Al Gore: Not Omnipotent

Gee, ya think?

At Al Gore's daughter's wedding he, gasp, ate some Chilean Sea Bass, which is endangered. A lot of people are getting in a huff about this.

Hmm...Possibly, possibly it could be because Mr Gore didn't look over, research, and approve every aspect of his daughter's wedding?

C'mon, just because the guy stands up for what he believes in doesn't mean that every little thing somehow connected to him has to do right by the entire ecosystem. Who among us can say they can control every bit of their lives to always do the right thing? I can't and I would guess that my life is much less complicated than Gore's, and surely less complicated than planning a wedding.

Psst...I also hear that he uses...electricity. Shocking.

More like this

I constantly hear people complaining about the hypocrisy of Al Gore -- that he is damaging the environment so much by flying planes, etc. That sort of damage is so small compared to the positive effect he has on raising awareness about environmental issues. One person choosing to drive a hybrid over an SUV isn't going to make a lot of difference by itself. One person inspiring the masses to do this will have a much larger impact.

Gore's done great things for the environmental movement, whether he's a "hypocrite" in his personal life or not.

Why do I suspect that those most offended by this are listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio in their Hummer while eating a baby-seal burger?

Can i kill and eat the rabbits that are eating my organically grown tomatoes and chilis? I make them into salsa and eat them in my air-conditioned house. But I would vote for public policies that helped the environment.
Environmental problems can be helped a little by individual action, but ultimately it is a policy thing--like public health.

PalMD: Could you please post the recipe for your rabbit salsa? And do you leave the ears and the little button tail as decoration, or simply discard them?

May I add to these excellent comments above that the fish was sustainably harvested!!!:

The restaurant later confirmed, they had come from one of the world's few well-managed, sustainable populations of toothfish, and caught and documented in compliance with Marine Stewardship Council regulations.

Means, it was NOT poached, not illegal. Expensive, but NOT unethical. Chilean Sea Bass fishing is regulated, but it is NOT prohibited. They weren't eating friggin' white tigers!

These silly attacks on Gore personally as a way to avoid the reality of global warming are getting really old. The next thing you know someone is going to break the big story of how Gore's underwear isn't made of organic cotton. I can't WAIT to hear the concern trolling about that . . .

and he lives in a BIG HOUSE, too, thereby invalidating all of the data and arguments he has ever used with regards to the environment.

gotta love the media.


PalMD says: "Environmental problems can be helped a little by individual action, but ultimately it is a policy thing--like public health."

I completely disagree. A few environmental problems are point sources, like, say, Chernobyl. But most, including CO2 and its effect on global warming, are cumulative effects from individuals. These can be can be, in fact can *only* be, helped by individual action. The only policy aspect would be the possible use of government force to compel individual action. But the more of us that voluntarily act responsibly on an individual level, the better it gets, and the more lasting because the change is happening due to people seeing the need for change and not just because they'll get punished if they get caught.

So (to tie back to the post here) Al Gore's hypocrisy does, I think, have some bearing. (a) He's not doing his part in that sense, which is in itself small, but is the same as for each of the rest of us he's talking to, (b) it smacks of the typical politician "do as I say, not as I do", and that gets really old after a while, and (c) it gives his opponents ammo and arguing points.

I'm not saying he needs to go off the grid entirely, or even to reduce his consumption to average; a person of prominence who has to travel and keep security and so on is necessarily going to use more resources than average. But he should be conserving where he can, and be able to show that he's being an example and making an effort, even if it's inconvenient sometimes, to demonstrate sincerity and to do what he's asking us all to do as well. HE calls it an "inconvenient truth", and asks us all to accept the inconvenience of helping to fix it. Walk the walk.


By Phil Boncer (not verified) on 19 Jul 2007 #permalink

I think PalMD certainly should harvest the free-range, organically fed, vegetable-poaching rabbits and eat them (tastes like chicken and you can use most chicken recipes). But be sure to add plenty of additional fat, because a diet of only rabbit (very lean meat) leads to "rabbit starvation" (lack of essential fatty acids), which isn't pretty. Sort of like what happens to people who subsist on just boneless chicken breast. Bon appetit!

I'll give you my recipes later.
The thing about point sources is they are ultimately a governed by public policy. There is no public transportation to and from my place of work. I can't afford solar panels, and besides I live in michigan. Gas is still cheaper than water, so there is little incentive on a societal level to make the big infrastructure changes.

It's the old "think globally, act locally" maxim, properly applied here. You do what you can, and if we all do that, then the problem is solved. I try to minimize my energy usage and carbon footprint, within what I define as my reasonable limits, which are different from some others. For example, I ride a motorcycle instead of drive a car pretty much all the time, rain or shine. Some would call that extreme, but it's within my limits. On the other hand, lighting is very important to me, especially in the rooms where I have my art collection, so compact flourescent bulbs are out of the question for me for some of the house.

As far as "big infrastructure changes" go, most of the problem isn't there. In the U.S., 25% of greenhouse gases come from residential buildings. That's a big chunk. Another 33% come from transportation. In both cases, there's lots of improvement over current practice available there, from individual action, without any "big infrastructure changes".

Another very large chunk comes from power generation. Again, individual action can make changes here. If you care, spend a little extra to buy electricity from companies that generate it in more sustainable ways. This will build a sound renewable energy industry, based on customer demand, which will be much sounder and more competitive than any government-mandated program.

For bigger items like, say, solar panels, go for it if you can, and don't if you can't. The problem with government action on such things is that it doesn't solve the problem. Either most people can afford to make such a change, in which case they should (and we can peacefully work to convince them of it), and government coercion is not needed. Or most people can't, in which case government coercion is unreasonably burdensome. Solar panels don't magically become affordable if the government mandates them; that money gets taken from someone else, probably against his will.

Public transportation, likewise, makes sense in some places and not in others. Where it makes sense (e.g. population is dense enough and destinations are close enough to make it reasonably economical), then it shouldn't need government coercion and mandates and big subsidies to make it happen. Where it doesn't make sense, government action will spend a bunch of money to build something that doesn't make sense, and that doesn't help the situation.

Lastly, an attitude of "I can't do it; the government should be responsible for this" is a copout. Take responsibility for your own decisions.


By Phil Boncer (not verified) on 20 Jul 2007 #permalink

So your argument is that we *shouldn't* each do our part and take responsibility for our own actions and emissions? We should wait until the government wakes up and *forces* us all to do the things we should have been doing already? And hope that then the things the government forces us all to do are the right things and not some lobbyists' choices instead?

I like this plan. This is a good plan.


By Phil Boncer (not verified) on 20 Jul 2007 #permalink

So your argument is that we *shouldn't* each do our part and take responsibility for our own actions and emissions?

That's a strawman. We can each do our part, but that doesn't mean that the .gov doesn't also have a large role to play. It's not a dichotomy.

Yes, there is a part for the government insomuch as (a) it should be making every effort to conduct its own operations in an environmentally conscious way, and (b) it can facilitate good practices, and regulate and punish those who pollute on an excessive scale. I agree that both parts have a role.

But PalMD's line has been such like "The thing about point sources is they are ultimately a governed by public policy. There is no public transportation..."; he is claiming that it is *primarily* the government's responsibility. I disagree with that. The government's role is secondary to the role and responsibility of each of us as individuals, and we as individuals should be doing what we can right now and not waiting for the government before we take action.


By Phil Boncer (not verified) on 21 Jul 2007 #permalink

Are you sure rabbits are eating your tomatoes? Tomato foliage is poisonous, and is reputed to repel rabbits.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 21 Jul 2007 #permalink

So (to tie back to the post here) Al Gore's hypocrisy does, I think, have some bearing. (a) He's not doing his part in that sense, which is in itself small, but is the same as for each of the rest of us he's talking to, (b) it smacks of the typical politician "do as I say, not as I do", and that gets really old after a while, and (c) it gives his opponents ammo and arguing points.

The "Al Gore is a hypocrite" propaganda is so cleverly crafted that I can't help but suspect the involvement of focus groups. While posing as mere character assassination, it cleverly manages to slip misinformation regarding Al Gore's views "under the radar." The complaint, of course, is that Al Gore is a hypocrite because he has a high standard of living and he has a big house which of course uses more energy than small houses. For this to constitute hypocrisy, of course, Al Gore would have to be opposed to Americans having large houses or a high standard of living. So this is the hidden lie: "Al Gore wants to destroy America's standard of living in the name of fighting global warming."

Of course, in reality, Al Gore believes that by means of intelligent conservation and advanced energy technologies, it is possible to reduce global warming while maintaining our standard of living, and that developing low carbon technologies offers economic opportunities to the US that more than offset the costs. Indeed, Al Gore is very much the poster child for the policies he supports: He supports carbon credits; he buys them. He supports laws to make it easier for homeowners to install solar heating; he is seeking permission to install it in his new home. He supports buying energy from carbon neutral energy sources; he does so himself. One could argue as to whether the measures that Gore proposes as stringent enough, but there is not doubt that Gore himself is adhering to them. And of course, the "Al Gore is a hypocrite" slanders are not coming from people who think we should be doing more to fight global warming than Gore proposes; for the most part, they are coming from people who want us to do less.


I hope you don't take offense to this, but for once I find your analysis sharp and spot on, and myself in complete agreement with you. Maybe all we have to do to get along is to avoid THAT issue.

The Gore deal is part of an agenda so transparent that a barbecued Chilean Sea Bass can see through it. The evergreen talking points in this agenda are best enjoyed on Fox News and include John Edward's haircut viewed from trailer trash perspective and the daily warnings on the business shows that all prominent democrats are closet communists as evidenced by their position on Health Care.

In Gore's case, the twisted logic that's being appealed to has already been explained by the otherwise slightly overrated '69 generation icon, Herbert Marcuse, here simplistically paraphrased by me: "if you want to represent the poor and uninfluential, you must be poor and uninfluential yourself, in which case you'll be just that - uninfluential".

In these matters it's easier to avoid being hypocritical when one's stated moral philosophy is Capitalism, also known as the principle that personal greed always translates into the common good. The problem arises when time comes to decide whose sons and daughters we should send to fight and die in foreign lands for our God given right to make a buck.

I'm going to let go of the Al Gore thing at this point. Y'all each can take individual action or not as you wish, and listen to Al if you like, or not.

As for Mr. Pope, I would like to point out that capitalism does not translate into the idea that "personal greed always translates into the common good". The idea of capitalism is that mutually beneficial trades will enrichen all parties concerned, and that success is best built on mutually bebenficial trade, as that translates into continued business. Capitalism goes awry mostly when the government can be convinced or bribed to give special advantage to some faction, for it is then that the faction need no longer serve its customers well due to the special privileges.

Likewise, capitalism itself does not actually tend to result in war; war is very unprofitable if you have to fund it yourself. Where capitalism profits from war is (again) when government can be convinced or bribed to go to war, and spend its war budget on the goods from the suppliers. That is not proper capitalism, as the profits come not from satisfied customers, but from coerced taxpayers.

So in both cases, it is corrupt government that makes monopoly abuses and war profiteering possible, and government that must be held responsible for its malfeasance.

The proper role of government in business is the same as its proper role in personal affairs: it should make and enforce regulations against businesses or people causing harm to others (violence, fraud, theft, excessive pollution, hazardous products without full disclosure), and should otherwise let people run their own lives and make their own decisions.


By Phil Boncer (not verified) on 22 Jul 2007 #permalink

YEah i saw Inconvenient truth, and it scared the crap out of me. Then i saw that bbc special the great global warming swindle........I think its on google video now, and see how full of it Gore can be.

Yeah, well, that must be why my tomatoes are doing better than my chilies. Anyway, of course we all can work on our point source contributions, but I don't personally design roads, buildings, gas price structures, etc. "Please don't invade my country, i'll buy a gun and stop you" doesn't work as well as a government-sponsored military.


First of all, a case can be made for almost all systems of governance or rules of interaction when the word "beneficial" in "mutually benefial trade" is not defined. Plus there is a lot more to trade than merely benefit to the parties involved in the transactions. If you and I agree that deforestation of the Amazonas is good business for both of us and that global warming is a left wing loon non-issue, and that the daily extinction of a few dozen species is of no consequence to human happiness, and that the natives are much better off working for United Fruit Company than running around naked in a place with no Bible school, what's to guide us other than our desire to make a buck? Science? There is no morality inherent in Capitalism, and no invisible hand either. Get over it.

Capitalim as we see it in practice is built on market expansion (imperialism) aggressive take-over (War, genocide) in the name of the common good and exploitation of a massive labour force (slaves).

You can trace the line in US history from the extinction of the Indians (they weren't cost-efficient as slaves) to eminent domain and the Mexical illegal immigrant dillemma. The last mentioned are needed so you and I can make our mutually beneficial business transactions in our air-conditioned Wall Street offices. The Mexicans benefit too by our standards, but we still need to keep the gap of inequality between them and us, otherwise our transaction won't be as mutually beneficial (profit maximizing) as we'd like.

None of us two nobly transacting parties could have any interest in our slave labour getting paid more than the minimally necessary to keep them alive, reasonably healthy and utterly dependent on working for us - and possibly spending their surplus wages buying back their own labour at real value by consuming the goods they produce for us rather than putting the money into savings.

But even this is relative: If there's an over-supply of cheap labour we don't have to worry about the health of the one's we've got; we can simply bring in others at a faster rate when the old ones are spent. Or if we have a plentiful supply of cash-in-hand consumers for our specialized products that don't get consumed by our slave labourers anyway, we don't need to pay them enough to turn them into significant consumers: The law of supply and demand.

I know, in the end it is all supposed to even out somehow, when technology has turned us all into holiday makers a million years from now. But in the meantime the incentive lies in inequality, not mutuality. Watch the Fox News business show as I suggested if you think I'm even one comma off point here.

BTW, you cannot prove your assertion that war is just isn't true for everyone. Someone always profits. Capitalism doesn't exist in a vacuum, and personal motivations other than profit matter.

PalMD, no you don't "personally design roads, buildings, gas price structures, etc.", but you can influence them. You do personally use roads; how much and with what efficiency is largely up to you. You do personally live in a building, (probably) work in a building, buy things from companies that use buildings, etc; you can certainly affect the building you live in, and may be able to affect others. You do personally buy gas; again, how much you drive and how efficiently can be strongly affected by your own decisions. Again, I'm not saying there's *no* place for government in this. But waiting for the government to take action is too little too late, and *most* of the problem is better solved without it.

And, for that matter, your analogy better proves my point than yours. A well-armed citizenry is *much* better at defending against invaders than a government-sponsored military. The government-sponsored military is much better at invading other places and causing trouble elsewhere, but it has been demonstrated consistently this century and the last that the best militaries in the world can be held at bay by residents with guns.

Pope: The word "beneficial" in "mutually beneficial trade" in a transaction includes all parties. So slavery is right out, since the slaves do not benefit, for example. Capitalism is not imperialism; that's a different animal entirely. It is far too much to try to explain the basic concepts of capitalism in a comment thread on someone else's blog, so I'll decline. I would suggest, though, that you do some reading on it; since it is clear that you are unclear on the concept. The "invisible hand" works very well when it is allowed to do so.


By Phil Boncer (not verified) on 23 Jul 2007 #permalink


"Mutually beneficial to all parties" is a utilitarian calculation and means nothing if you don't define 'beneficial'.

If the amazonians decide that they like jungle and species diversity better than our fruit plantations, and that they prefer us to f off, how do you work out something mutually beneficial and profitable? If you don't simply shoot or make them labour for minimal wages - which last, by our standards, IS an improvement from a communistic, no private ownership society.
I hope we do agree that private ownership of land is an assumption inherent in Capitalism??? Well, that assumption is a value judgement you have to make the rest of the parties buy if agreement on the definition of 'mutual benefit' is to be reached.

In extension of this, but without calling paIMD communist or anything, I take it that this is part of his/her point:

You can make personal choices about cars and roads, but you'll have to sit back and wait for 'the market' to exhaust the $$$ benefit it sees in fossil fuels before you get cars that run on solar energy. And in the meantime you face the Gore dilemma: if you don't want to be marginalized you have to get from A to B just as quickly as anybody else. Why? because an interdependent system has already been set up in which the mutually beneficial option, according to some abstract utilitarian calculation based on capitalistic value assumptions, is to continue to pollute. Capitalism is a race. If you drop out you get left behind. Below you see what happens if you really drop out and opt for an alternative.

America has been continually at war and involved in armed conflict all around the world since it was founded, and it's the richest country in the world. Even at times such as this when it's engaged in a spectacularly unsuccessful war, the economy is booming, the DOW going through the roof, unemployment down and none of the Wall Street suits seem too worried about their profits.

In spite of what Charlton Heston might have told you, it is not privately owned guns that defy the might of the American military; it's precisely the refusal to accept the capitalistic value system we're trying to export at gun's point that hands us the defeats. And here is the reason why any half-way successful attempt to get people behind an alternative to the present system in which government acts as an extension of the short-term capital gain interests of certain elites.

What was Vietnam about? The communist threat to capitalism. Markets being closed to us etc. War is certainly not good for business, unless the opponent is significantly weaker, which is why we're in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of Iran, in Vietnam instead of Russia or China. But swatting a fly can be very profitable since it leaves markets wide open for the taking; and it may be necessary if those stubborn gooks or redskins or islamists or whatever don't want to do business with us according to our rules and values.
In the global society, war between the US and flyspeck countries arises whenever cultural imperialism doesn't work.

Hmm. seems the cut and paste was too complicated a procedure for me. The ending to second last paragraph:

And here is the reason why any half-way successful attempt to get people behind an alternative to the present system, in which government acts as an extension of the short-term capital gain interests of certain elites, will be beaten down violently.

Mutually beneficial gets defined by the people involved, according to their own values, and is measured by voluntary participation, without the use of coercion or fraud. Not too hard.

As for the rest, I'll forgo, other than to say I just very much disagree with you about a great many things.


By Phil Boncer (not verified) on 24 Jul 2007 #permalink

haha... fair enough Phil. We seem to have reached a mutually beneficial agreement without having to appeal to a shared point of view.

YEah i saw Inconvenient truth, and it scared the crap out of me. Then i saw that bbc special the great global warming swindle........I think its on google video now, and see how full of it Gore can be.

"The Great Global Warming Swindle" is indeed a swindle and in its own way as deceptive as the "Al Gore is a hypocrite" scandal. It has been debunked repeatedly by climate scientists; see for example here and here. A good source for getting the facts is the RealClimate Wiki, run by actual climate scientists.