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Political Column - The Tragedy of the Moths

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Humans have a unique ability to desire the impossible. Complaints are one demonstration of this. Much of what politicians do is an attempt to avoid complaints. However, having no complaints is an impossibility. This is even more so in politics than in business because for the most part people cannot choose to disengage from a government like they can with most businesses. If you don't like a product then "Buy from someone else." usually works. If you don't like your government "Move." usually isn't so easy or simple. Some people like to pretend it is when they're talking about someone else while ignoring the complexities of leaving family and friends, finding work, government paperwork and approvals, changing schools, knowing the environment and history of a place, and arranging financing and logistics. Even on a divisive issue like spraying for gypsy/spongy moths it's unlikely for many people to say "I'm moving to Midland County because

Political Column - Common Ground

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In a lonely, isolated society, lacking connection and belonging, a feeling of powerlessness whelms up in people, drop by slowly overwhelming drop. Meaning lacking, frustration growing, the complexity of the world beyond capacity of understanding. Human defiance seeks resistance, human fear seeks escape. How do you live in a broken structure? Trapped within peace and prosperity without knowing it, crumbling. Trapped with choice without choosing it, faltering. Middle class decimated, center politics evaporated, common ground lost and retreating. An old man named Civilization stands on a street corner holding a jar in his outstretched hand labeled "Gratitude", empty. A black, matted dog named Chaos watches from the shadows, hungry. Thus is our situation. An unbalanced society balancing on the edge of a precipice. Balance is needed, within individuals and between individuals. Calm emotions, common ground, logical communication, mutual understanding. Rather, we see the unraveling

Political Column - Reaction, Revolution, and Reform

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Governments do bad things. People get upset over those things, and that's reasonable. They complain to their friends and family, they post things on social media. Sometimes they yell, sometimes they protest. This initial reaction is one of anger. Anger is an emotion that pushes us to take action. Often anger is only the first layer. Deeper we may find that we are sad over something that is wrong, and we're frustrated that we don't know what to do to make it better. Powerlessness is a disheartening feeling. So people repress it with a layer of hate. They fume and steam and hope that someone does something. This is exactly what happened in the case of Hidden Creek Farm in Dalton Township. People were upset when they heard about the lack of due process, they were upset about small farms not being protected. I fuelled the flames of upset with my articles, by organizing people to flood the township meeting, by my petition, by my recall attempts, by using the available processes

Political Column - Do I Like Being Supervisor?

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Last month the local Girl Scout troop leaders needed a location to divide up their cookie shipment, and they did that at the township. It went well. While talking with the organizer she asked me how long I've been in office, I told her about 15 months. Next she asked, "Do you like it?" It's a question I've been asked quite a lot since taking the position. I said, in a matter of fact tone, "No." And, like most people, she returned a look of surprise, and that brought forth a soft chuckle from me. Over and over I've been surprised that people are surprised that I don't like the job. I didn't run for office because I thought I would like it. Actually, it disturbs me that there are people that like being politicians. And it saddens me that people who don't think they'll like doing the job don't run for office. There's an important difference to recognize between government and the rest of society. Thomas Paine pointed it out in 17

Political Column - Religion, Politics, and an Invocation

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I don't fall into a clear category in politics. Nor do I in religion. This tends to make people uncomfortable because they can't classify me. To know what I think you have to ask me, or listen to me, or read what I have written. In my pursuit of meaning and understanding I have found truth in all party lines and religious creeds, some better, some worse, but never the whole or exclusive truth untainted by the limitations of human nature. So I remain, in whatever group I participate, an independent thinker; sourcing my own material, drawing my own conclusions. I have relatives and friends that are preachers, pastors, and ministers. I've been to services with Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, non-denominational Christians, Anglicans, Mormons, Greek Orthodox, and Messianic Jews. I've been to a Quaker meeting in a Reformed seminary. I've had students that are Muslims and Taoists, friends that are Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindus, and Knights Templar. I've talked ab

Political Column - The Stress of Holding Office in Tumultuous Times

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As societies break down you see a breakdown at all levels. You can see it on display in our government organizations in villages, townships, cities, counties, states, and countries. You can see it in private clubs, friend groups, and family units. And you can see it in individuals. Each of these reinforces the other in an unstable and destabilizing positive feedback loop leading to... something big. This isn't the first time it has happened, nor will it be the last. One of my favorite books on the subject is 'Escape From Freedom' by Erich Fromm. It came out in 1941. The basic idea is that in times when there's a pervasive feeling of loneliness and powerlessness in a society people respond in a few different ways. They become authoritarian with its complementary submissiveness, they conform, and/or they become destructive. We see all of these things happening now. You can see this division in the representatives of the people holding public office. You can see it in thei

Political Column - The Struggle of Politics

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Life is a struggle. A struggle wherein we strive to capture value and meaning in what we create, in what we experience, and the perspective that we take on the challenges that we face. Politics is a part of life, and also a struggle. Dalton Township has been faced with a lot of challenges over the years. In the last year a lot of those challenges have been confronted, and a lot of those challenges have been conquered. There is a natural tendency in politics for people to focus on personality, on the style and presentation of a person. This is inevitable, it is part of being human. But there is something more important, there is substance, the underlying reality of the situation. Promises are not solutions, hopes and dreams are not results. Promises, hopes, and dreams can help to orient us to the future, but what so often happens is that the promises of politicians are empty. They use hopes and dreams to sell a vision that is an illusion. They get people committed to that illusion, and

Political Column - Cain, Abel, Fire, and Politics

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American society is shaking right now, ready to either erupt or crumble. We are seeing this in the conflicts and failures evident in all of our major institutions. In our non-functional medical industry, our non-functional media industry, our non-functional banking industry, our non-functional transportation industry, our non-functional manufacturing industry, our non-functional farming industry, our non-functional small governments, our non-functional state governments, and our non-functional national government. It's a virus of the mind, heart, and soul that has eaten away the American spirit and left a void, a lack of meaning in life, and in has rushed a feeling of loneliness and a feeling of powerlessness. This curse that has invaded our culture and spread its tentacles into every aspect of our lives reminds me of an ancient story. The greatest cautionary tale ever told. Cain and Abel is a short story. It's a tragic story. It's a story that our society is living through

Political Column - The Bedrock of Good Government

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It has been a long and tumultuous history to discover what is necessary for the structure of good governance: separation of powers, federalism, checks and balances, due process, elections, enumerated rights, trial by jury, etc. These are immensely important principles that civilization is built upon. But all of the best principles in known existence will not work without something more foundational, and that is the moral bedrock that emerges through individual human interactions over time. Society is built from the bottom up. In his 'Thoughts on Government' John Adams says, "Fear is the foundation of most governments; but is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men, in whose breasts it predominates, so stupid, and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it." This brings up a great question; if not fear, what should government be founded upon? Adams says, "All sober enquiries after truth, anci

Political Column - Between Tyranny and Anarchy

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Life and liberty are precious and precarious things. Easy to lose their balance and topple, this way or that. We expect government to protect these things, life and liberty, but quite often it does the opposite. And that's allowed, because taking action is inconvenient. If these injustices continue to grow then there does come a point where more and more people are willing to take greater and greater action. Taken to the extreme this results in the toppling of the government. For instance, in England in the mid-1600s King Charles I fought the forces of parliament and ended up losing his head. The anarchy and civil wars were a steep price to be paid to correct the wrongs of his rule, but they were paid in full. You might think that what would naturally follow would be greater religious freedom and toleration, and a greater emphasis on individual rights and the power of representation through the parliament. You would be wrong. What followed was Oliver Cromwell and a greater tyranny.

Political Column - How Power Corrupts

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I have spent many hours over the last couple of decades contemplating Lord Acton's observation in a letter to a bishop that, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I have read, studied, and observed the idea. Combining that with holding office gives me an interesting perspective to answer the complex question of, "How?" Government is a mass negotiation through indirect means to incompatible ends. There are times when the government is synonymous with a person. When that occurs, it's easier to see that corruption in the government comes from a corruption of the person. In a more complex society, such as ours, that same truth is harder to see. The most obvious problem leading to corruption in power is self-selection bias. Those that want power are not the people you want to have power. And those you want to have power, don't want it, and don't try to get it. Thus, the game is usually lost before it is played. Often there is no

Political Column - The Right to Garden

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Everyone wants to make progress. To actually do that there are important questions to ask, the two most important being "Progress toward what?" and "How?" Studying reformations of the past, how they worked, and when they didn't, helps to inform us on what may or may not work in the future. The first modern city-wide zoning ordinance was enacted in 1916 by New York City. The idea spread and in 1926 there was a Supreme Court case between the Village of Euclid and Ambler Realty Company. It was determined that such zoning ordinances are legal. This innovation grew out of similar ideas that have been enacted in cities throughout the world for thousands of years. And once the idea took hold, it grew. Part of the reason it grew is because as technology progresses there are growing pains that society goes through. Every industrial revolution brings a set of problems like overcrowding in highly polluted and unsanitary cities. But a solution always brings its own problems

Political Column - Procedure and Substance

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I have received suggestions from both residents in Dalton Township, and from state level organizations, tending toward having ordinances that are vague and subjective. I can understand the tendency in that direction. Working out laws that will be able to apply across a wide range of situations is difficult. Not every contingency can be covered. Therefore at some point reasonable decision making must come into play. And, that is all true, but there are two major problems with it. One problem is that courts have ruled multiple times at multiple levels that vague and subjective laws are not enforceable. Defining what vague is can be a large subject in itself, but whatever the definition, it is certain that vague laws create difficulties. The bigger problem is the arbitrary power that it gives to the person in charge. Cesare Beccaria says it well in his book 'On Crimes and Punishments', "If the power of interpreting laws be an evil, obscurity in them must be another, as the fo

Political Column - Opening Avenues of Opportunity

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The heart of entrepreneurship and development is initiative. The nemesis is bureaucratic red tape. Each has a purpose. The one to conquer scarcity in the world and provide for our desires. The other to establish boundaries to work within, to protect people from each other. The one the beating engine of the world, the other the suffocating confines in which it runs. Dalton Township is a developing area. Large companies like Michigan's Adventure and Duck Creek RV Park are doing additions. Smaller businesses like The Scoop ice cream shop and the Full Moon Diner and Saloon have recently opened. Things are finally going to happen with Business Park North. And there's more on the horizon. I was recently at the ice cream shop on M-120 talking with a friend, and he inquired about food trucks. About what he needed to do, about what the steps are. I told him that I didn't think we had any ordinances on them, but I would look into it. I did. It turns out that Dalton doesn't have a

Philosophy Forum - Part 5

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Here we go again. The subject is ethics this time. I don't particularly like how this first question is phrased, because it doesn't make the problem plain. Nevertheless, I won't write an article on the bad phrasing. I'll just tackle the problem at hand. - - - - - - - 'According to Hume, reason alone does not move us to act, though our moral opinions do, and he rightly infers from this that reason cannot be the source of our moral opinions.' Discuss. Hume rightly points out that the human capacity for reason is a powerful faculty. We can compare and contrast ideas from things that are similar, to things that do not seem so at first glance. The term relational frame theory wouldn't come about in psychology until hundreds of years after Hume, but it points out the power of this human ability. For instance, how are a pig and a chair related? Most people's first reaction is that they aren't, but then if they

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