Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why Obama?

In a few days, Ellie and I will cast our ballot by mail for Barack Obama in the Ohio Democratic presidential primary. I know some of you out there will be able to vote soon on "Super Tuesday," so I thought it would be an appropriate time to write about this. Obama is the first politician we have ever given money to. Why do we like Barack so much?

I can't speak for Ellie, but here are my thoughts. I first heard Obama speak when I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois. I brushed shoulders with him briefly. He was surrounded by reporters talking about farm policy, and I stood with the reporters listening to him speak. He seemed articulate and sincere, and I decided to vote for him in his Senate race. At that time, I didn't know anything about his life and only a little about his policy inclinations. As I've learned more about him, my respect has only increased.

Obama's personal biography is impressive. His father left him at an early age and his mother moved the family to Indonesia, where Obama experienced relative poverty (they didn't have a refrigerator, for instance). He also learned what it was like outside the U.S.A., in a very intimate way, by attending the local schools in Jakarta. He returned to the States, eventually graduating from Columbia University and Harvard Law School (he graduated
magna cum laude and was the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review). After that, instead of going to a powerful law firm where he could have made big money, he used his talents as a community organizer in Chicago and, by all accounts, did some really good things there. What I like about all this is simple: He has first hand experience with real life in a way that the other presidential contenders do not have. People question his "experience," but I think he has the sort of real experience that really matters.

His character and thoughtfulness are praised by people everywhere, even if they don't agree with his policies. He is not afraid to talk to people who disagree with him -- at the University of Chicago, where he taught, he was famous for respectfully engaging with people across the political spectrum. I've pasted below some of what people say about Obama. I've tried to list conservatives here, so you know this isn't just Democratic hype. Here is conservative writer Dean Barnett who went out and tried to dig up some dirt on Obama:

MY PREVIOUS PROFESSIONAL life, I had reason to be in contact with dozens of Barack Obama's classmates at Harvard Law School. When he entered the presidential race, I dusted off my Rolodex and began making some calls to get the off-the-record skinny on the Democrats' potential savior.

The results surprised me. Regardless of his classmates' politics, they all said pretty much the same thing. They adored him. The only thing that varied was the intensity with which they adored him. Some spoke like they were eager to bear his children. And those were the guys. Others merely professed a profound fondness and respect for their former classmate. Even more interesting was what wasn't said. In dozens of conversations, not a single person said anything negative about him, and some were hardly the senator's political fellow travelers. Also noteworthy is that virtually everyone seemed to know Obama. Usually people who have such a high profile on law school campuses have their detractors. Obama apparently didn't....

[His academic success], along with his presidency of the Law Review, makes his uniform popularity all the more impressive. Law schools are intensely competitive places. People who thrive to an unseemly extent, as Obama did, are usually subject to an array of resentments. After all, the lawyers of tomorrow populate law schools; pettiness and insecurity reign supreme. The people that Obama so thoroughly charmed generally weren't the charm-prone types. I say the following as a well known Republican partisan--the fact that his classmates so universally held him in the highest regard suggests that Barack Obama may truly be a special person.
Consider also what conservative commentator Peggy Noonan had to say about him. Noonan is no fan of Obama's policies, I imagine, but even she can sense the difference:

Barack Obama has a great thinking look. I mean the look he gets on his face when he's thinking, not the look he presents in debate, where they all control their faces knowing they may be in the reaction shot and fearing they'll look shrewd and clever, as opposed to open and strong. I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he's listening and not conscious of his expression. It's a very present look. He seems more in the moment than handling the moment. I've noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage. I wonder if I'm watching him more closely than his fellow Democrats are.

Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they'd agreed upon with staff.

You get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I've started to lean forward a little when he talks.
More than his personal character, I think Obama he can help rectify what, for me, was the
unforgivable sin of the Bush administration. After 9/11, Americans were ready to do something -- to do anything -- to come together to help solve our country's problem. We were dependent on oil, our foreign policy wasn't what it should have been, and we as a people had become materialistic and shallow. In such an environment, Bush did the absolutely unforgivable. He and Karl Rove turned 9/11 into a partisan weapon. Senators who wanted worker protections in the new Department of Home Land Security were said to be working with Osama Bin Laden. Presidential hopefuls were accused of being in league with Al Quaeda. Instead of asking for sacrifice, Bush asked us to go shopping. What could have been a key moment for lasting change was lost. American is now widely mistrusted around the world.

Obama can help solve these problems. He really does bring people together. I went to a campaign event in October and what impressed me most was the variety of people who were there. There were blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians. There were young people and old people, men and women. There were people who looked like professionals and those that looked like farmers. I challenge you to go to any other candidate's campaign event. You won't see
anything like this. With respect to the international community, people outside of the United State really seem to respect and admire him. Here I am thinking of his recent trip to Africa, where he received a hero's welcome.

What American needs, more than anything else, is to restore the world's respect for America. Only then, will we be able to solve the big problems we are facing, like terrorism. Having Obama as president would do wonders for American credibility abroad.

And just briefly: Obama's policy positions are exciting. He has proposed a meaningful healthcare plan that has drawn praise from a wide variety of circles (it is, in many ways, similar to Mitt Romney's -- I just wish it had a universal mandate, but that is a different story). His energy plan is also widely praised and will actually do something to overcome our addiction to oil. And so forth. Frankly, I just wish he was a little more to the left!

Even if you are Republican, and you are in a state with an open primary, I urge you to vote in the Democratic primary for Obama. Here are some highlights from Obama. Follow your goosebumps!

Worried that Obama is a secret Muslim? See here. Worried about the Rezko business? See here.

Ah yeah -- Men at Work [Bryan]

More from the 1980s:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Separating myths from facts [Bryan]

Myth: Bryan used to wear sweatpants and loafers to high school.
Fact: Not true. Bryan never wore sweatpants to school, or loafers for that matter. He always wore a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers.

Myth: On a family trip to Yellowstone, Bryan got lost in the woods.
Fact: Not true. Bryan was out exploring and lost track of time.

Myth: Bryan asked out Ellie by note for their first date.
Fact: Okay, this one is true. But it is not as bad as it sounds.

Myth: Bryan is an excellent basketball player.
Fact: Bryan has only a decent game, with a good outside jumper and dangerous penetration ability. He plays fairly good defense, but has almost never been known to grab a rebound. He has been known to shoot too much.

Myth: Bryan used to be a young Republican.
Fact: He was on their mailing list but never did, in fact, join.

Myth: Bryan only wears bow ties.
Fact: Bryan usually wears bow ties, but, being wild and crazy, will throw on a regular necktie now and then. In that sense, he is not a "true" bow tie wearer

Myth: Bryan once bought a Yanni CD and a Metallica CD at the same time.
Fact: Again, this is true.

Myth: Bryan is only interested in stuffy, academic stuff.
Fact: Bryan actually has quite rugged, masculine interests: backpacking, fishing, sports, and so forth.

Myth: Bryan recently acquired a tattoo.
Fact: No comment.

Myth: Bryan used to listen to rap.
Fact: This also is true, although he rarely slips in NWA or Public Enemy these days (Ellie is not a fan).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Story by Nora [Nora]


By Nora Warnick

Once upon a time, Alice wanted to go for a walk in the woods to catch a bunny.

Alice and her sister caught the bunny. Then they bought some clothes at the store.

The bunny ran away again, and Alice caught it in the forest.

The bunny ran away again, and Alice tried to catch it, but...Oops! What a mess! What a splash! Alice and the bunny fell down a waterfall. Alice felt sick and couldn't get out of the water. She was very, very sick.

Prince James came to save her just in time! He saved the rabbit, too. The rabbit went back to its hole vary fast. The rabbit said, "I'm not doing that again! That was crazy!"

Prince James brought Alice to the palace. The Queen said, "Put her on a bed so she can feel better!"

Prince James whispered to weak Alice, "It's all right now; you're in the castle. The kingdom is always safe."

The next morning Prince James kneeled down and kissed the sleeping Alice. She woke up and she felt better.

The next day they got married. They had a wonderful day.

The End.

[Father's note: Although this may seem like a simple, sentimental romance, it is really filled with postmodern feminist irony. The elusive nature of the rabbit calls into question larger cultural meta-narratives. Alice's identity, based in shopping and longing for a husband, is challenged by the trickster rabbit. Its elusive presence testifies to the transience of consumerism and romantic love. In escaping the clutches of Alice, the rabbit's statements of relief are a warning about the dangers inherent in post-industrial capitalism, together with the the false consciousness of feminine emotive expression it embodies. The prince, the masculine hero embodying the myth of male self-sufficiency, looks for guidance from the queen as he brings home Alice, signifying that masculine power is inherently deconstructive.]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Criminal with Strange Tastes [Bryan]

When Ellie and I were first married, we were living in a small apartment just off State Street in Salt Lake City, Utah. We were poor, but happy. The area was prone to car break ins. Since Ellie and I didn't have much of value, we decided to leave our car doors unlocked. We figured it would better to let people easily open our car doors and search around for stuff than to have them break out the windows (which happened quite often in that neighborhood).

Our strategy worked! On a number of occasions, we could tell our car had been searched for valuables. Our tapes would be spread across the seat, for example, and the ash tray would be open. But nothing would ever be stolen. Apparently thieves weren't interested in broken cassette tape players and old Simon and Garfunkel albums. We took a grim satisfaction in the thought of a thief rifling through our music, only to be thwarted by our divergent musical tastes.

Now, fast forward to 2008. Bryan is driving a junky, rusted-out car to work. He parks, again, in an area prone to car break ins. He leaves his doors unlocked and never leaves anything anybody would ever want in the car -- just a bunch of unattractive cassette tapes. Does Bryan outwit the thieves?

No! Bryan comes back to his car one day and finds his car cleaned out of cassette tapes. Everything is gone, including one of Bryan's prized Christmas presents, a lecture series dealing with U.S. Middle East foreign policy from 1914-2001.

What kind of a weird thief would steal such a thing? One with a particular interest in the Eisenhower Doctrine? A fascination with the two-state solution? A proclivity for the details of the fall of the Ottoman Empire?

I can only imagine our thief trying to trade the tapes for drugs. "Dude, you gotta here this guy talk about the Seven Day War, man, and Johnson's attempt to pressure Nassarist Arab Nationalism. Its gotta be worth a couple kilos, man!"

I suppose he could sell my beloved tapes to a used bookstore for a few bucks, maybe. But it is one of those things where the worth to me is much more than the worth to him. It is like when I was mugged in Buenos Aires and they ripped the thick prescription lenses off my face. Come on, guys! If you are going to steal from me, at least take something valuable.

Music Bryan is listening to [Bryan]

Well, now that Christmas and my birthday have passed, I can sit back an absorb some of the new music I received. I don't have time to write extended reviews, but all three of my new albums are superb.

First, Andrew Bird's new album Armchair Apocrypha. Excellent rock/atmospheric/Eastern mix, with some great whistling thrown in for good measure!

Second, Picaresque by the Decembrists. This is now officially my second favorite Decembrists album. They are master-storytellers masquerading as musicians.

Finally, the new New Pornographers album, Challengers. Good stuff!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Our Cute Kids [Bryan]

Our kids said a couple of interesting things today.

First, after eating a large spoonful of ice cream today, Andrew starting crying. I asked him what was wrong and he said, "Ice cream hurt me." I guess that was his first experience with "brain freeze."

Second, Nora was in church today and a church lady asked: "Does anyone know where we are today?" Nora raised her hand and said, "In Jesus's castle." I think she may be watching too many Disney shows.