Dear Reader (and those of you who go by far more conventional and less pretentious first names),
As you’re reading this, I’m probably landing in Cincinnati, where I’ll be speaking at a Tax Day tea-party event. At least as of now, I have no regrets in agreeing to be the keynoter for this thing, but I will confess that I didn’t quite think it through when I said yes. And now that my speech is fast approaching, I’m pretty nervous about it. It will be the biggest audience I’ve ever spoken to, by far. Up to 13,000 people will be there. That’s roughly 11,000 to 12,000 more than the biggest audience I ever spoke to until today.
I’m not nervous so much about the substance – though I’m still working all that out – as I am about the mechanics of it. Sound works differently with crowds that big. I have a habit, for good or for ill, of testing whether an audience is listening by telling jokes, often as random sarcastic asides. My friend Michael Graham, who in his comedy days spoke to Ben Hur-chariot-race-size audiences, says that I need to use short declarative sentences because parenthetical asides don’t work well. This is bad news for me, because I’m all about parenthetical asides (“For the first time in living memory, I’ve got to agree with you there” – The Couch).
Anyway, it will be an interesting challenge, and if you have any suggestions for what I should talk about (they want something related to my book, which could be dicey given the need for short declarative sentences), I’m all ears (actually, ears make up a really tiny percentage of my anatomy, but you get the point (oh, man, am I in trouble)).
Some pithy declarative statements I’ve already ruled out:
Trieste belongs to the Italians!
Get these squirrels off of me!
You, with the mullet: Looking good!
Fifty-four forty or fight!
I’m going to talk to you tonight about the David Frum controversy…
Did you ever see the Seinfeld when…
Let’s give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt!
Rise of the Bike Path Left
WASHINGTON – Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a weekend bicyclist, might consider keeping his head down and his helmet on. A backlash is brewing over his new bicycling policy.
LaHood says the government is going to give bicycling – and walking, too – the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money. The former Republican congressman quietly announced the “sea change” in transportation policy last month.
“This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” he wrote in his government blog.
The blog was accompanied by a DOT policy statement urging states and transportation agencies to treat “walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.” It recommends, among other things, including biking and walking lanes on bridges and clearing snow from bike paths.
The new policy is a natural extension of the Obama administration’s livability initiative, which regards the creation of alternatives to driving – buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains, as well as biking and walking – as central to solving the nation’s transportation woes.
I find this hilarious, for it takes liberal muddled thinking on equality and applies it to, of all things, transportation modes. Sure, in some categorical or taxonomical sense all modes of transportation are equal in their status as, uh, modes of transportation. But they are not the same. If you cut your hand off in a band saw accident, you will want to be transported to the hospital via some kind of modern, motorized transport. You will not say, “No, no, let’s take the bike lane! All transportation modes are equal!”
Maybe I’m over-reading this, but it seems to me that this is one of the more egregious examples of what’s wrong with Big Government. The Department of Transportation – which barely deserves to exist – was created to fold together such regulatory agencies as the FAA and the Federal Highway Commission. Now, because it has the word “transportation” in its title, it sees fit to tackle lifestyle issues revolving around cycling and ambulation as part of the federal government’s self-declared mandate to improve “livability.”
President Obama defended his health-insurance mandate on the grounds that the government can tell people to buy car insurance, so it should be able to force people to buy health insurance as well. The analogy doesn’t work for a number of reasons, but the chief one is that humans aren’t cars. Now a cabinet agency seems to be moving in the direction of saying that their mandate covers human movement qua movement, up to and including walking. Get off your couch and the DOT has a plan for you.
Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Right
And yet it seems like this meme (Lord, I hate that word) is spreading despite my best efforts. I’m not going to dwell much on it here. But one argument I keep running into is a version of Tanenhaus’s bizzaro view of William F. Buckley as a sort of ombudsman of liberalism, eager to point out mistakes and excesses but ultimately dedicated to making liberalism better rather than actually replacing it with something else. I think you know that I find this as persuasive as arguing that my cat is a missile silo because vests have no sleeves.
Still, I’m constantly running into people because I’m not looking where I’m going. But that’s not important right now. More relevant is that I’m constantly encountering people either at a safe walking speed or by e-mail, or from audience Q & A’s, who insist that Bill Buckley wasn’t really all that conservative and, unlike today’s bomb-throwers, was eminently reasonable. Now, I think Bill was often eminently reasonable, even when I may have disagreed with him, but that doesn’t stop me from asking these people a question. Here’s how it usually goes:
Scolding Liberal: You whackjobs today are so crazy and bombastic. What would poor, polite Bill Buckley think if he was alive to see you schmucks today?
Me: Wait? Which Bill Buckley are we talking about? Is it the one who argued that all HIV-positive people should be tattooed both on their upper arms and on their butts? I don’t think the butt-tat had to say “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” but that was sort of the point. That Bill Buckley?
It’s always a blast to watch their faces.
I will be on Sean Hannity tonight before the speech in Cincinnati (“Good Lord, I hope not, you’ll crush him!” — The Couch). Also, I should be interviewed by Glenn Reynolds for PJTV, which will be covering the whole thing.
Parent-Teacher Conference Day
The Fair Jessica is out of town on a secret work mission (more on that someday), so she has to miss my daughter’s parent-teacher conference. Normally we go together, of course. But I’m kind of looking forward to going solo. Jessica is usually a big restraint on my rhetorical excesses in such meetings. For example, she’ll gently tap my arm to shush me when I start demanding that all the boys in Lucy’s first-grade class be brought to me in chains for my interrogation. Oh, just to be clear, nobody’s been accused of picking on Lucy (she’s pretty tough and can handle herself). I just think it’s worth doing this sort of thing on spec. You can never be too careful.
It’s sort of like one of my favorite Russian sayings: “If you see a Bulgarian in the street, beat him. He will know why.”
So anyway, I’m off.