Author: The BPI Squirrel

Furthermore! – Golf, David Brooks, Innovation, and Hard Courses

You can make a course so hard that only the best can play it, but that doesn’t ensure you’ll see the best play. (More) Watching last weekend’s U.S. Open Men’s Golf tournament almost made me regret that squirrels invented golf. You probably haven’t heard that story, just as you hadn’t heard about Isaac Newtufts simultaneously dropping a nutshell and an apple core on Newton’s head. Both hit at the same time, thus proving Newtufts’ theory that acceleration due to gravity is a constant. Newton wrote up the theory and left Newtufts out of the story, just as Artair and Gordon MacPhluphy are left out when humans talk about the birth of golf. Here’s how it happened: One fine Scottish day, Artair and Gordon were busy burying nuts. Rather than dig a hole, put a nut in it, and cover it up, the Brothers MacPhluphy decided to dig all the holes ahead of time. They counted the holes dug on their toes, and squirrels have four front and five back toes, for a total of eighteen. By the time they dug the eighteenth hole they were bored and needing a break. Each took a walnut and a twig, and they began whacking their walnuts from one hole to the next. Artair had just taken a mighty swing when he looked up and saw his brother standing in the way. He...

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Furthermore! – Pie, Political Choices, and Partisanship

It’s easy to divide an ever-growing pie. Hard choices – and hard politics – happen when the pie stops growing. (More) “I hate word problems,” Michelle said as I helped the twins with their math homework. Nancy agreed. “The numbers look the same, but they don’t feel the same.” The question asked whether two squirrels would finish with more nuts if: (a) they started with one nut each and added a total of four divided, evenly between them; or (b) they started with five nuts each and subtracted a total of four, divided evenly between them. In the first case, they start with 2 nuts (1 each) and finish with 6 (3 each). In the second case, they start with 10 nuts (5 each) and again finish with 6 (3 each). The squirrels finish with the same number of nuts in each case. Yet Nancy was right: the two experiences would not feel the same. The difference is loss aversion, a combination of negativity bias and the endowment effect. Our attention is drawn to threats and dangers, for good reason. And once we have something, we want to keep it. Put those together and, in the words of sportscaster Vin Scully, “Losing feels worse than winning feels good.” Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman wrote in Thinking: Fast and Slow that loss aversion also explains why negotiations to divide gains tend...

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Furthermore! – Occupy: Ossification or Organization?

AdBusters, the Canadian group who prompted the Occupy Wall Street protests, now condemn the original protesters for becoming … organized. (More) Last fall BPI sent me to cover the Occupy protests in Zuccotti Park. After watching the zombie protest on my first day, I picked up the spirit of being a class war correspondent. A few days later, Chef sent me a spiffy khaki class war correspondent’s vest with lots of pockets for my Blewberry and extra macadamias. I came home later that month for family leave, just in time for the birth of the twins: Nancy and Michelle. The energy and ideals of the Occupy movement quickly spread around the world. They also changed the political dialogue in the U.S. As the movement grew, even Republicans began talking about income inequality. Contrary to conservative dismissals, the Occupy movement wasn’t just a bunch of kids camping in parks. One of the OWS working groups – Occupy the SEC – wrote a 325-page letter proposing detailed amendments to strengthen the Volker Rule and limit speculative trading by federally-insured banks. Over the winter, Occupy members worked on high-tech tools to help them better coordinate their activities, and several Occupy activists and supporters are running as candidates in 2012. I see those as positive signs. Alas, AdBusters disagrees: Our movement is living through a painful rebirth… “There has been a unfortunate consolidation...

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Furthermore! – Passion, Politics, Parties, and Patience

Passion has its place in politics, but it can’t replace organization and patience. (More) My twin daughters, Nancy and Michelle, were passionate about their new club yesterday. They scurried around, chittering happily as they built a clubhouse in another part of Árbol Squirrel and decorated it with some pretty beads from their bed nook. They even made a sign – “Very Nice Squirrels Club” – which also summarized the club rules in the metaphorical nutshell. (They also wrote the club rules in an actual nutshell.) Once finished, they settled into their clubhouse and waited for other very nice squirrels to join. An hour or so later, they came back with their pretty beads and their sign. “Only one other squirrel came to our club house,” they complained, “and she wasn’t very nice.” Nancy and Michelle are only seven, so their abundance of passion and scarcity of patience are normal. Alas, when it comes to politics too many adults have almost as much passion … and almost as little patience. Last night, for example, I spent some time on Twitter talking with a Disaffected Democrat. She was furious with President Obama over last week’s New York Times story about the Al Qaida “kill list” and drone strikes. The drone strikes were immoral, she said. Never mind that Mitt Romney also favors drone strikes, or his declared intent for a military...

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Furthermore! – Mitt Romney, Republicans, Defense, and Positional Spending

To understand Mitt Romney and Republicans on defense spending, “follow the money” may be less reliable than “follow the antlers.” (More) Michelle and Nancy were watching the deer wander around Árbol Squirrel. They wanted to know why the deer didn’t have any antlers, as deer usually do in photos and drawings, and why squirrels don’t have antlers either. I explained that male deer grow antlers and use them to fight over females. Most male squirrels don’t fight over females, and those that do usually argue it out by twitching their tails. As for why the deer outside Árbol Squirrel have no antlers, deer shed their antlers in the winter and start growing a new rack each spring. The male deer here have only just started growing their antlers again. I thought about the twins’ questions as I read about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s Memorial Day speech: We have two courses we can follow: One is to follow in the pathway of Europe, to shrink our military smaller and smaller to pay for our social needs. The other is to commit to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world. Predictably, Romney promised the latter. Never mind that the U.S. already spends more on our military than the next ten biggest-spenders … combined: The U.S. has...

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