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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

Philosophy Forum - Part 4

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Epistemology is the theory of knowledge. What is truth? How do we know? Important and difficult questions that will be debated as long as there are humans with the ability to debate them. The two questions that I have to answer today are a subset of this larger topic. Here are the two questions that I have to tackle. - - - - - - - 'If knowledge is not justified true belief, is it justified true belief that meets also some further condition?' 'Is saying "I believe that p" just an alternative way of saying "p"?' - - - - - - - I'm going to give myself one chance to move through these questions. It's a unique way of trying to tackle an answer. In a way it's a bit conversational. My conversations often end up on similar types of issues, at least at similar foundational levels. And, when the conversation has gotten there I do usually switch from a rapidly exchangi

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 21 of ?

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Winning is often the end of an endeavor, but not always. In politics winning should not be an end in itself, only a step. It is the beginning of the true struggle for which the entire history of humanity has striven. There is a balance to be struck. The balance between the value of the group and the value of the individual. Often people like to side with the one or the other, because both are simple solutions. But the plain fact is that there is no group without the individual. So too there would be no individual person without society. The two must coexist. The society must value and protect the individual as the core foundation of itself, and the individual must value the cooperation of others in creating a unique and emergent order. Harmony is the aim, the ideal. How to get there is what all of the controversy is about, what it's always about. Great atrocities have been committed in the name of peace, time and time again. The idea that peace is just on the other side of war has

A Christmas Card Poem

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I did an Ancestry DNA test a few years ago and ended up finding an older sister a few states over. My mother, father, and I have taken different approaches to giving her and her family gifts. I've sent books, of course, and so did my mother. But, they didn't get an enthusiastic reception. And books are about 90 percent of my gift-giving. Then my mother took my idea of giving out events as gifts and started applying it. I like doing that because I then go to the event with them. I make sure that I get one I'll like, so no matter what happens the gift is at least appreciated by one person. Lol. Being a few states away it's a bit different in this case, but events are still fun gifts. Last year my mother sent them family tickets to a movie theater near them in Nebraska. That worked out well. Now that theater is out of business. My mother looked around for something else. She almost got paintball passes, but they only got you in t

Philosophy Forum - Part 3

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Philosophy applies to life. And life adds perspective to philosophy. Often these two things end up disconnected. Here's the question for this essay. - - - - - - - What is the sorites paradox? Is there any satisfying way to resolve it? - - - - - - - And here are the few notes that I wrote down. - - - - - - - tree stumps affordances sorites blight - - - - - - - My general idea was that I wanted to make the answer to this practical. An actual application in the world. I thought about talking about grinding tree stumps, and I thought about going with the political issue of blight. In the end I went with sand. - - - - - - - There is a difference between things being general, ambiguous, and vague. If I say "Cats are cute." I'm talking about all cats, or more reasonably, most cats. It's a general

Philosophy Forum - Part 2

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I have two essays on logic to write today. And we're going to see one of the reasons that I don't particularly like academia right away. Here is a note about the essays. - - - - - - - Remember when answering that one of the key things you're aiming to do in an assessment essay is to demonstrate your understanding, so more fundamental than trying to make difficult arguments is honing your ability to clearly lay out the debate. - - - - - - - I understand the value of this approach. Most things that people are trying to solve they can just look up the answer to if they would work on researching more, or it's unsolvable and they would realize that by researching more. Nevertheless, I like to struggle with solving the problems themselves. To succeed in academia is a rather straightforward endeavor. You take the information that they're giving you, and then you repeat it back to them. I just have a dislike for parroting information

Philosophy Forum - Part 1

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Philosophy is inescapable. It is ignorable, which is what most people do with it. There are parts that I find quite interesting, enjoyable, and useful. Technical logic is not exactly one of the areas that excite me, but it can be useful, and is important. Maybe the most important thing about it is understanding the difficulty of the problems, and the complexity that underlies the set of problems. In this course on logic there were two sets of six questions posed. The idea is to give a short answer to one from each set. The first set has to do with descriptions. I chose question number four. Here is the question and my answer. - - - - - - - 4. Suppose I say "When I use the term "The King of France", I'm just talking about my idea of the King of France." How well does this account for the way we speak? In view of the idea that we speak to communicate, having a purely subjective referent obstructs the primary purpose of spee

Great Movies About Writers and Writing

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A few years ago I went looking for a movie list to both inspire and instruct me about writing and being a writer. There are such lists, but there are no good lists. Over the last couple of years I've made my own list. And, it's good. These ten are perfectly on point, grade A awesomeness. There are a dozen others that almost made the list, but didn't. The Man Who Invented Christmas Charles Dickens wrote 'A Christmas Carol' in six weeks to release it for Christmas, because he was broke, even though he was famous. Also, no one would publish his weird ghost story, so he self-published it. That was 1843. I'm not a huge Dickens fan, but this little book is genius, and I liked seeing the story behind it. Dickens talked about how his characters were more real to him than real people. It's hard to show that kind of creative writing process in pictures or film, and they do it superbly in this show.  Mary Shelley Both of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley's parents

Jeff Invents a New Necktie Knot

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A few days ago I was watching the movie 'Gabriel's Inferno'. In one scene Julianne is fixing Gabriel's tie in a car. It annoyed me that the rich, sophisticated, intellectual was both bad at tying a tie, and that it was a simple and bad looking knot. It just seemed incongruent. So, I paused the show. I grabbed a tie and looked up knots. I learned the notation system, which is pretty simple. I went through the 13 most common knots from the book 'The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie'. I determined that the knots that I think are decent are the: Small, Victoria, 11-3, Nicky, Half-Windsor, Hanover, Plattsburgh, Cavendish, and Balthus. Then I started playing around. I thought I might be able to invent a new tie knot. That's not an easy task to do. There are mathematical academic articles written by physicists on working out all of the different ways to tie a tie. The first knot I thought I invented ended up being number 34 in the 'Encyclopedia of Tie Knots'. I also th

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