Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Big Al, The Deniers & The Basement

Random thoughts about Al Gore's appearance at the Panetta Institute lecture series on Monday:

* I accepted an invitation to serve on the question review team for Gore's appearance. The question review team, usually comprised of local journalists, wades through questions written by members of the audience and selects the best. From the dozens or even hundreds of questions submitted, the celebrity host interviewer usually gets about a half-dozen of them asked.

* For Monday's program with Gore, the institute also invited several scientists to participate on the question review team. They included Stephen Palumbi, director of the Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove; Chris Scholin, president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing; and Robert Danzinger, a local scientist, consultant, entrepreneur, musician and bon vivant. We dug through the questions from the funky confines of the Golden State Theater's basement.

* The Panetta Institute changed its usual format for Gore. Typically, the institute finds good intellectual folks representing both sides of a particular issue, folks who are willing to engage in good debate instead of screaming matches. Gore was the only fellow on the card, and it was up to CNN newshound Frank Sesno to serve as a foil. With that in mind, the question review team felt duty-bound to push through more of the critical questions, and we were relieved that Sesno asked them.

* Gore answered the critical questions candidly. He didn't seem too hesitant until Sesno pushed him about losing the presidency. "This is beginning to sound like Oprah," Gore said. The former vice president said that losing the 2000 election was not half as bad as the trials and tribulations that most people in the world endure. "I've long since moved on," he said, adding that "you win some, you lose some . . . and there's that unknown third category."

* Gore is accomplished at the talking points of his climate-change issues — and the frustrations that science has become a political football. "Before we solve the climate crisis, we need to solve the democracy crisis in the United States," he said.

* Regarding the latest environmental crisis, the Gulf oil gusher, Gore minced few words. "I know a cover-up when I see one," he said. Gore criticized officials at BP for refusing to allow the scientific community to determine just how much oil has gush into the Gulf of Mexico.

* The usual suspects arrived outside the Golden State Theater in protest of Gore's appearance, so folks showing up to see Gore had to run the insult/chant gauntlet to get inside. The protesters seem to be convinced that evidence which leads scientists to conclude that Earth's climate is changing is an elaborate hoax. The protesters (they were referred to as "deniers" inside the theater) are also convinced that Al Gore is public enemy number one for perpetrating the hoax. During a 20-minute audience with the question review team earlier in the day, Gore said he hopes and wishes the deniers are correct, but he's not convinced the science supports them.

* Al Gore's critics will need to find a new personal blemish to insult him with. It looks as though he's lost a lot of weight recently.

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