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Friday, April 21, 2006

Richard Cohen: Al Gore is "the near-perfect Democratic candidate for 2008"

I've never felt more strongly about anything in my life: Al Gore must become President or massive corporations and their Republican cronies will destroy Planet Earth. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post seems to agree after watching Al Gore's upcoming film, "An Inconvenient Truth." I've reprinted this excellent article in full below.

Boring Al Gore has made a movie. It is on the most boring of all subjects -- global warming. It is more than 80 minutes long, and the first two or three go by slowly enough that you can notice that Gore has gained weight and that his speech still seems oddly out of sync. But a moment later, I promise, you will be captivated, and then riveted and then scared out of your wits. Our Earth is going to hell in a handbasket.

You will see the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps melting. You will see Greenland oozing into the sea. You will see the atmosphere polluted with greenhouse gases that block heat from escaping. You will see photos from space of what the ice caps looked like once and what they look like now and, in animation, you will see how high the oceans might rise. Shanghai and Calcutta swamped. Much of Florida, too. The water takes a hunk of New York. The fuss about what to do with Ground Zero will turn to naught. It will be underwater.

"An Inconvenient Truth" is a cinematic version of the lecture that Gore has given for years warning of the dangers of global warming. Davis Guggenheim, the director, opened it up a bit. For instance, he added some shots of Gore mulling the fate of the Earth as he is driven here or there in some city, sometimes talking about personal matters such as the death of his beloved older sister from lung cancer and the close call his son had after being hit by a car. These are all traumas that Gore had mentioned in his presidential campaign and that seemed cloying at the time. Here they seem appropriate.

The case Gore makes is worthy of sleepless nights: Our Earth is in extremis . It's not just that polar bears are drowning because they cannot reach receding ice flows or that "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" will exist someday only as a Hemingway short story -- we can all live with that. It's rather that Hurricane Katrina is not past but prologue. In the future, people will not yearn for the winters of yesteryear but for the summers. Katrina produced several hundred thousand evacuees. The flooding of Calcutta would produce many millions. We are in for an awful time.

You cannot see this film and not think of George W. Bush, the man who beat Gore in 2000. The contrast is stark. Gore -- more at ease in the lecture hall than he ever was on the stump -- summons science to tell a harrowing story and offers science as the antidote. No feat of imagination could have Bush do something similar -- even the sentences are beyond him.

But it is the thought that matters -- the application of intellect to an intellectual problem. Bush has been studiously anti-science, a man of applied ignorance who has undernourished his mind with the empty calories of comfy dogma. For instance, his insistence on abstinence as the preferred method of birth control would be laughable were it not so reckless. It is similar to Bush's initial approach to global warming and his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol -- ideology trumping science. It may be that Gore will do more good for his country and the world with this movie than Bush ever did by beating him in 2000.

Gore insists his presidential aspirations are behind him. "I think there are other ways to serve," he told me. No doubt. But on paper, he is the near-perfect Democratic candidate for 2008. Among other things, he won the popular vote in 2000. He opposed going to war in Iraq, but he supported the Persian Gulf War -- right both times. He is smart, experienced and, despite the false caricatures, a man versed in the new technologies -- especially the Internet. He is much more a person of the 21st century than most of the other potential candidates. Trouble is, a campaign is not a film. Gore could be a great president. First, though, he has to be a good candidate.

In the meantime, he is a man on a mission. Wherever he goes -- and he travels incessantly -- he finds time and an audience to deliver his (free) lecture on global warming. It and the film leave no doubt of the peril we face, nor do they leave any doubt that Gore, at last, is a man at home in his role. He is master teacher, pedagogue, know-it-all, smarter than most of us, better informed and, having tried and failed to gain the presidency, he has raised his sights to save the world. We simply cannot afford for Al Gore to lose again.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Oprah Winfrey: A Waste of Opportunity

In his book, Dude, Where's My Country?, Michael Moore begged Oprah to run for President. Moore pointed out Oprah's universal appeal, good politics, and immense social and financial power. Moore still has a petition on his website imploring Oprah to run. Others have shared Moore's goal of persuading Oprah to run for President and take America back from the conservatives.

But Oprah doesn't want to be President. In fact, it's becoming more and more clear that Oprah doesn't want to do anything to drastically help society. To be fair, Oprah is one of the most charitable women in the world. Through Oprah's Angel Network and the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, Oprah has donated untold millions of dollars to good causes. The problem is that Oprah falsely believes that relatively small charitable donations are all that she needs to do, or perhaps can do, to help the world.

People are starving to death all over the world. Most of Africa cannot even access clean water. Our environment is being destroyed by mega-rich corporations who immorally exploit it for greed. In short, there simply isn't enough money to go around. If Oprah were a true philanthropist, she would give up the opulence, keep enough for her to be comfortable and give the rest away. More importantly, she would actually speak her voice and use her influence to do good.

Oprah realizes these contradictions and has found a way to cope -- she believes that extravagant, unneccessary spending is "a good thing." At a school fundraiser this week, Oprah callously and shockingly made the following statement:

"I have lots of things, like all these Manolo Blahniks. I have all that and I think it's great. I'm not one of those people like, 'Well, we must renounce ourselves.' No, I have a closet full of shoes and it's a good thing."

"I was coming back from Africa on one of my trips...I had taken one of my wealthy friends with me. She said, 'Don't you just feel guilty? Don't you just feel terrible?' I said, 'No, I don't. I do not know how me being destitute is going to help them.' Then I said when we got home, 'I'm going home to sleep on my Pratesi sheets right now and I'll feel good about it.' "

Wow. Oprah has recast the world into a strict, binary terms: either you are filthy rich or you are destitute. Either she sleeps on Pratesi sheets and has a closet full of shoes or she sleeps on a cardboard box in an alley. Oprah doesn't consider that she could do away with spending ridiculous amounts on expensive sheets and could have 10 pairs of shoes instead of a closet full of shoes. Oprah doesn't consider that she could live a lower upper class lifestyle -- with a nice home and car, with plenty of money for retirement -- and give a lot more to good causes than she currently does. Hundreds of millions being wasted on Oprah's opulence could be used to help feed starving people, provide clean water and help fight the corporate destruction of the environment. I suppose Oprah believes that I live "destitute" despite the fact that I have a roof over my head and food in my belly. Perhaps this is why Jesus said that a camel go go through the eye of a needle before a rich person enters Heaven.

To me, the larger problem with Oprah's statement is that she isn't guilty about being so rich. She doesn't see that she has a duty to help make the world a better place instead of living a bizarre life where money provides her main source of fulfillment. Although Oprah likely votes Democrat and is what some might consider a "liberal", I certainly don't believe she is a liberal. Oprah is part of the problem, not the solution. Oprah has always been totally unwilling to use her position of power to help affectuate positive change in the world. If Oprah would have implored viewers not to re-elect President Bush, he would have lost in a landslide. Instead she kept quiet and African-Americans faced increased oppression under four more years of W. Bush. Oprah even helped President Bush by having him on her show alongside Laura Bush to conduct a softball interview devoid of tough questions that helped increase Bush's potential re-election changes.

Oprah should be ashamed of continuing to waste her life interviewing petty celebrities while this world has so many problems. To be sure, there's nothing wrong with her show or the kind of entertainment it provides. But the kind of power that Oprah has attained via her wildly successful show should not be used simply to provide her with a ridiculously wealthy lifestyle. Small amounts of charitable giving (and considering her 1.2 billion net worth, her charitable giving is indeed relatively small) cannot compensate for a complete lack of public comment about the horrors of the white corporate world in which we live. As the (arguably) most powerful Black American in the world, Oprah has a duty to her race in particular, and the human race as well, to use her power for good. Her failure to do so makes her a waste of opportunity, and nothing more.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Playing Dirty

It's starting to get to the point that Bush's corruption is so intense and far-reaching that it's no longer big news when another criminal act is revealed. Even some of us who criticize Bush are beginning to suffer burnout from his plethora of crimes. So when it was revealed last week that Bush ordered the declassification of intelligence estimates in order to attack Iraq war critics, no huge uproar resulted.

The real revelation from "Scooter" Libby's testimony is that Prosecutor Fitzgerald is beginning to admit openly that the Bush administration was engaged in game of dirty political warfare against Joseph Wilson. In his filings, Fitzgerald asserts that there was "a strong desire by many, including multiple people in the White House" to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson."

Fitzgerald's filings contain this bombshell that, while obvious to most thinking Americans, is now being admitted by Republicans such as Fitzgerald: "It is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to 'punish Wilson.'"

So let's get this story straight. A CIA agent was outed and had her cover blown. Millions of dollars in resources were lost, all her contacts became compromised, and certain individuals may very well have died as a result. The White House was directly responsible for blowing her cover simply in an effort to increase their political standing via an assault upon her husband's credibility. In the 3 years since this occurred, the White House has acted like guilty criminals by involving themselves in a huge coverup designed to mislead the American people, the office of Prosecutor Fitzgerald, and escape criminal punishment.

Impeachment, impeachment, impeachment. How many more causes of action are necessary? The Democrats do need to focus on this fall's elections for the time being, however they should use the GOP's constant criminality as a way to bolster their electoral prospects. And once the Democrats retake the House, the Senate, or both, they need to begin impeachment proceedings as soon as possible. Bush is a devious criminal and with each passing day our Nation's security and integrity are compromised further. If President Clinton, a man who kept the peace and helped repair 12 years of Republican mismanagement of the economy, can be impeached for lying about oral sex, then President Bush should be impeached for the treasonous outing of a CIA agent, for unconstitutionally spying on American citizens without a warrant, for providing fraudulent information to Congress and the American people in order to go to Iraq, for starting an illegal war, for violating the Geneva conventions through his reckless use of torture, for flagrantly disregarding Congressional actions via his illegal use of signing statements...

Need we go on? If you support Bush at this point, you have to support the use of treason to score political points, the use of torture regardless of the law and illegal searches and seizures regardless of the Fourth Amendment. This is even before you begin to talk about legal policy decisions that he has made -- his commitment to fighting the war in Iraq notwithstanding the civil war there, the lack of progress we have made and over 2000 dead American troops; his unholy assault upon our environment in order to help his rich corporate cronies make even more money; his patently unfair tax breaks to the wealthy; his reckless spending that is causing the deficit to soar; and his commitment to un-American ideals that are making the United States hated throughout the world and providing ample recruitment tools for terrorists.

In short, he's the worst President in the history of this Nation and one of the most evil men in recent history.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Molly Ivins Reveals a Truth: "Al Gore is all we've got"

Molly Ivins makes some good points about the media's role in the global warming disaster and how one man stands between armageddon and Earth's redemption:

The political fight over global warming is over, except in the Bush administration, which has some weird problem with science in general. I’m still not sure what’s behind that: I recall Rush Limbaugh and the radio right taking great glee in pooh-poohing the Kyoto treaty and the whole idea of global warming. Maybe they associated global warming with Canadians or something equally awful.

* * *

The shame for journalism is that it has always been so easy to expose those few “scientific” voices claiming there is nothing to global warming. When the money for “scientific research” on such a subject comes from oil companies, skepticism is required.

Instead, many “journalists” let the bullies on the right cow us with the “liberal media” nonsense and reported there was “a debate” over global warming. There was no debate. The only question is how fast it’s happening. And the answer that keeps coming up is “faster than we thought. And still faster.”

Time magazine, in its warm and fuzzy way, proposes that capitalism can solve much of the problem of global warming—Henry Luce would be so proud. Can’t you see it now? Boy, I’ll bet those titans can hardly wait to cut into next quarter’s profits. The insurance industry, for obvious reasons of its own, has long taken global warming seriously. By simply refusing to insure housing or enterprises near low shores, insurance can make quite a difference.

It’s true the United States could make a good thing out of specializing in green energy and green technology—but we are still living with an administration that subsidizes the oil industry. The question is where the political leadership is going to come from before we reach the Panic Point, before Miami Beach sinks underwater, before Wall Street needs a seawall.

Al Gore is all we’ve got, and the right wing is still prepared to dismiss him with contempt and ridicule, not because he’s wrong but because they’d rather talk about the time he was supposedly advised to wear earth tones.

As the Earth drifts toward crisis, our president does not yet seem capable of grasping even the First Rule of Holes. We’re in one, and it is time to quit digging.

The only thing I would add is that the reason the Republican party wishes to dismiss Al Gore so dishonestly and viciously is because they know that he is the only man aiming to end their wholesale for-profit destruction of the Earth. I again call on readers of this blog to send Al Gore a letter begging him to run for President in 2008. It might be the most important thing you do in your lifetime. The alternative is a mushy, pro-corporate Democrat runs for office and the issue of global warming gets as throughly ignored as it did in the last election. The future of the Earth depends on this man, as dramatic as that sounds. Here's his address:

The Office of the Honorable Al Gore
2100 West End Avenue
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: (615) 327-2227
Fax: (615) 327-1323