Index of Ms. Bristol’s Historical Articles

By John S. Frum | October 27, 2020

One of our subscribers has asked that we provide an index to Ms. Bristol’s Milton historical articles. (I do try to connect her articles to each other through internal links). There is a bit of a problem in that her sequence of articles is an ongoing one.

Be that as it may, here you may find an index of sorts of her articles to date in a roughly chronological order.

Can You Believe This Guy?

By John S. Frum | December 16, 2019

We received today the following demand letter from the Town Treasurer, Mr. MacKenzie Campbell:


Name: Mackenzie Campbell, treasurer

Email: [omitted]

Comment: Hello I read opinionated and categorically false information relating to the Treasurers position. I am happy to give an interview that I can back up with facts and additional information. The article was about an upcoming Selectman’s meeting and I need to reach someone to discuss. If no contact attempts are made to me within 5 business days or 1 calendar week. I will follow up to request your proof in writing. If proof cannot be furnished within 30 days I will proceed accordingly to avoid defamation to my name and character as well as my ability to serve in the role of treasurer.

You are herby notifies to cease and desist the information regarding to the treasurers position without providing substantial evidence.

I appreciate your time and have a great day!

[phone number omitted]

[*misspellings and typographical errors are original]


Well, this Treasurer guy certainly thinks a lot of himself, doesn’t he? More than I do anyway.

I will thank him to keep his empty threats between his teeth for the next 5 business days, 1 calendar week, 30 days, or pretty much until the sun winks out. As an elected official, he is a public figure. This is black-letter law. I might suggest he seek satisfaction in a nice long walk on a short pier, and that he should “have a great day” while doing it.

Doesn’t he know that the Board of Selectmen (BOS) meetings are recorded? Nothing has been said here that was not said aloud in recorded public meetings.

(Some might even recall that when Selectman Lucier was obsessed with trash in yards, it was said aloud – for a recording – that Mr. Campbell’s yard was among the worst of them).

Mr. Campbell did not specify which part of our meeting notice was “categorically false.” I’m going to call just plain nonsense on that. Facts that you do not like are not false because you do not like them.

In the BOS meeting of December 3, 2018, the Town Clerk’s reluctance to be the Town’s Depository was discussed at length (minutes). Mr. Plissken wrote about it at the time (Town Clerk Working-to-Rule), and quoted both the Treasurer’s remarks and those of the BOS directly from the recording at length.

In the BOS meeting of December 17, 2018, the Treasurer was among those trying to browbeat the Town Clerk. According to the minutes.

M. Campbell suggested the Town Clerk/Tax Collector remain the central location as determined with the bank and auditors this past spring.

The Treasurer, the bank and the auditors had “determined” that the Town Clerk should do the work. Nice of them. Might I ask which of them, if any of them, asked the Town Clerk? Don’t you just love it when other people “determine” things for you? I know I do.

They went around and around, but she did not budge. You see, she is not the handmaiden of the BOS or anyone else in Town government. She is a duly elected constitutional officer, as opposed to most down there. She promised certain office hours for the taxpayers, as a constitutional officer might. This central depository thing would interfere with her promises to her constituency. She explained all this.

I invite you to watch the video. You have never seen such a confused bunch in your life. Like ducks hit on the head. (You will admire her determination: steel true, blade straight).

Vice-chairwoman Hutchings suggested a drop safe, but Treasurer Campbell said that lacked security and accountability. The Police Chief agreed. Selectman Lucier liked the drop safe idea. Chairman Thibeault disagreed with the drop safe idea. He did not want to go against the opinions of lawyers and auditors. (He thinks “outside the box”).

Remember, the Town Clerk is an independent elected official in her own right, with constitutional responsibilities of her own. Her responsibilities do not include being a central depository. No amount of others wanting it to be so makes it so. She is not answerable to the selectmen or treasurers, and even less so to their hireling police chiefs, lawyers, and auditors.

The BOS stopped finally the merry-go-round by asking that the Town Administrator call a meeting to iron out a solution by the end of January. Yeah, good luck with that. There was no mention in end of January minutes of any ironed-out solution.

How were the problems attendant to the “solution” devised by the Treasurer, auditor, and lawyer ultimately solved? They had to give the Town Clerk the assistance she requested. The additional cost of that assistance is not being paid by the Treasurer, the BOS, nor the departments, but by the taxpayers, as our meeting notice said.

Should we have said that we need to thank the Treasurer, and the auditors, lawyers, banks, selectmen, police chief, town administrator, butcher, baker, and candlestick-maker for this “solution”?


A camel is a horse designed by a committee.


 

Ready for a Second Helping?

By John S. Frum, Publisher | March 23, 2019

We at the Milton Observer are coming up on our first anniversary, which naturally occasions some questions.

As its publisher, I first had to ask myself, “Is the game worth the candle?” I think so.

Why the Observer?

Mr. Brown once made a strong case for the Milton Observer in a Public Comment before an October Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting. He spoke to a desperate need for local papers as a watchdog on the doings (and takings) of local government. I very much doubt that he meant the Milton Observer specifically. He cited Foster’s Daily Democrat as his exemplar but, in fact, they barely notice Milton’s existence even a few times a year.

I resolved early on that we would take little notice, as do some publications, of the foibles, failings, and arrests of private persons: they are innocent until proven guilty and are often not in a position to speak for themselves as they might wish. And there are so very many bad laws. (We are said to be all unknowingly committing “three felonies a day”).

Social media and other venues deal thoroughly with Milton businesses and social events. I am as interested in those as anyone else, but felt that they get the coverage they need.

The Milton Observer has established its own eclectic niche. And I do not think we are fully formed even now, a year later.

We have enjoyed some measure of success in our niche. I do glance at the statistics occasionally. The Milton Observer‘s content has had many thousands of views. We have even had some few foreign visitors. (Sorry, no Russian “Bots”).

Our Writers

I asked our writers whether we should persist. (After all, they do most of the work). Ms. Bristol, Ms. Starr, Mr. Forrester, and Mr. Plissken, (their pseudonyms or pen names), have all expressed a desire to continue for the time being.

Ms. Bristol feels that her foray into Milton history has been fruitful. She has managed to correct several errors in familiar standard histories and has even managed to supply some original material never before covered.

It has been largely a documentary history so far, although she did break new ground with her early census analysis (1790 and 1800). My personal favorite was the Milton Schoolteacher of 1796-05, but her pieces on Milton’s Railroad, Ice Industry, and Rusticators have proved quite popular. (She should finish Enoch Wingate’s tale).

She feels too that she may try to connect up all her Milton historical documents as a new history. I would like to see that. And maybe I can, but only in the Milton Observer.

Mr. Forrester has still a universe to explore. He has hardly begun to cover the cycle of constellations and other phenomena visible from Milton. I have long been able to recognize the Big and Small Dippers, and thereby the North Star, as well as Orion, but he has enabled me to leverage that knowledge to find Sirius and other celestial objects too.

Now, the sky from Milton is much the same as the sky from Farmington, or Dover, even the whole northern hemisphere. It might surprise you to learn that Mr. Forrester has several fans in other parts of the world as well as Milton.

Mr. Plissken is, well, Mr. Plissken. His articles do occasionally get shared elsewhere, which he does appreciate. Sometimes a disclaimer is attached, which always makes us smile.

Some might regard Mr. Plissken as being a bit of an iconoclast. Perhaps. He does try to address the arguments, rather than the man (or woman). You will have noticed that he frequently reproduces the things that are said exactly (and even links to the video). No one but the public officials themselves put those words, arguments, or justifications into their mouths.

He has of necessity focused in this last year on what has seemed to be the font of Milton’s political and economic errors: its Board of Selectmen. It is certain that we have been poorly governed for quite some time. But hope springs eternal: it might be that our wise overlords will introduce reforms any time now, or as they used to tell me, “straighten up and fly right.”

I do wish I could duplicate Mr. Plissken’s coverage across all the offices, boards and committees, even those as far away as Concord, or even Washington, but he can only be stretched so far and we are, after all, the Milton Observer.

Ms. Starr has not been able to contribute as much as she had hoped. That is fine. Her occasional observations have been interesting. We might hope to hear more from her in the future.

I do wish to enlarge our pool of writers. I am trying to persuade a particular movie buff that they need to write for us. I envisioned a broad survey of the “great” movies available on DVD or through streaming services, rather than the latest film releases at the box office. Something we might have overlooked or never even known about. But this writer I have in mind might have their own ideas.

Ms. Bristol has occasionally shared historical recipes that she came across during her researches. (See the Milton Mills Oyster Fritters Recipe of 1895, and Milton Cookies of 1895-96). Maybe someone could give us more.

I have considered changing up the paper’s physical format too. I am still thinking on that.

Maybe You Have Something to Say?

I created a space for guest writers and have occasionally offered to publish (and have even published) pieces by others. It might be that you have something interesting that needs to be said. Or something of general interest. Or a rebuttal. I do favor Milton writers, but Strafford County, New England, and the world are out there too. The content should be such as would interest Milton readers, but that takes in a lot of territory. I recommend the use of a pen name.

I do not interfere much with what writers might say, but we do have an editorial point of view. You may say whatever you like – even that the Observer is a hopeless scandal sheet full of unsubstantiated rumors – but you should expect that there may be some pushback or rebuttal from other writers. That is how free speech works.

I ask primarily that a writer not get us sued, if such a thing is even possible within the parameters I have set. It is necessary also to support or enlarge upon any facts cited in concluding References.

We try to avoid criticizing or even mentioning “civilians” by name, but the public pronouncements of our wise overlords are fair game. (They are asserting a right to rule over us, and to realize their fevered dreams at the public expense).

That gentile avoidance sort of includes you too. Your work might not be quite as relevant, or interesting, if you get too personal. (We might be embarrassed). Try to speak to wider interests, topics, and concerns. You might ask, as they do with children, “Did I bring enough for everyone?”

(In terms of textual presentation, I prefer full justification; I do not care for left justification).

So, the Milton Observer and its writers have contracted for at least another year. And it might be that some of you might have something suitable for us. (You may reach me by e-mail, which I check at least occasionally).

Do not expect to get paid. Well, maybe some experience and satisfaction will be forthcoming.

References:

Laissez Faire Books. (2012, March 25). Three Felonies a Day, a Review by Wendy McIlroy. Retrieved from lfb.org/three-felonies-a-day-reviewed-by-wendy-mcelroy/

Thank You, Mr. Brown

By John S. Frum | October 16, 2018

As publisher of the Milton Observer, I would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to Mr. Larry Brown.

Mr. Brown highlighted the vital role of local news sources. He read excerpts from a Death of Local News analysis article that was republished in The Week of September 3. He read portions of that paragraph that praised the role of local news in serving as a government watchdog:

Do we still need local news? Only if things like schools, taxes, infrastructure, and government accountability matter to you. Where fewer reporters cover local business and government, … taxes can rise, public officials can indulge their worst impulses. When a local newspaper shutters, that same community experiences increased government waste and inefficiency, … The loss of local reporting also depresses most citizens’ engagement in state and local politics, …

He added that this loss of reporting and lack of engagement can produce voters that are at the fringe rather than representing common interests. He recommended Foster’s Daily Democrat as an example of a valuable local news source.

Perhaps Mr. Brown has not noticed the Milton Observer, which has served also in the role of Milton watchdog so effectively over this last year.

Be that as it may, thanks again for your support of local news sources.

References:

Town of Milton. (2018, October 15). BOS Meeting, October 15, 2018, Retrieved from youtu.be/1C1AS4syCJU?t=7972

The Week. (2018, September 3). Death of Local News. Retrieved from theweek.com/articles/793309/death-local-news

 

A Rose by Any Other Name

By John S. Frum | September 10, 2018

Mr. Elder dropped us a kind comment. I did try to reply privately, but failed. I am still in the dark as to how the Comment/Reply process works. I can only respond in an Letter to the Publisher and my Reply.


Good Morning,

RE: Milton Observer

I find your articles both informative and eloquent. My concern is that are all of the names/authors both residents of Milton and actual names of those who write them, or are they pseudonyms?

My concern in asking is that 1. Are you afraid of repercussion from your articles?, and 2. I have more faith and trust in articles when I know the author(s) are using their real name. It’s just personal with me, people not using their real name to inform others.

Thanks again, and keep up the great work. I may have some suggestion if you are ever interested in additional subject matters which I find pertinent to Milton Residents.

Respectfully,

Les Elder

Milton NH


Dear Mr. Elder,

Thank you for your kind comment. I am so happy that you tumbled to our pseudonyms. (We prefer to think of them as nom-de-plumes). I thought they would be noticed months ago.

I insisted that our correspondents use one. Several good writers have chosen not to work with us because of this. They perhaps shared your concerns. We are residents of Milton, excepting our new Reviewer, Andrea Starr, who lives elsewhere in Strafford County.

You asked if we adopted pseudonyms out of fear of retaliation. Well, yes, we did, at least partly.

There is something in the air down there at the Emma Ramsey Center, something dysfunctional. I mean something apart from their odd notions about how the world works and the natural rights of a free people. I was at one meeting where someone mentioned that the town had churned through 11 town administrators in 10 years. I have not looked into it, but that does not sound good. That sounds bad.

Within just this last year, we have all seen the town government destroy a selectman and a treasurer – elected officials, mind you. I say destroy, because it was so vicious. No censure, no due process, no recall election, just a pack of wild dogs. And this is the “reform” government, mind you, correcting the ills of the past.

As near as I can tell from here in the cheap seats, both these “villains” seemed to have stepped across some indistinct 91-A line. Well, if you watch the little kabuki theater for a while, you will see that they are all contra-dancing back and forth across that line all the time. That is what they do.

We are taking off our Public hats now and putting on our Non-Public hats.

You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out; You put your left foot in, and you shake it all about. You do the hokey pokey, and you give a little shout. That’s what it’s all about.

And now we are putting our Public hats back on again.

These two seemed to have miss-stepped while doing the hokey-pokey. Probably two left feet.

Now, remember, this 91-A purports to be New Hampshire’s version of the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was supposed to increase access to public information. All of this fuss is about handling the supposed very few exceptions to that principle.

I have seen the accusers themselves violate various courtesies, ethical principles, norms, protocols, and laws, including the sacred 91-A exceptions. I look up, waiting for the thunderclap and lightning bolt, but nothing happens.

So, it might be thought that it is not so much what is done, but who the transgressor is. I have seen that before. If they like you, you can do no wrong; if they do not, you can do no right. Selective enforcement. Yes, that is pretty much the definition of a risk.

I see no advantage in dropping breadcrumb trails to our doors, thank you. Not when there are wild dogs around.

A generation and more ago, writers in the Soviet Union published Samizdat. It means “self-published.” Typed and mimeographed typescripts passed secretly hand to hand. Lots of anonymity going on there.

Closer to home, the use of pseudonyms has an honorable history in the U.S. Both the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers – the principal polemical arguments both for and against the U.S. Constitution – were written under the pseudonyms Brutus, Junius, Publius, etc., etc.. Dozens of names. They did not want their famous names or other personal factors to influence the arguments. The arguments should speak for themselves. They now use the collective pseudonym “The Founding Fathers.”

Samuel Clemens wrote under the pseudonym Mark Twain. Many, many literary and political writers have used pseudonyms or nom-de-plumes (pen names) at times.

We had a lot of fun picking out our nom-de-plumes.

We would appreciate very much your suggestions. (It is not as though we know what we are doing). Perhaps you would even consider writing something for us, a rebuttal even. The pay is somewhat light – nothing at all, in fact. Maybe you could be Moe Younger. Get it? Oops, I guess I “burned” that one.

The arguments, facts, and relations should speak for themselves, regardless of the nom-de-plumes. Confirm them for yourself in the References. I think that you will find that they all “check out.”

Sincerely,

John S. Frum, Publisher

References:

Wikipedia. (2018, August 9). Brenda Starr, Reporter. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Starr,_Reporter

Wikipedia. (2018, June 18). John Frum. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Frum

Wikipedia. (2018, January 12). List of Pseudonyms Used in the American Constitutional Debates. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pseudonyms_used_in_the_American_Constitutional_debates

Wikipedia. (2018, September 3). Muriel Bristol. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muriel_Bristol

Wikipedia. (2018, August 12). Samizdat. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samizdat

Wikipedia. (2018, September 5). Snake Plissken. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_Plissken

Comments: Lifeofmine55

Dear Lifeofmine55,

Thank you for the kind words. We appreciate your interest. I will try to address your several Comments in turn.

You commented first about your own abatement hearing. You revealed some few details (you probably should not do so, except maybe to a lawyer). It would be impossible for us to comment. You see, Chairman Thibeault and the BOS cannot respond, the law forbids it. So, it would be unfair for a newspaper to say much, when the complete facts cannot be known.

However, you mentioned Chairman Thibeault’s manner as having been dismissive. It is possible to cite a public instance of that. I refer you to the BOS meeting of March 5, 2018, in which he said the then Treasurer was “lying” (see “Old Business” in References). He did this shortly before the election of March 13, 2018, in which she was a candidate. Whether his characterization was true or not, we cannot know. It is not difficult to see how this might have influenced the election.

That remark alone would be considered completely unacceptable in any legislative body in the world. I believe they call it “unparliamentary language.” At the very least, he would have been strongly censured, if not expelled.

The other two Selectmen (then Chairman Rawson and Selectman Long) said nothing. They sat there like bumps on a log. Absolutely disgraceful. It fell to a citizen to call him on it (see “Public Comments” in References).

You asked next why the Selectmen serve on so many committees. They participate on those committees “ex officio,” a Latin phrase that means “by reason of their office,” i.e., by virtue of their being Selectmen. I believe it is intended to help them oversee and coordinate with those committees. And to keep the other Selectmen advised of the committee activities. That is a integral part of their function.

Another instance of this would be our state representatives. By virtue of being state representatives, they serve also “ex officio” on their county delegation (or county convention). Something to consider when voting for a state representative.

You put forward a suggestion that Milton would be better served with a Town Manager, rather than a Town Administrator. I will have to disagree with you there. I think that would be very much a change for the worse. But the issues might be worthy of their own article. Thank you for the suggestion.

You asked finally why more people do not comment here. Some readers have, such as yourself, and we do like to hear from our readers. We try to respond, to the extent possible, in a reply or in an article.

Your comment suggests that you would prefer a format that has the posting and commenting – the give and take, if you will – of social media. That would be exciting, but here we have only the more limited Comment form similar to that of newspaper letter to the editor (or publisher). And, frankly, we have not quite figured out how to make those comments appear with their articles.

Staff effort is devoted mostly to researching and writing their next article (and they are stretched pretty thin). Being such a small endeavor, it has to be that way.

I hope that answers your questions.

Yours sincerely,

John S. Frum, Publisher

N.B. This has been corrected through a comment from a state representative (and county delegate). The state representatives serve on their county delegation (or county convention), and not their county commission.

References:

State of New Hampshire. (2016, June 21). RSA Chapter 91-A. Access to Governmental Records and Meetings. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/VI/91-A/91-A-3.htm

Town of Milton. (2018, March 5). BOS Meeting Agenda, March 5, 2018 – Old Business. Retrieved from youtu.be/F6wbcKpHQSk?t=3194

Town of Milton. (2018, March 5). BOS Meeting Agenda, March 5, 2018 – Public Comments. Retrieved from youtu.be/F6wbcKpHQSk?t=6757

Wikipedia. (2018, July 26). Ex Officio Member. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_officio_member

Wikipedia. (2018, July 28). Unparliamentary Language. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unparliamentary_language

Letter to the Publisher: In Re: Goffstown Shows the Way

By John S. Frum, Publisher | September 3, 2018

Mr. Thomas McDougal has objected strongly to one of the two alternative explanations offered in Mr. Plissken’s recent article Goffstown Shows the Way. The two alternatives given were “There may have been a technical problem at that point or it might be that Mr. Bailey’s remarks have been censored.”

Mr. McDougal’s comment:

Regarding the suggestion that Mr. Bailey’s comment was censored, it was not. There was an issue with the video recording on the night in question. Specifically, the camera was off when the Macbook used to run the recording and streaming program was turned on. This resulted in the computer having to be rebooted so it would recognize the camera. Regrettably that resulted in very interesting comments being lost. We could have asked for more time to figure out the issue but hindsight is 20/20.

I find the suggestion that I, or any of the volunteers that run the recording equipment, would censor anyone regardless of their position on any topic offensive and insulting. If there are any questions about how the equipment is run or what is recorded feel free to ask. I can be reached at [personal information omitted].

The philosopher Wittgenstein once asked a friend, “why do people always say it was natural for man to assume that the sun went around the Earth rather than that the Earth was rotating?” The friend replied, “Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going around the Earth.” Wittgenstein responded, “Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?”

The point being that it looks the same either way – Earth round the Sun or Sun round the Earth. Your belief colors the explanation.

In our own defense, our correspondent did not say which was the correct construction. He did give “technical problem” pride of place in his description. And the Milton town government has censored Mr. Bailey before.

We have asked Mr. Bailey what he thinks. Mr. Bailey believes that neither Mr. McDougal nor his volunteers would ever take a hand in anything of that sort. He pointed out that it was Mr. McDougal who spoke so strongly in favor of increased video coverage, advice that the Board of Selectmen ignored.

Mr. Bailey is right. We regret that our article allowed for any other interpretation and that it offended Mr. McDougal. Mr. McDougal and his volunteers are people of worth, performing a valuable service, and who would not participate in censorship. We have revised the article to exclude that possibility.

We hope that this explanation and apology satisfies Mr. McDougal and his volunteers.