Reflection on Notre Dame

By John S. Frum (Transcriber) | April 19, 2019

One of our writers has a French acquaintance, whom we will call Romain. When asked what the Cathedral of Notre Dame meant to him, he replied:

Regarding Notre Dame per se … it was something always in the landscape. That could not change. That was permanent. Immutable. Something that could only last forever. Just like the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of New York City (and the United States in general), the Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Paris (and France in general) (both engineered by Gustave Eiffel).

But, to French people, the symbol of France was Notre Dame. Should the Eiffel Tower burn tomorrow, well, people would be sad. But nothing comparable as Notre Dame. Nobody would have given any money to rebuild it. Whereas there is money and help coming spontaneously and grassrootsly from everywhere. When a fare was set up to get into Notre Dame, the French people were shocked. French people would rather live close to Notre Dame than to the Eiffel Tower. A small coffee is better enjoyed on a terrace with Notre-Dame in sight.

Notre Dame is part of the identity of the French people. It has been there for the past 800 years. It will be there as long as there is a French people.

Reply: That Name Thing Again

By S.D. Plissken | March 24, 2019

Ms. McDougall,

Thank you for your comment of March 20 in regard to my own piece on the Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting of March 18. There is a lot to unpack here. I will attempt to address your various points (in several replies), although not necessarily in the order in which you made them.

I can agree with your conclusion of support for freedom of speech, commerce [a free market], and low taxes [a free people].

That Name Thing Again

Everyone wants to know our names. But why? The arguments deployed here are either valid or they are not, regardless of the name attached to them. Names are useful only for use in ad hominum fallacies – arguments applied against the man (or woman), rather than against the argument.

And, frankly, this Town government is not to be trusted with names. It was reported on the eve of the March 2018 election, in response to a 91-A request by a local Facebook administrator, that the Town Treasurer was under “criminal investigation.” She had displeased the Board of Selectmen in some way, only partially visible in their public sessions. Now, this accusation was patent nonsense, of course. And when she lost the election, the “criminal investigation” evaporated. It was apparently no longer necessary.

She won re-election as Strafford County Treasurer. The County seems to have had no problems with her whatsoever.

This episode begs many questions. Who initiated the purported “criminal investigation”? On what basis? Who did the investigating? Just following orders? What were the results? Is the information sought under 91-A now publicly available? And, finally, where does the erstwhile Treasurer go to regain her good name?

You might think that the current Treasurer has also cause for complaint: his own electoral victory appears to have been influenced, and thereby tainted, by this “February surprise.” Where is his “mandate”?

And there have been other similar occurrences, in which Town officials have threatened to use Town money – your money and mine – to sue someone into oblivion if they did not comply. By whatever means necessary, to the outer limits of our money. Aah, I’d like a vote on that expenditure, please.

Those who follow the BOS meetings will have seen occasionally other causes for concern. I might cite just a couple of them. The RSAs, whatever I might think of them, have some very few checks on the power of selectmen. Some decisions are reserved for the electorate alone.

Our selectmen do not care much for that nonsense. They find it inconvenient. They have voted amounts of money just one dollar less than statutory amounts that would trigger a vote of that electorate. They have stated outright that they are voting that dollar-smaller amount so as to not trigger the requirement for voter approval. Because they love … democracy?

In a like manner, they have stated publicly that they are keeping one dollar in a fund that, having fulfilled its approved purpose, should have been closed. They have stated clearly that they were doing so in order to avoid the need for voter authorization in the future. Because they respect … the taxpayers?

One might make a case that this Town government, when thwarted or facing some perceived impediment, sometimes reacts in a manner more akin to a criminal gang than an assemblage of our friends and neighbors.

And you want our names available to them. Yeah, right.

A Reply to Chairman Thibeault’s Rube Goldberg Machine

By Lynette McDougall | March 20, 2019

I have never replied to the Milton Observer because I have felt it entertaining to a degree plus well written. I am afraid I am disappointed in this review, it is so easy to shame, and make those who we have voted in office look bad when they too are citizens. They are in the constant hot seat taking hits.

May I ask who on the Milton Observer use their real names? – it’s sort of a hit and run. No one can hit back if they don’t know who you are. Yet these people, board members, are our neighbors, and friends putting their time in to do what no one else has stepped up to do. I may make my political thoughts known publicly, but I don’t hide and I do respect our Town Planner, town board for trying their best.

It takes guts to try and help this town who resists so much effort to grow. I don’t agree with Ryan on some things but he’s my neighbor and I respect he is out there doing the best he knows and the same for Andy and many others.

Right now, I believe my remark to the BOS was wrong: “who do they work for?” I should have asked what can be done to work together for a common goal. We have forgotten why public meetings are so important; to exchange ideas, work out problems, and be open to new ideas or respectfully listen. This is town business we pay for.

I took a picture of the audience at last night’s Planning Board, as usual there was no public attendance. But there was plenty to say about Warrant Article 3 but not where citizens could hear the RSA’s, professional definitions, etc., etc. It’s amazing that propaganda can so easily be disguised and manipulated by colored pamphlets. The public missed the main objectives of the article and took the ride of misinformation. That’s ok, it was talked about at last night’s meeting that the public didn’t attend.

You might wonder who I champion … it’s freedom of speech, it’s public involvement, it’s commerce, low taxes with regard to what you have to give up in return, everything comes at a cost.

Freedom comes at a great cost we are all on the hook to pay the toll.


Ms. McDougall is a member of the Milton Planning Board. Her husband is a member the Budget Committee


See also Chairman Thibeault’s Rube Goldberg Machine

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.