Author: The BPI Squirrel

Furthermore! – Windows, Curtains, and Fringes

Political parties need both pragmatists and ideologues, and each needs to let the other do what they do best. (More) We don’t have windows at Árbol Squirrel, but we have curtains for privacy. Mrs. Squirrel made them from fabric remnants that Chef gave her and they’re quite lovely. The twins, Nancy and Michelle, nibbled on Mrs. Squirrel’s new curtains when they were infants. They were too cute for Mrs. Squirrel to get upset, and the fringe they left lets in a nice breeze. We need fringes for the same reason in politics. That’s where most new ideas begin. Many will be bad ideas, like the House Republican Budget’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Others will be good ideas, like the financial transactions tax in the Congressional Progressive Caucus “Back to Work” Budget. As the Economic Policy Institute report noted, that tax would “raise significant revenue while dampening speculative trading and encouraging more productive investment.” It would also discourage individual investors from day-trading and other mistakes that churn their savings into brokers’ profits. New ideas tend to start on the fringes – right and left – because the fringes don’t have to govern. Think tanks, academics, pundits, and bloggers can kick around ideas without worrying about whether the ideas are politically viable. We did that at BPI when we discussed a Guaranteed Basic Income, an idea from...

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Furthermore! – New Package, Same Nuts

Yesterday the Republican National Committee released their ‘autopsy’ of their defeats in 2012. Their diagnoses are mostly correct, but their prescriptions just put the same nuts in a different package. (More) As a squirrel, I know nuts pretty well. Squirrels know which nuts are the most nutritious, and we’ll go out of our way for them. We use our noses to find nuts we’ve buried, because we can smell nuts even if the nuts are under the ground. So if you put stale airline peanuts in a package that says macadamias, I’ll sniff out the difference. Voters can generally do that too, and that’s the bad news the Republican Party don’t want to face. Yesterday the RNC released a 100-page assessment of their defeats last year and their plans to fix things. They get the diagnosis mostly right: The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed. One of the contributors to this problem is that while Democrats tend to talk about people, Republicans tend to talk about policy. Our ideas can sound distant and removed from people’s lives. Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers. We need to do a better job...

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Furthermore! – Lesbian Obesity: A Study in Waste?

I’ve figured out the conservative definition of “government waste.” For them, that means “programs or studies that help people you don’t like.” (More) Take lesbians, for example. A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that lesbian women aged 20-44 are twice as likely to be obese as heterosexual or bisexual women in the same age group. That study reviewed data from previous research and concluded there was “an urgent need for weight-reduction interventions that target the high-risk group of sexual-minority women.” However, the authors noted that they “do not provide specific information for the development of culturally appropriate interventions for this population,” because they did not have enough data on specific causes of obesity among lesbian women. Enter the National Institutes of Health, who in 2011 and 2012 approved a total of $1.5 million for a five-year study to explore those causes, according to the conservative CNSNews.com. Cue outrage about “government” waste, at The Daily Caller, the Washington Times, Political Outcast, and elsewhere in the right-wing media. It’s possible the story isn’t even true, as CNS News provides no links and every other story about this – even the one at MSNNow – traces back to CNSNews.com. But the study probably is happening … and I’d love to know more about it. Obesity is a serious public health issue, no matter what Sarah Palin...

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Furthermore! – A Victory for Big Glug

There’s very little I care less about than what size soda you buy. This makes me the ideal squirrel to comment on Big Glug’s victory yesterday in New York City. (More) There are many things I care about. Visit me on Twitter and you’ll find me discussing economics and politics with economist Jeffrey Sachs, or pondering the risks of a ‘grand bargain’ with an unscrupulous adversary, or even trying to learn to speak Republican. And that’s when I’m not busy explaining the difficulties of decorating a tree for the Easter Bunny. Between that, researching my thesis on 21st Century Political Nuttitude, and domestic duties at Árbol Squirrel, I stay busy. So I haven’t had much time to follow New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on giant sugary drinks. Well, that and I just don’t care. I know this is a Very Big Deal, pitting The Forces of Science and Health against The Defenders of Freedom. Or something. If you also weren’t following this Very Big Deal, Mayor Bloomberg made a rule that limited sugary drinks to 16 ounces. Sort of. The rule was enacted through the New York City Health Board, not the City Council, so grocery and convenience stores would have been exempt. Dunkin Donuts wouldn’t have been able to sell you a 20-ounce coffee with sugar in it, but the 7-11 next door could sell you...

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Furthermore! – The High Wire of Comedy and Outrage

“#NRA: We thank the 20 children who gave their lives in defense of constitutional liberty and the right to bear arms. #GunControlNow,” I tweeted when I heard about the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Many thought that was outrageous. (More) Was my tweet crude and offensive? As bad as or worse than The Onion‘s crude and offensive tweet on Sunday night during the Oscars? Probably so, and I apologize. I will not offer any claim of “comedic immunity.” Quite the contrary. To write comedy is to expose yourself to ridicule, and sometimes that ridicule will be entirely justified. Comedy is a high wire act. It is, often, the art of the absurd and the outrageous, spotlighting our follies and puncturing our egos. For example, my tweet after Sandy Hook tried to highlight the absurdity of NRA claims about “freedom.” Much of comedy is “tragedy at a distance,” events that would otherwise hurt or horrify us, portrayed with enough of an artistic buffer that we laugh rather than cry. Comics also take disparate ideas and play our surprise at experience those ideas together. Consider this Ricky Gervais stand-up bit: I watch hours and hours of the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Just back and forth, like six-hour stints, History Channel, Discovery Channel. Ask me anything about sharks and Nazis. Not as bad as a lot of people make out....

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