Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unlikely Endorsement [Bryan]

Below is a fun little video of former Governor Mitt Romney endorsing most of the key provisions of President Obama's American Jobs Act: tax credits to businesses who hire those who’ve been out of work for six months, a cut in the payroll taxes for workers and small business, allowing businesses to write off the cost of capital investments, and increasing infrastructure spending. Romney, you won't be surprised, has explicitly endorsed all of this in the recent past, even though he now is strongly against the act. Improving the economy and helping people find jobs, after all, runs against his ambition to president. Economic chaos means more Republican success.

Notice that Romney also strongly endorsed the 2008 bank bailouts (see here) and both fiscal and monetary stimulus in 2008 (see here), before reversing his position when it became unpopular. Think of that next time Romney criticizes Obama on the economy. I really wonder if this guy has any core beliefs or character, beyond an all-consuming, life-long quest to be President Romney.

Monday, September 26, 2011

One more thing about BYU-Utah

Not to bring up bad memories for anyone, but I had one more thought on this BYU-Utah rivalry business. Gordon Monson wrote the other day after the Utah demolished the Cougars:
For the most part, Utah goes about its business, winning games. BYU talks about its lofty goals of national championships and national exposure, comparing itself to Notre Dame, and then, more than once or twice or thrice, embarrasses itself with its stumbling and bumbling, its lack of preparation, its lack of execution, its lack of proper coaching.
The title of his piece was "Utah Football is Better than BYU and Its Not Even Close." At first, I disagreed with this because the records of BYU and Utah are nearly identical over the past decade. I came to agree, though, that Utah has felt more successful. Why is that? Part of it is that Utah's best seasons have been much better than BYU's best seasons (2004, 2009). But most of it has to do with expectations. The expectations of BYU are always so unbelievably high they inevitably come up short (this is the same reason why a 10-2 record here at Ohio State always feels like a complete failure). Before any games are played, BYU fans anoint themselves "BCS busters" and then inevitably end up playing in the Las Vegas bowl. Utah almost always seems to play under the radar, no matter how successful they've been in the past. Given this, it seems that Utah is more successful than BYU, even though both teams have roughly similar records.

By the way, I think this craving for positive exposure is, in part, formed by BYU's relationship to the LDS Church. We Mormons also seem to crave positive PR. We want people to think we are not weird. We want to be popular in sometimes unbecoming ways. The exposure-craving nature of BYU, then, is partly a product of the same impulse in the larger LDS community.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Day of School Pics [Bryan]

Another year, another child off to school. Good luck in Kindergarten Andrew!

Summer pics [Bryan]

Here are some pictures from our trip to Utah last month.

The kids were able to spend a lot of time in the water. Here is Stephen "fishing," he said, with a canoe oar.

Canoeing with Grandma and Grandpa Merkley at Pineview Reservoir.

We did a bit of hiking, too, which is always important to us on our Utah trips.

Took a trip to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. I love the arid, dusty, smelly beauty of this region.

We didn't see many antelope on Antelope Island. But the whole place was covered with spiders the size of 50-cent pieces. In this picture alone, you can see five of the monsters.

Good Stephen pic.

Grandma and Grandpa Warnick took us on the Heber Scenic Railroad. It was great fun, particularly for our train-obsessed boys.

My cousins put together a party where all the Warnick cousins could get together. Here is a picture of all the 2nd cousins (children of my cousins) that were there.

We stopped by my grandparent's old farm, now mostly crumbling into memory.

We were able to spend some great time with my brother Derek and his family, along with Amber's family, and Ashlee and Kurt. And of course, Grandma and Grandpa.

More fun in the water.

Utah has been wet. While we were there, my parent's backyard flooded, which led to another opportunity to play in the water.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Calling Mr. Stivers [Bryan]

Here is my letter to our dear Congressman Steve Stivers (and Senator Portman) about the American Jobs Act that President Obama recently sent to congress. I'm putting this here because I doubt anyone in Stiver's office will read the whole thing.

Dear Representative Stivers,

We are writing to urge you to pass President Obama's "American Jobs Act" in its entirety. The provisions calling for more infrastructure spending and more money for states to retain teachers and first responders are particularly important to us. Here are the reasons you should support the bill:

1. It will create jobs. According to Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, “The plan would add 2 percentage points to GDP growth next year, add 1.9 million jobs, and cut the unemployment rate by a percentage point.” We need this now because Ohio’s unemployment rate is at an unacceptable 9.0%.

2. All of the provisions have been endorsed by Republicans over the years. It is truly a bipartisan bill. Rejecting any of these provisions now will look like a mere partisan stunt to score political points against President Obama.

3. All of the major provisions of the act receive substantial public support. According to a CNN poll, clear majorities of Americans support cutting the payroll tax (65% support), providing state aid to protect jobs for teachers and first responders (74%), and investing in infrastructure (64%).

4.The bill reflects a growing consensus among economic experts. Examples: The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (“If policymakers wanted to achieve both a short-term economic boost and medium- and long-term fiscal sustainability,” CBO chief Doug Elmendorf recently said, the “most effective” policy would be “changes in taxes and spending that would widen the deficit now but narrow it later in the decade”), a wide variety of economists (e.g., Bruce Bartlett, a policy advisor to Ronald Reagan: “The important thing is for policy makers to stop obsessing about debt and focus instead on raising aggregate demand.”), the financial industry (The Financial Times editorial: “In broad terms, the needed elements are plain: further short-term stimulus combined with credible longer-term fiscal restraint”), the bond markets (“You’ve got to create a demand for labor,” Mr. Gross [a Republican, and a chief investment officer at Pimco] recently said. “The private sector is not going to do it. Putting a shovel in the hands of somebody can be productive”), Republican Fed chairman Ben Bernanke (“In the absence of adequate demand from the private sector, a substantial fiscal consolidation in the shorter term could add to the headwinds facing economic growth and hiring”), the International Monetary Fund (Reuters: “IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in an interview released on Sunday that Europe and the United States should consider stimulating economic growth, if the situation permits, to offset a crisis of confidence hitting the global economy”), and many business leaders.

In sum, the bill is vitally necessary, it is popular, it is bipartisan, and it reflects the current economic consensus. Now is not the time to play partisan games (the nonsense over the budget ceiling was very troubling). Put your constituents first and pass the bill.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Drama at Soccer Practice [Ellie]

Nora and Andrew are playing soccer at a new venue this year--a nearby YMCA. The 'Y' is much closer to our house than their last venue, but in a worse part of town.

Tonight at soccer practice I was sitting in my camp chair reading a book as the kids scrimmaged on the field. The sound of a distant helicopter became louder and louder until I looked up to see it seemingly circling the soccer field. This will seem odd to people who've never lived by a freeway, but I'm pretty used to circling helicopters. I went back to reading my book.

Then, a dad beside me exclaimed, "Two police officers just got out of that car!"

I think we all put the scene together in that instant: on the other side of the fence from the soccer field were two men running. The helicopter, bottle-blue and clearly marked "POLICE" was buzzing above them like an overgrown housefly. The officers were running toward them. More officers appeared opposite them and the suspects were surrounded.

The coaches ushered all the children to one side of the soccer field to watch what happened next from a safe distance.

What happened next?

Not much. The two suspects were the sorriest looking lot I've seen--both overweight and wearing sweats. They gave up running pretty much instantly and stayed pliantly still, waiting for the officers to reach them. There was a lot of quiet discussion, a brief cheer (we suspect from the officers. . .?) and off they all went in the police cars. The good guys win again.

I leaned over to ask the dad beside me, "We're new in this league. Does this happen at every practice?"

No, no, he assured me. Usually the helicopters are farther away.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Poem for 9/11 Sunday [Bryan]

"Try to Praise the Mutilated World" by Adam Zagajewsk:
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.


BYU-Utah already? [Bryan]

So next Saturday is the big game. Yes, already. It has been moved from its traditional time during rivalry week at the end of November. I'm not at all pleased about this. Rivals play at the end of the season for a reason. Through the season you have time to build up a narrative. You come to know the players and what they are capable of. You see some players grow up, some choke, and some go down with injuries and then come back. You know, or think you know, what a team is made of. With these narratives come expectations.

The brilliance of an end of the year rivalry game, though, is how it overturns all these narratives. Things happen in rivalry games -- crazy, unexpected, out-of-character things -- that signal how important and meaningful a game it is. The specialness of the game becomes apparent as the emotions bring out different layers, different aspects of a team's psychological make-up that had previously been hidden. The BYU-Utah game, for example, almost always brought out a delightful nasty edge in both teams, which are usually so civilized and well-behaved. This early in the season I can't say I have many expectations, and therefore I will have no unexpected surprises that mark the game as meaningful.

And what is up with trying to make Colorado the new rival to Utah? You can't just invent rivalries like that, or resurrect ones that have died. BYU-Utah was one of the nation's great rivalries because of how the differences between the schools reflected larger cultural gaps: Public versus private, religious versus secular, liberal versus conservative, straight-laced Provo versus laid back Salt Lake City, and so forth. These gaps just don't exist between Utah and Colorado. Boulder, Colorado, for example, is famously liberal. Hippie versus hippie action is not so fun.

Whatever the case, go Utes.

Big moment in every boy's life [Bryan]

There was a great article in the paper the other day called, "The Case Against Summer." Key quote from a summer reminiscence:
Eating Whoppers and fries for breakfast together was a bonding experience. Every boy treasures that moment when his father first says to him, "I don't think Mom needs to know about this."
If you don't believe this is how things are around our house, too, let me disabuse you of that notion. Exhibit A is Ellie's semi-serious comment to me the other day, which went something like this: "Your relationship with our children is built almost entirely on junk food." Exaggerated? Yes, quite a bit. Slightly hurtful? Indeed. Entirely false and inaccurate? No, I can't say that it is.