The Risk of Overexposure (II)

I wrote a few months ago about the risks that President Obama was running by appearing on television so frequently, and in every conceivable sports, political, and entertainment venue.  Howard Fineman of Newsweek addresses the issue in his most recent column.

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Young, And Not Working

Recent data shows that the unemployment rate among Americans aged 16 to 24 who are not in school has jumped to a stunning 52.2 percent, the highest rate since World War II.  The linked story indicates that the future for these young adults doesn’t look great, either.  Small businesses, which traditionally create more than half of the jobs in America and which often hire young workers, are struggling in the current recession and aren’t the focus of the federal government’s stimulus and bailout economic recovery strategy.  A government database also suggests that it can take 15 years to overcome the setback of graduating from high school or college without a ready job.

The deeper, more insidious consequences of this extensive unemployment probably are sociological.  Many of these unemployed young adults must live with their parents.  How are they dealing emotionally with continued dependence on their parents at precisely the time they expected to be independent?  What kind of work ethic are they developing as they live at home, sleep in, and hang out with their fellow unemployed high school classmates?  How are their parents coping with the additional expenses that flow from supporting grown children and the impact on their retirement planning?

Grinding Some Meat

Yesterday’s game between Ohio State and Illinois was a good example of why Big Ten football teams need to be able to execute simple running plays if they want to be successful. For much of the game the rain was coming down in sheets, which put a premium on being able to move the ball on the ground. Ohio State was able to do so; Illinois wasn’t. Ohio State took a commanding lead, Illinois made mistakes trying to catch up, and Ohio State pulled away to a convincing 30-0 win.

I know many national sports fans find Big Ten football boring because the offenses are so run-oriented. (Maybe if I hadn’t been born and raised on Big Ten football I would, too.) I think such fans simply don’t appreciate that those offenses are well-suited to the prevailing weather conditions in the upper Midwest. In every season, Big Ten teams will play several games in the rain, sleet, and snow, when hands and footballs are cold and wet. Those conditions pose enormous challenges to offenses that rely heavily on glitzy ball-handling or run-and-shoot passing schemes to move the ball. Teams that can move the ball up the middle and rack up first downs when the defense knows that a run is coming are the teams that will be contending for the Big Ten conference title at season’s end. And the focus for every program should be to contend for the conference championship — not to impress ESPN commentators by piling up points during the warm, dry second week of the season only to have your offense fall apart in a blizzard of interceptions and fumbles and dropped passes when the conditions turn cold and wet.

Woody Hayes called this kind of up-the-gut run-oriented offense “grinding some meat.” In my view, Ohio State’s ability to “grind some meat,” particularly during the series in the first half when Brandon Saine got the ball repeatedly in downpour conditions, was the single most encouraging thing about yesterday’s game. There is a special beauty in a well-schooled offensive line getting a push in the trenches and opening holes that skilled running backs exploit by running with vision and power, fighting for every yard. I appreciate it; I don’t particularly care if talking heads behind a desk in Bristol, Connecticut can’t (or won’t). If Ohio State can continue to successfully “grind some meat” when it must do so, it will have a good season.

Some other observations on yesterday’s game:

The Ohio State defensive line looks strong, fast, and deep. They seemed to wear Illinois down during the second half and really disrupted Illinois’ offensive scheme. This is a good thing, because I continue to have unanswered questions about Ohio State’s defensive backfield. If Ohio State plays a team this year that has an offensive line capable of giving its quarterback sufficient time to throw, Ohio State might be in trouble.

Boom Herron and Brandon Saine are both good, tough runners. If they can avoid getting injured — which is always the question for good, tough, fight-for-every yard runners — they will give Ohio State a very effective one-two punch this season.

Everyone forgets that Terrelle Pryor is just a sophomore, but sometimes he plays like it. He needs to understand that not every play must gain 30 yards to be successful; a six-yard gain can be a tremendous positive under the right circumstances and should be taken as such. He also seems to be a bit more adventurous with his passes this year. Last year he often waited to throw until receivers were wide open, but this year he has made some throws where he really tried to fit the ball through small openings in the defense. On one play in particular, where Pryor was running to his right and tried to throw back to the middle, he was lucky that his throw wasn’t picked off. Figuring out the best decision under such circumstances is part of the maturation process for a quarterback, and Pryor is still a work in progress in that regard.

Even within a run-oriented offense, there is room for innovation and surprise. Ohio State introduced a tight end blocking approach yesterday that was tremendously successful and also gave its fullback a bit more to do in the offense. Those little wrinkles may pay dividends in the future, when defensive coordinators for opponents must decide how to defend against the Ohio State offense.

The Prospect Of A Nuclear Iran

The recent disclosure about a new secret Iranian facility devoted to the Iranian nuclear program — one of several such facilities in Iran — significantly raises the stakes in our relations with that Islamic state. It seems clear that the President will focus, for the present, on getting international agreement to some form of new sanctions on Iran. The question is whether the Administration should do more, and when? Some believe that the United States’ slow response to the Iranian nuclear program, and its dithering with respect to the North Korean program, are just encouraging other rogue states to try to enter the nuclear fraternity.

I doubt that Japan and other neighbors of North Korea are happy with the North Korean nuclear program or the missile tests the North Koreans have held in the past year. Such behavior is necessarily destabilizing. With each North Korean missile test I imagine the Japanese wonder whether, this time, the rogue government of Kim Jong Il has strapped a nuclear warhead aboard in hopes that the world will show it a bit more respect.

In Iran, the risks are even higher due to the volatility of the Middle East generally, the oil reserves located there, and the disturbing nature of the Iranian regime. Shouldn’t we all be terrified by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, governed by medieval religious figures and led by a Holocaust-denying fanatic who threatens the existence of Israel with every speech? Aren’t the parallels to Hitler and Nazi Germany too obvious to be overlooked? Shouldn’t we take Mr. Ahmadinejad at his word in his vows to wipe Israel off the map, and realize that preemptive action may the only way to avoid a second Holocaust?

The crucial difference between Iran and Nazi Germany, of course, is that Hitler, due to the technological limitations of his time, could only proceed through conventional warfare to cause a war that killed millions. If the Iranians succeed in developing nuclear weapons, they need only lob a few missiles at Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other nations to cause a global conflagration. The risks of that occurring are too appalling to contemplate or to permit. Any new sanctions regime should be brief and unyielding in its insistence that Iran stop its nuclear program; in the meantime the United States should be working with Israel and our allies to devise and, if necessary, carry out espionage and military options that will prevent Iran from realizing its evident nuclear ambitions.

Who Was Col. Wilbur C. Blount?

Recently the stretch of I-670 that I drive on every workday was designated the Col. Wilbur C. Blount Memorial Highway. These kinds of things happen everyday, without anyone paying much attention. I’ve wondered who Col. Blount was, though, and the answer to that question turns out to be interesting.

Col. Blount was a colonel in the Ohio Air National Guard. He graduated from East High School in Columbus, then received his bachelor’s of science degree in bacteriology from The Ohio State University in 1951. At Ohio State, he enrolled in ROTC and was later commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. He received his medical degree from Ohio State in 1959 and served for years in the Air Force as a flight surgeon. He was promoted to Colonel in the Ohio Air National Guard in 1976. Col. Blount was the second state air surgeon of the Ohio Air National Guard and was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2004.

Dr. Wilbur C. Blount

Dr. Wilbur C. Blount

Although he achieved much as Col. Blount, he was, perhaps, more important to people as Dr. Blount, an ophthalmologist, educator, and active alumni of East High School. Dr. Blount specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the retina and practiced in the Columbus area for nearly 30 years. He worked at The Ohio State University Hospitals and at Grant Medical Center, and was a clinical instructor, and later clinical associate professor, at The Ohio State University Hospitals. At East High School, he helped to establish the school’s ROTC program, where he taught classes and sponsored and mentored students. His obituary, available here, quotes one of the students who received Dr. Blount’s help. By all accounts, Dr. Blount was one of those all-too-rare people who was a positive force for good in their community.

Col. Wilbur C. Blount died in May 2006, and the Ohio General Assembly named the stretch of I-670 after Col. Blount in April 2009. I think they made a very good choice.

Pain In The Butt

This story about efforts by environmentalists to convince Americans to buy toilet paper made from recycled fibers is pretty hilarious. Americans want the toilet paper that they buy for use at their homes to be super-soft. Toilet paper makers oblige by producing products made largely from the pulp of old trees, which have the longer fibers that produce softer tissue. Environmentalists object to felling “old-growth” trees for this unseemly purpose, because such trees help to convert carbon dioxide and old-growth forests provide the habitat for bears and migratory birds.

The subject matter of the story, of course, lends itself to humor. But note that the chief executive of a leading manufacturer of recycled toilet paper seems to contend that Americans like softness only because they have been mesmerized by marketing campaigns! I can assure him that, to the contrary, for most Americans the keen desire for bathroom tissue softness is the product of harsh experience.

And consider this the next time you are in a position to personally assess the softness of toilet paper — those in the industry apply three softness criteria: surface smoothness, bulky feel, and “drapability.”

Let The Big 10 Begin

The Illibuck

Tomorrow the Buckeyes play the Fighting Illini in their Big 10 opener.  And, as important a game as USC was, as fun and patriotic as the Navy game may have been, the Big 10 is where the rubber meets the road.  We remember when the Buckeye defense could not stop Juice Williams two years ago; we remember when, in times past, the Illini beat the Buckeyes.  We remember when the Illibuck went to the men of Champaign-Urbana.  And so, we want the Buckeyes to stomp the mortal piss out of the Illini come Saturday.  We want Terrelle Pryor to have an excellent game; we want Boom Herron to pound the middle and burst through for a touchdown or two, and we want the Ohio State defense to shut down the Illinois offense and humble Juice Williams, as he should have been humbled two years ago.  We want to bring home the Illibuck.

This is what we want, and what Big 10 football is all about.