’t “offset” his consumption of energy.

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 5:32 pm | Permalink
  9. the one eyed man says

    Why am I indignant? Let me count the ways.

    1) There is no crime in being a right wing website. However, it is duplicitous to claim to be independent, non-partisan, and educational and then use the platform to achieve partisan and ideological ends. It’s like the supposedly objective research organizations that are later found out to be subsidized by the tobacco industry. This is an organization which filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the local utility, came up empty, and issued a baseless and defamatory press release anyway. I have no problem if they are right wing or opposed to environmental regulation. I have a big problem with duplicity.

    2) No doubt Gore’s spokesman is partisan. That’s irrelevant. The fact that two people disagree and they are both partisan does not mean that there is merit in both arguments, or that the spokesman cannot be entirely correct merely because she is partisan. The difference between the spokesman and the website is that the spokesman has facts and the website doesn’t.

    3) Even though there is no substance behind the site’s accusations, this type of operation is devastatingly effective because it fits into a narrative which some people want to believe: look at those limousine liberals, they talk a big game but they don’t live by their words. Al Gore made $100 million from his opposition to global warming and he doesn’t even turn his thermostat down! Some people are pre-disposed to believe this, so they accept it without question.

    However, the real narrative is quite the opposite. Gore didn’t make $100 million – in fact, the profits from his book and the movie went to environmental and educational organizations. Gore went to considerable expense to retrofit his house, and he chose an energy plan which is more costly because it uses sustainable resources. Rather than being a “hypocrite and fraud,” his life is consistent with his philosophy. Rather than go up – as the site suggests – his global footprint went down so much that he got a certificate from the utility. Black is white and up is down. It’s the textbook definition of libel and slander, and does not belong in a fine website such as your own.

    4) I don’t find Gore to be hysterical, smug, sanctimonious, or self-righteous. Rather than do what predecessors have done and leave office to line his pockets serving on corporate boards or using his connections to make money, he chose instead to work on a problem which has long concerned him. He has arguably done more than anyone else to bring the issue of climate change to the public’s attention. You may disagree with his ideology or challenge his scientific pronouncements – that’s fine – but you cannot deny that he has spent his years since leaving office working on an issue of great consequence to the public welfare.

    5) Al Gore served with distinction in the House and Senate. He was the VP in what was arguably the most productive and successful administration in decades. He was as gracious as could be after the Supreme Court stopped the vote count in one of its worst decisions ever. He was one of the first people to warn that the invasion of Iraq would be catastrophic, and he was the subject of enormous abuse and ridicule as a result. (Needless to say, he was right.) He also was early to embrace the environmental cause, and was derided as a tree-hugger for it. During all of his years in public life, there was not a whiff of scandal. He never used high office to enrich himself, put cronies in positions of power, have sex with interns, or do any of the other things we have come to accept as commonplace. You may disagree with his ideology or his actions, but you cannot deny that he has spent a life in public service and served admirably the entire time.

    Why am I indignant? The modus operandi of websites such as the one you cite is to make a lot of baseless accusations which become urban legends because by the time they are refuted – with much less prominence than the accusations themselves – the public attention span has passed to the next scurrilous accusation. It’s Swift Boat all over again. Somehow the public perception became that George Bush – they guy who used family connections to avoid going to Vietnam – was the patriot and John Kerry – the guy who volunteered to go and got three Purple Hearts – was the scoundrel. No different than Goebbel’s Big Lie: if you say anything often enough, people believe it, regardless of whether it is true or not. If someone disagrees with what Gore says or does, that’s fine. However, to post a hit-and-run hatchet job on the Internet filled with scurrility and calumny for someone who has spent his adult life in public service is something I find to be infuriating. I would hope that you would share this indignation.

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  10. the one eyed man says

    Bob: I don’t find him to be hypocritical at all. I don’t think he should have to live in a hut and ride a bicycle because he finds the prospect of global warming to be a threat. He lives in an 80 year old house which he had to retrofit to be more energy efficient. In order to do so, he lobbied the city Nashville to change their laws to allow him (and others) to install solar panels. He chose to pay a higher energy rate to use renewable resources. That’s good enough for me.

    Posted June 19, 2008 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    Pete, we appreciate the worshipful recap of the Great Man’s career; perhaps it can be squeezed into the forthcoming edition of The Lives of the Saints. But nowhere in my post did I accuse Al Gore of the sort of behavior his former boss disgraced himself with, although a little poking around regarding Buddhist-temple fundraising, zinc mining, etc., will reveal that canonization might not be in the cards, regardless of how many carbon-offset indulgences he shells out for.

    Al Gore has made approximately $100 million since leaving office; as for how the income was divvied up, I really couldn’t care less whether it comes from speaking engagements, his oil-company investments, or perhaps just finding it in the back of a taxicab. I didn’t link to that article for any reason having to do with his income, anyway; I just find it irritating, and yes, a little hypocritical, to be lectured on energy conservation by a man whose multiple houses use more energy than several hundred average households. Of course, once the word got out that his own immense palace was such a power-guzzler (and not before), he gave it a makeover; PR-wise, that was a forced move. One cheer.

    As for not finding the man to be smug, sanctimonious, or self-righteous: if you managed to type that with a straight face, there’s probably a spot for you on the World Poker Tour.

    At least we got through this round of comments without bringing up Iraq, or comparing right-wingers to the Nazis. Oh wait — not quite. Almost, though!

    Posted June 20, 2008 at 12:12 am | Permalink
  12. Charles says

    Maybe I’m stating the obvious here, but everyone has an agenda, be they right-wing Nazis or hypocritical hippies. I try not to get involved in political discussions–especially when those discussions are being held by people far more knowledgeable and intelligent than I am–but I can’t help commenting on this:

    “However, it is duplicitous to claim to be independent, non-partisan, and educational and then use the platform to achieve partisan and ideological ends.”

    I think the detractors of Al Gore would agree with you heartily.

    Posted June 20, 2008 at 3:51 am | Permalink
  13. the one eyed man says

    I’m not here to bang a drum for Al Gore, and I’m certainly not here to canonize him. He’s in public life, so he can expect to be criticized both fairly and unfairly. However, I would be equally indignant if an organization sent out a slanderous and false press release about John McCain, Bob Dole, Orren Hatch, Sam Brownback, or any other conservative who has spent a long and honorable life in the public sphere.

    If the Tennessee website – or anyone else – wants to make the case that global warming is a hoax, or its proponents are alarmist, then that’s a welcome addition to public discourse, and its merits can be debated by reasonable people. However, using phony information to smear a proponent – which is also completely irrelevant to whether or not Gore’s concerns are justified, as even hypocrites can be right – is something entirely different, and it simply has no place in public life. The ubiquity of the Internet gives anyone with an IP address a soapbox without any accountability for what is published. This has led to a degradation of public discourse, as solving the problems we face is pushed aside by a frantic search to find moral blemishes on those who take one side of an issue or the other. When the finger pointing lacks substance – and is dead wrong, as exemplified by the Tennessee site – then it’s even worse. I would hope that a fine publication like waka waka waka would have editorial standards which universally condemn hit jobs such as the Tennessee website, regardless of their provenance or ideology.

    As for being smug, sanctimonious, and self-righteous: Al Gore can’t hold a candle to Rudy Giuliani in these categories. (He also lacks Giuliani’s venomous nature: it’s hard to think of people whose lives and careers were ruined by Al Gore. Having been a family man for decades, Gore also lacks the drama of Rudy’s personal life. Nor did he appoint people like Bernie Kerik to positions of power and responsibility. But I digress.) I recognize that Gore is not everyone’s cup of tea. He’s wooden, dull, and wonkish: that’s why he lost the Presidency. However, like many others, he devoted his life to public affairs, and for that I think he deserves the right not to be slimed by outfits such as the one in Tennessee.

    Posted June 20, 2008 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  14. Malcolm says

    Peter, the point of the article was that Gore, who sees fit to lecture us all in the most insufferably patronizing way about the need to change our habits of energy consumption, lives in a Brobdingagian mansion (just one of his several houses) that consumes as much power as hundreds of ordinary households. This appears not to be “phony information” at all. The bit about his net worth having risen by $100 million since he left office appears to be correct as well (not that I care how much money he makes). The article is not about the truth or falsity of Gore’s histrionics about global warming, from which he makes a very good living, but rather the inconsistency of his lifestyle with the one he is urging so piously upon us. One might compare it, were one so inclined (not that I am, of course), to gay-bashing preacher Ted Haggard’s cavorting with a male prostitute.

    As for your tu quoque comments on Rudy Giuliani: what on earth does he have to do with any of this?

    Posted June 20, 2008 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  15. the one eyed man says

    Gore was not an especially wealthy man when he left the White House. The profits from his book and his movie were given to environmental organizations. How exactly did he make $100 million when the Clintons wrote books, gave speeches, and only made about one tenth as much?

    My guess is that the book and movie made $100 million in profits, and the Tennessee website is falsely suggesting that the money went into his pocket (which, of course, he had every right to do — but didn’t). Since neither you nor I are privy to his bank account, we don’t know. However, this figure sounds preposterous and doesn’t pass the smell test.

    As for the “inconsistency of his lifestyle:” he uses energy which comes from renewable resources. Who cares how many kilowatts he uses? The relevant criterion is what his carbon footprint is, which is not addressed by the website or anyone else.

    As for Giuliani: to my knowledge, he is the only politician which has been favorably mentioned on waka waka waka, and his picture ought to be in the dictionary next to smug, sanctimonious, and self-righteous. If these characteristics are so bothersome to you when they are purportedly exemplified by Al Gore, then surely you must be at the edge of tears when you read of Rudy’s antics.

    Posted June 20, 2008 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    No, Peter, it appears that Gore’s personal net worth is around $100 million these days. And please note that it was not untill November 2007, when the whistle was blown, that he re-vamped his largest house.

    Nowhere do I recall saying anything about Rudy’s personal characteristics; all I did was to give him a provisional endorsement based on his position on various issues, in particular foreign policy. I quite agree that he is no exemplar of saintliness. Were he to have taken up preaching from to us all about the virtues of marital constancy, or the proper vetting of appointees, I might well have seen him as a fair target for accusations of hypocrisy. But this post was about Al Gore, not Rudy Giuliani.

    Posted June 20, 2008 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

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