Saturday, June 23, 2007

ALA: Day 1

Just wanted to post my thoughts on Saturday's doings at ALA. To be honest, I didn't do a lot of conference-related stuff, but there were a couple highlights.

I did go to the membership meeting on non-library issues. The discussion only lasted 35 minutes. Michael Gorman gave some brief remarks in support of addressing other issues, Steve Matthews spoke against. Members of the audience were then invited to offer their opinions. In case you're wondering, no, I didn't get up. There were enough speakers to fill the allotted half hour, plus 5 extra minutes. I'd say about 5-6 people spoke on each side of the issue. The points made were the same ones that come up every time this question is discussed. The atmosphere was polite and cordial, but I took away the feeling that this was a bit of a pro forma exercise.

I also went to the Opening General Session, featuring Bill Bradley. There was actually about an hour's worth of awards, other speakers, and the usual boilerplate before Senator Bradley took the stage. I actually liked the first part of his speech, a tribute to the innate goodness of the American people, and was even thinking how wonderfully non-partisan it was. I should have known better. Practically the very next line was (and I'm paraphrasing) "Don't you wish we had a government that reflected the natural goodness of the American people?".

Yes, damn that Bushitler and Darth Cheney. Of course, I happen to think fighting to protect 50 million people from being enslaved by the forces of Islamist barbarism reflects the natural goodness of the American people. But I guess that's just me.

Senator Bradley went on to list some of the things he found inspiring about America, which included seeing the troops go off to fight wars where "we are truly threatened". Apparently, Senator Bradley is thoroughly uninspired by the courage and sacrifice of those who served in The War of 1812, Mexican War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, World War I, European Theater of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Balkans.

Anyway, Senator Bradley then listed some problems such as taxes (they need to be raised), savings, and energy independence. If only we see the "truth" of each of these issues, then the answer will be self-evident. For example, he proposed that automobile mileage standards be raised to European levels (about 40 mpg). Sounds good, except for the fact that, even with better mileage, Europeans still pay almost twice as much for a gallon of gas as we do.

He also proposed we force SUV owners to pay a special surcharge while giving tax breaks to those who drive fuel efficient cars. Wonderful, more nanny-statism designed to exploit the pathological liberal obsession with SUVs as the source of all evil (For the record, I drive a Ford Fusion). Unfortunately, Senator Bradley's truth on this issue isn't nearly as self-evident as he seems to think. While reducing our dependence on foreign oil would be a good thing, matters are far more complicated than he seems to allow.

Of course, Senator Bradley's list of problems contained no mention of our war with radical Islamism. He referenced neither al Qaeda and Salafist-jihadism, nor Iran's soon to be nuclear armed Islamist autocracy. I guess that pesky war thing will just magically go away once we cut and run from Iraq and start sticking it to the SUV owners.

To be fair, the Senator's speech wasn't too partisan in tone. He did argue that the Red/Blue divide has been oversold, and that solutions need to incorporate both the Democratic emphasis on collective action and the Republican emphasis on personal responsibility. In particular, he made a good point about how the prevalence of electorally safe, gerrymandered districts has made most congressmen more responsive to their bases instead of to swing voters, thus helping further polarize politics.

Senator Bradley ended by encouraging the audience to be informed citizens and find ways to serve the community. Thoroughly unobjectionable, except when he implied that ALA was the place to have such debates.

Overall, not too bad a speech, but still the latest chapter in ALA's long history of inviting only liberal political figures to speak before the organization (Yes, I know about Colin Powell, and no, Laura Bush is not a political figure). Sunday evening brings Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaking on the environment. I suspect that by the time he finishes Senator Bradley will, in retrospect, sound like Rush Limbaugh .


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