Friday, October 12, 2007


Al Gore: he's back!

Sorry for the long hiatus, folks. Let's see if we can get this beast moving again, possibly with some short pieces here and there.

What caught my eye today, and inspired me to say something, was the news that former VP Al Gore has won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize -- for his work spreading the gospel on global warming.

(Pajamas Media has a comprehensive roundup of links.)

Given that the science behind global warming (or, rather, mankind's contributions to it) is still very much open to debate, and given that Gore has a serious problem practicing what he preaches -- and given that, as others have pointed out, many far more deserving candidates (Burmese monks, perhaps?) were passed over -- I have a great deal of difficulty taking this seriously.

On the other hand, as an Israeli citizen, I've been disenchanted with the Nobel Peace Prize for a long time -- ever since Yasser Arafat got one for not killing Israelis for a week or two, and Shimon Peres got one for threatening to scream and cry and hold his breath if he didn't get to share Arafat's prize, and Jimmy Carter got one for his willingness to bad-mouth an unpopular President to the world press. (You didn't think he got it for his Habitat for Humanity work, did you?)

So the man now has an Emmy, an Oscar, and a Nobel Prize. I can't help but feel that the world is giving him every award they can, as a way of showing America that this is the President you should have had. Sorry, folks, it doesn't work that way.

And in the meantime, truth has a way of catching up -- even inconvenient truth:

The British government decided that it would be a good idea to send copies of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to all schools, with then Environment Secretary (now Foreign Secretary) David Miliband declaring that “the debate over science is over.” Well, it may be, but not in the way Gore portrays it. A truck driver and school governor, Stuart Dimmock, took the government to court, alleging that the film portrays “partisan political views,” the promotion of which is illegal in schools under the Education Act 1996.

The judge has decided that this is indeed the case and that the Government’s guidance notes that accompanied the film exacerbated the problem. For the film to be shown in schools, therefore, several facts would have to be drawn to students’ attention...
(To see the list, follow either of the two links above.)

Now everyone seems to be asking: will Gore run for President? Or will he continue to collect lesser trophies while he still can, before An Inconvenient Truth loses all credibility?

If he's smart, he'll stay home. Losing to George Bush was no doubt humiliating enough. Does he really want to take on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination?

(On the other hand, if he wants to run as a third-party candidate -- say, the Green Party -- I'm all for it. Run, Al, run!

UPDATE: The New York Times today reports on Gore's latest prize, openly questioning the relevancy of a global-warming Jeremiad to world peace... and winds up concluding, in the words of Francis Sejersted, a former chairman of the Nobel committee:
As Mr. Sejersted said, "Awarding a peace prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act."
Indeed it is... and it's nice to see it admitted openly.

Personally, I'd love to see a Peace Prize that gets awarded in retrospect -- say, a decade or so after the events in question -- and is awarded to those whose efforts have contributed to world peace. (It used to be that the Nobel Peace Prize would go to people whose efforts would, it was thought, lead to peace someday... maybe... if we're lucky. As this year's prize shows, we don't even do that anymore.)

The problem with that sort of approach is in the likely recipients of it. For example, a posthumous nomination might go to Ronald Reagan, for his decisive actions in ending the Cold War... or to Menachem Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister who destroyed Saddam Hussein's prospects for nuclear weapons. (Perhaps that's a poor choice; Begin got a Nobel Peace Prize in 1978, and all I'll say about that one is it makes a little more sense than some of the later ones.)

Both these actions, I would argue, contributed significantly to world peace. But I can't imagine such choices being popular.

UPDATE II: Jesse Walker at Reason Magazine puts it rather more bluntly:
But the Nobel Prize is easy. The important thing to remember is that peace doesn't have much to do with it. One of the very first winners was Theodore Roosevelt, a man who described the Spanish-American War as "fun." The Peace Prize is more of a Humanitarian of the Year Award, with humanitarian defined loosely enough to include Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger.

Broadly speaking, there are three ways to get it:
Follow the link for easy, step-by-step instructions to winning your very own Nobel Peace Prize!


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