Author: The BPI Squirrel

Furthermore! – Driving Themselves Insane?

Researching my thesis on 21st Century Political Nuttitude doesn’t sound like a cocoon of sanity. But our toddlers Nancy and Michelle are still learning they’re not flying squirrels, so they keep Mrs. Squirrel and me hopping. And with BPI’s production of The Gardener’s Lament opening Friday, Regis is all a-chitter. So my research on political craziness, ironically, is the least crazy part of my day. Still, it was hard not to reach for the macadamias when I saw that Senate Republicans are trying to put a poisoned birth control pill in the federal highway bill. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), would allow any employer to prohibit employee insurance coverage for any medical care that for which the employer has a “moral objection.” Under the Blunt Amendment, the ‘conscience clause’ would not be limited to businesses owned by religious institutions, as are many hospitals. Any employer could claim a “moral objection” to covering any health care procedure. The language of the amendment does not require the “moral objection” to have a religious basis. If an employer’s “moral objection” is merely that he thinks child immunizations, annual physicals, pap smears, and mammograms are a waste of money … the company health insurance could not cover them, even if the insurance company offers such coverage with no additional premiums. This is not about “religious freedom.” As Mother Jones‘s Adam...

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Furthermore! – Man the Battlements!

Regis got home exhausted last night after their first technical rehearsal for The Gardener’s Lament. They had trouble with the special effects, Regis explained. Apparently the gardener goes to great lengths, and heights and depths, to protect his vegetables from Regis’ character. I saw the set yesterday, and that huge wall with net-throwers and laser beams looked very formidable. But rather than throwing spinning nets for him to nimbly duck around, Regis said the wall worked more like Pootie the Precious spitting up hairballs. He described it as “class warfare hilarity.” “Oh, like the American Enterprise Institute about President Obama’s proposed budget,” I replied. In an article titled Obama’s ‘rosy’ budget scenario doubles down on class warfare, AEI writer James Pethokoukis hyperbolizes: Then again, Obama’s new budget isn’t about economic growth or cutting debt or creating a “built to last” economy. The Obama campaign is built around the idea of reducing inequality. So in his budget, Obama takes the populist whip to the wealthy and to business[.] I didn’t hear any loud whip cracks yesterday. Then again, I was listening to music while researching my thesis on 21st Century Political Nuttitude. Maybe Jackson Browne drowned out those whip cracks. Mrs. Squirrel said she didn’t hear any either, but she was playing with the twins – Nancy and Michelle – and you know how loud toddlers can be. Just in...

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Furthermore! – Elections: More Parties?

Regis is doing well with his rehearsals for the BPI spring theatre production of The Gardener’s Lament. He spends hours each day working on his lines, which would interfere with his classes if BPI actually had any. It doesn’t interfere with his classes, but the play has interfered with his social life. His guirrel friend didn’t audition and quickly grew bored of sitting in the audience watching rehearsals. So she mostly goes out with their other friends in the evenings. Regis isn’t jealous, but he does miss having fun. Last night he offered a familiar university lament: “I wish I had more parties.” “You sound like an election reform advocate,” I said. Every four years, groups emerge or reemerge to rail against “the two party duopoly.” The ideas sound good in theory, but theory and reality often don’t match up very well. For starters, consider research on the paradox of choice. It turns out that humans easily get baffled by lots of choices, especially when they have incomplete information about the alternatives. In fact, humans can get baffled enough to make choices that do not serve the interests they set out to accomplish. The more options in the mix, and the less clear the information, the more likely that people will not choose the option that best serves their stated interests. In decision theory terms, the two-party system serves...

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Furthermore! – Obama versus Who?

My son Regis was a bit down when he got home from rehearsal last night. He has one of the starring roles in the BPI spring theatre production of A Gardener’s Lament, and they’ve finished the basic blocking rehearsals – who stands where and does what when – and moved into the harder scene work. “The director keeps telling me to make strong choices,” Regis said. “It’s almost like voting.” I couldn’t help him much with the acting part, but Regis was right. Voting is about making strong choices. Take this year’s presidential election, for example. Last week’s Gallup poll found that President Obama had approval ratings over 50% in ten states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont – and the District of Columbia. Those total 159 electoral votes. President Obama also has net positive approval ratings in Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin, totaling another 56 electoral votes. Based on those numbers, the Washington Examiner‘s Conn Carroll predicted President Obama will lose by a landslide in November, garnering only 215 electoral votes to “the Republican nominee’s” 323. Not surprisingly, that narrative quickly spread through the conservative media. But despite the Republicans’ preferred narrative, President Obama will not be running against himself. November will not be a retention election where everyone who is dissatisfied with the president’s first term will declare...

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Furthermore! – Overpaid or Underpaid?

I grump about my roving reporter job, but it’s not that bad. Yes, I sometimes have to travel and I hate traveling, but I’ve been home on family leave since the Nancy and Michelle were born last fall. Yes, my pay is free tuition at an institution that doesn’t charge tuition, but I also get macadamias and the (mostly) uninterrupted use of Árbol Squirrel. By squirrel household income standards, I can’t complain. Except it’s my job to complain, so I will. Specifically, I’ll complain about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who complained yesterday: While millions of Americans continue to struggle with stagnant wages and high unemployment, government bureaucrats in Washington continue to enjoy significant advantages over those whose tax dollars finance their compensation. He was responding to a report released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office, titled Comparing the Compensation of Federal and Private Sector Employees. The report found that – on average – federal employees earn 16% more in wages and benefits than private sector employees with comparable education and experience. But those italicized words are the keys to the story, and the reason I’m complaining about Rep. Ryan’s complaining. On wages alone, federal employees earn only 2% more than comparable private sector employee, and again that’s on average. Federal workers with only a high school diploma earned 21% more than such workers in the private sector. Federal workers...

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