We let Obama defy the law, and moved a step toward autocracy

“When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”

— President Richard Nixon

Early in the presidency of Barack Obama, some activists pressured him to stop deporting illegal immigrants brought here as children.

But Obama was a smart lawyer surrounded by other smart lawyers. He even boasted that he had been a Constitutional law professor. He had actually just been a part-time and untenured instructor, but he still knew that the president had no authority to ignore the immigration laws.

According to the New York Times and Washington Post, he clearly said so. In fact, according to the fact-checker Politifact, he said so at least 17 times.

But then he did it anyway. Continue reading

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Is your Tribe doing your Thinking for you?

Tribalism is in our DNA. This innate tendency to adopt the beliefs and customs of the people around us was the glue that held together small bands of nomadic hunters and gatherers.

Ancient humans with tribalism in their DNA survived in their tribe and propagated their DNA. Those without it didn’t and didn’t. It’s the natural product of human evolution.

Managing ancient humans was not like herding cats. It was more like herding herds. Stray humans didn’t last long on the savanna. Later, tribalism enabled us to coalesce into towns and cities, and to defend our resulting civilizations.

Even now, tribalism influences our relations with employers, extended families and communities. That influence is often good. When people work for the benefit of their tribe, they create focused teams that are more effective than individuals can ever be.

In short, tribalism has served us well for 99 percent of human history and in some ways it still does.

But tribalism poisons modern politics. Continue reading

Good Reasons to be Sleepless in Seattle

Back when I was a young Boeing engineer Seattle was a modest place with (apologies to Winston Churchill) much to be modest about. They were always comparing themselves with the real city to the south, San Francisco. Seattleites knew they were more wet than cool.

So in a classic case of psychosexual compensation, Seattleites did the equivalent of buying the city a Porsche. They built a big phallus called the “Space Needle.”

Ever since, everything Seattle does is designed to show San Francisco and the world that Seattle is big.

I’d like to say this is a tale of two cities, but it’s a tale of many. Continue reading

Aspen Seeths Hatred While Pence Celebrates Christmas

A decent man of deep religious beliefs came to Aspen last week to relax with friends and family and to celebrate some of his religion’s most joyous and holy days. It was Vice President Mike Pence, his religion is Christianity and he was here for Christmas week.

The locals taunted and hated on him.

There were several stories, but one stands out. Continue reading

Ghosts of Christmas

“You lied to me!” So said my 6-year-old daughter to me one merry Christmas.

We always made a big deal out of Christmas Eve. It was the one night that I did the cooking, and that alone made it interesting.

After the guests pushed the food around on their plates long enough that they could plausibly pretend they were full, our tradition was to open gifts. We thought that we and the gifts looked better in the dim Christmas Eve lights after a few single malt scotches than in the bright Christmas Day lights with a hangover. The kids often put on a play.

Eventually, the party ended and the guests went home. After the stockings were well hung by the chimney with care, the kids would nestle all snug in their beds in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. Hallucinogenic visions of plums and whatnot danced in their sugar-infused heads.

After even the mice weren’t stirring, the curtain lifted on my own little play. Continue reading

I’ll take redneck moonshiners over bluenose revenuers

The Discovery Channel has a series out on moonshiners. The characters are from red states like Tennessee and Kentucky, while the television producers are from blue states like California and New York.

The latter naturally portray the former as stupid.

The red state rednecks tell us that first you find a place for the still, then you haul all the stuff there. There’s a furnace, lots of piping, a condenser and miscellaneous things that go with it like duct tape, barrels, ATVs, propane tanks, sideburns, guns, denim overalls and tattoos.

Lots can go wrong in this business. If you use an old automobile radiator for the condenser, for example, you can poison yourself and your customers with the residual antifreeze. That’s bad for business.

In one episode, Continue reading