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[Fwd: PorcFest 2005 Spam #4: Mock Town Meeting!]

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  • Tim Condon
    * The Free State Project s* * Second Annual Porcupine Freedom Festival* * will be held on* * Saturday, July 23, 2005, thru Sunday, July 31, 2005 * *
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 11, 2005
      *
      The Free State Project's*
      * Second Annual Porcupine Freedom Festival*
      * will be held on*
      * Saturday, July 23, 2005, thru Sunday, July 31, 2005 *
      * at*
      * Rogers Campground & Motel, Lancaster, New Hampshire
      **4/10/05: PORCFEST SPAM #4*
      *
      *
      The "Mock Town Meeting"
      or
      "How New England direct democracy really works in NH"

      We all know about New England town-meeting democracy, right? No
      problem. Everyone in the towns gets together each year to vote on stuff,
      right?
      Not quite: What we don't know about town-meeting direct democracy in
      New Hampshire will fill a granite mountain. I just got through talking
      for hours with NH Unity town selectman Mary Gere, who tried to explain
      it all to me.
      There's a lot to understand.
      Did you know, for instance, that there are three types of local
      governance in New Hampshire? "Cities" have either a city council or
      board of aldermen; a town must request to become a "city," and can't be
      considered one unless it has at least a minimum population. "Towns" can
      use either the "traditional town meeting" format, or can be "SB2" towns
      (for "Senate Bill 2, a reform that was instituted in the New Hampshire
      legislature less than 10 years ago). And you need to understand the
      difference between the traditional and SB2 formats if you want to serve
      and be effective in NH local politics. It all has to do with when
      articles to the town Warrant are considered, when decisions are made,
      when the actual debate takes place, and most of all, when and how the
      actual town vote takes place.
      Mary Gere and her husband Paul, parents of two children (including a
      daughter in college and a well-spoken teenager named Bobby) bought their
      land in Unity in 1978, and then moved there in 1983 from Long Island,
      NY. She's been on the Unity board of selectmen since March 1994. Asked
      if she calls herself a libertarian, she says, "Yes. I'm mostly a
      Constitutionalist, but the libertarians are the closest thing to that
      that I've found." On the Unity board of selectmen, however, her agenda
      is "good government." "My job is to watch government to keep taxes low
      and keep government small. You watch out for corruption, and make sure
      that people know what's happening. That's not necessarily libertarian,
      that's just good government."
      At all town meetings, Mary observed, "the bulk of people who attend
      are attending with an agenda; that agenda is their article on the town
      Warrant. "Each year will bring groups together to try to push something
      or stop something," she explained. For instance, in the immediate past
      election, a zoning law was passed in Unity for the first time after a
      developer bought land (to build housing for the elderly) and was made
      into a bogeyman by local zoning boosters (as a result of the zoning
      vote, the developer may now be building Section 8 welfare housing
      instead). Either way, says Mary Gere, "It's abhorrent for me to have to
      go ask permission to use my land that I'm paying taxes on. To me it's
      unfathomable. It's not what America is supposed to be about, and it's
      certainly not what New Hampshire is supposed to be about."
      Even so, the zoning measure passed by only 21 votes out of 750
      registered voters in Unity, and about 420 who actually voted. "That
      gives you an idea of the power of one vote," said Mary. But if one vote
      can be so important, I asked her, why don't more people participate?
      "They don't think they can be effective," she answered. "It takes time
      out of their lives, they're too busy doing other things they need to do.
      Politics is not the sport of the general public. But it is mine"
      What's going to be taught at the Mock Town meeting? There's a lot to
      learn, Mary explained. "It amazes me how few people really understand
      the power of the town meeting, even among longtime residents," she said.
      "Most people don't realize that your town government only spends what
      the people VOTE to spend. I would like everyone to understand just how
      much power they have coming into a new community, and I want to prevent
      missteps. I want to give them an edge that I didn't have when I started
      out."
      That's why Ms. Gere--a member of the Unity board of selectmen for
      more than a decade now--has set up a "traditional deliberative session"
      at the Mock Town Meeting in Unity's Town Hall. The purpose is to teach
      everyone "how New England town meetings work." The Mock Town Meeting
      will be run just like a regular meeting, traditionally under a modified
      form of Robert's Rules of Order, and will feature all the regular
      players at a traditional town meeting, including a board of selectmen, a
      moderator, a town clerk, ballot clerks, and others (including at least
      one heckler...a selectman who wanted, for once, to "be on the other
      side"). Also present will be the local 8th grade class who will be
      selling food and drink to raise funds for their annual class trip--just
      as they do at every regular town meeting in Unity.
      The Mock Town Meeting will be held during the PorcFest week in the
      town of Unity on Thursday afternoon, July 28, 2005. So if you're not
      planning on coming to the Free State until Friday, change your plans (if
      you come in on Thursday, you can do the Mock Town Meeting on your way up
      to Lancaster, which is farther north). The Town Meeting will be great
      fun, and an extremely important learning experience. Handouts will be
      given to every Porcupine "voter" who attends (and all are invited),
      including "13 things every town voter should know," a Town Report, and a
      Warrant (which is a "warning" to the townspeople to come to the town
      meeting and vote) with multiple articles to be considered and voted
      upon. "This should give people so much of an edge coming in," said Mary
      Gere, "an edge of knowledge that I didn't have when I started out."
      People will be taught "what you have the power to change and what you do
      not," she said.
      One last thing: Many Free State Project Porcupines and Friends
      already live in New Hampshire, and some already know how town meetings
      work. Those people are needed at the Mock Town Meeting too, said Mary;
      she still needs people to "play various parts." So if you've been to
      town meetings before and know how they work, get in touch with Mary Gere
      at 603-863-9581 or email her at gere1356@.... You're all important!
      SYATMTM!
      *(See You At The Mock Town Meeting!)
      *
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------

      FURTHER NOTES:
      1. You need to be a part of it! For all information about the
      PorcFest 2005, plus to find out how you and your family can take part,
      go online to www.freestateproject.org/festival. Join with in both
      attending and helping to publicize the 2nd Annual Free State Project
      Porcupine Freedom Festival...aka the "PorcFest 2005."
      2. Forward this email to your own email lists. We all have lists of
      friends, family, and freedom-lovers we know, and they should all have
      the opportunity to plan on attending PorcFest 2005. So when you receive
      this "PorcFest spam," pass it on!
      3. In 2004 the We'll Be There List topped out at about 177, and over
      300 people attended over the course of the 2004 PorcFest. Today there
      are already 190 on the 2005 List, and we're still months away! To check
      out who's already officially and publicly signed up, go online to
      http://freestateproject.org/news/festival/bethere2005.php...and then add
      yourself to the list.
      4. Lodging and accommodations at the Porc Fest: Here's everything
      you need to know about the Lancaster, NH campground and motel where the
      PorcFest will be held, as well as other local lodging; go online to
      http://www.freestateproject.org/news/festival/lodging.php.
      5. PorcFest 2005 is going to be extraordinary. How do we know?
      Because PorcFest 2004 was a stupendous success. Don't believe me? Check
      out the reports and pictures we have online at
      http://freestateproject.org/news/festival/festival04/
      6. If you have any questions, email Varrin Swearingen, our "PFC"
      (Porc Fest Czar) this year, at varrin@..., or me, Tim
      Condon, at tim@... (813-251-2626). Many people are helping put
      this gathering together, but we need you too. Help us by joining our
      PorcFest planning email list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/porcfest2005.
      SYATPF
      (See You At The Porc Fest!)

      ------------------------------------------------------------------------

      */SUPERCHARGED SOLITONS, Chapter 4, By Tim Condon/*
      */(Note: Wondering what's going on? Wondering what happened in Chapters
      1 through 3? You can read them all at the end of each PorcFest Spam,
      found online at http://www.freestateproject.org/news/festival/publicity/.)/*
      */
      "What?" responded Bill Tidwell to Frank Bennett's query.
      Bennett's face twisted. "Sometimes I wish one would try it. They
      make this city unlivable."
      The older man snorted at the youthful scientist; he and Bennett
      had shared war stories and an occasional beer. Tidwell had been a Marine
      in his younger years, and he knew that Bennett had been an Army Ranger
      (a fact that marked the two of them as "cat and dog"). But like all
      veterans, they also shared the knowledge of their military experiences
      in their respective youths.
      Tidwell shook his head at Bennett. "Better think twice about
      that, Jarhead. They don't come at you one at a time. You get jumped by a
      half dozen Camachos and you're dead meat." The Camachos were the most
      feared and violent gang in greater Miami, known for their cruelty and
      viciousness.
      Frank Bennett snorted back in turn. "Give me one platoon of Army
      Rangers or Recon Marines for one month, and there wouldn't be any
      Camachos at all."
      "Fully-armed, you might be right," said Tidwell. "But you may
      have noticed that guns are outlawed, so only the bad guys get to run the
      streets."
      "Yeah, well, I'll take the Metro home tonight. Shouldn't be any
      problem there. Besides, the bad guys are mostly north of here."
      "You know the scumbags are all over the damned place these days,
      'specially on the trains," said Tidwell. "You're not safe just cause
      you're south of their territory."
      "Relax, Bill," the younger man joshed. "If somebody wants to
      jump me, I'll hit'em with my purse."
      "Purse? I don't see no purse you're carrying."
      Instantly, with a blurred flick of a wrist, Bennett whipped a
      lock-blade knife into view with a snick as the blade locked home.
      "Here's my purse," grinned Bennett.
      "Well, it's better than a purse, I reckon," said the old Marine.
      "Even if it could get you five years in prison for defending yourself.
      Better to at least give yourself a chance, but don't get caught with
      that by one of those block committee creeps."
      "You're right," Bennett said resignedly. "They'd rather do a
      bust on a citizen than mess with the muggers."
      "You bet," replied the older man. "They're no fools. They don't
      wanna mess with anyone might hurt'em. That's why they always bust the
      guy smoking a cigarette or eating a banana, but they're never around
      when somebody's gettin' beat up."
      Bennett sighed. Five years previously, personal defense weapons
      of any kind, particularly handguns and knives of any size, had been
      totally outlawed. First the politicians, lawyers, and courts did their
      part. The Supreme Court had decreed that the Second Amendment to the
      Constitution didn't mean citizens had any right to own weapons to
      protect themselves. Then the usual combination of political interest
      groups, formed and driven by incessant media pressure, had ponderously
      shifted into gear.
      That in itself wouldn't have been enough to screw things up so
      badly, Bennett reflected. But the will of the American people was
      further weakened by years of increasingly violent street crime; the
      lawyers and courts played a large part there also, ensuring that
      defending yourself against a criminal would get you sued for millions of
      dollars, if not a jail term thrown in for good measure. Thus, the
      general feeling was encouraged that there was no solution to the crime
      that incessantly ripped at the social fabric. Nor did it help that
      bloody revolutionary warfare in Central America had spread into Mexico,
      and then inevitably spilled into America as American troops were drawn
      into border incursion clashes.
      Finally, a host of special interest groups---especially the new
      anti-gun clubs and various "rights" associations---added their own din
      to the tumult. The result was that the American people had had their
      historic right to self-defense legislated away. Normal citizens were
      completely disarmed in the face of increasing lawlessness. Of course in
      the process they had been loudly and repeatedly assured by the
      politicians, police chiefs, TV commentators, lawyers, newspaper
      columnists, social scientists, and educators that this would "solve the
      problem, for once and for ever."
      "We can all breath safer now," the editorials had read. "The
      solution to crime on the streets is at hand." In addition to disarming
      normal citizens, the media and political elites had decided to take a
      page out of the communist book of long-dead Fidel Castro. They would
      establish "block committees" throughout the country, particularly in the
      crime-ridden cities. BC's, as they quickly came to be called, were
      modeled on the block committees traditionally formed in communist
      countries of the late 20th century.
      Social scientists lauded the step, and reassured the public
      against "mindless fear." After all, they said, "We shouldn't be afraid
      of something that works, just because communists thought of it first.
      Those who resist are reflective of the fear and hatred of those who are
      different."
      In other words, the new American block committees would sweep
      crime before them, involve all law abiding citizenry, and result once
      again in safe streets, parks, schools, and homes.
      But the nightmarish reality was just as the media-marginalized,
      pro-self defense curmudgeons had predicted. When all weapons of personal
      self-defense were outlawed, only the outlaws---and the increasingly
      corrupt police and military---had guns. Gangs proliferated, and only
      those rich enough to afford private security had any chance of escaping
      the constantly increasing wave of street crime.
      As usual, only in the "insanely individualist" (as the
      newspapers called them) state of New Hampshire were things different.
      The state declared that their constitution decreed that, "All persons
      have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their
      families, their property and the state." And that was that. There had
      been some discussion in Washington, DC of sending FBI and BATF forces
      into the state to make some arrests, kick some ass, maybe shoot some
      troublemakers, but they had been made to understand that virtually the
      entire population of the state was "armed and dangerous" by Governor
      Nappen, and that violations of any New Hampshire citizen's rights by
      federal forces--including military forces--would not be tolerated. It
      was decided to let them stew in their strange laws, which--it was widely
      agreed--would eventually result in chaos.
      The result in New Hampshire, alone in the United States, was
      that they enjoyed ongoing economic prosperity, safe streets, no gangs or
      gang warfare, and a conspicuous lack of crime anywhere. Fortunately for
      the federal government, such news was able to be suppressed with the new
      journalistic licensing laws ("The First Amendment is too important to be
      left to amateurs," had gone the argument), as well as increased federal
      government filtering of Internet content ("We can't let the terrorists
      use the Internet to perform their killings," went the argument).
      As for the rest of the country, at some point the decision had
      been made that those who protested publicly the loudest would
      unfortunately need to be silenced, for the good of society. As all
      progressive-thinking people concerned with social justice had agreed,
      the outlawing of all guns was too important to allow continued "sniping"
      (as the exercise of First Amendment rights had come to be called) by
      those asserting an individual 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
      Many had been arrested, quickly tried, and sent to prison for publicly
      protesting. "Gun hoarders" were accused of keeping "arsenals" in their
      suburban homes that the media called dangerous bunker compounds." Not
      surprisingly, police raids never failed to find proscribed weapons, and
      one notable prosecution had sent a suburban husband and wife to separate
      prisons because police had found an illegal oversized knife in their
      kitchen (their children were taken by the No Child Left Behind Division
      for Mental Healt, Families, and Children, and were adopted out and
      records sealed while the parents were still in prison).
      Others who would have protested quickly lapsed into silence,
      afraid to draw attention to themselves. It was unfortunate but
      necessary, the politicians and their media echo-chambers agreed; the
      process of "public disarmament" had proceeded quickly after that.
      Crime of course soared everywhere except in New Hampshire with
      its "dangerous wackos," as criminals enjoyed open season on the public.
      The police, as always, could never be everywhere at all times, and the
      citizenry therefore suffered. But no right-thinking public leader or
      politician ever suggested that the "anti-personal violence" laws (as the
      statutes prohibiting self-defense were collectively called) should be
      repealed. The notion of the right to self-defense by the general public
      continued to be looked upon with horror. "You can't turn the clock
      back!" exhorted the editorials and TV commentators. "Give the block
      committees a chance to work!" cried the columnists.
      And the situation deteriorated steadily. The block committees,
      it turned out, were better equipped to spy and report petty breaches of
      law and regulations than to either accost or prevent real crime. In part
      this resulted from the types of people who volunteered to join the BC's.
      Block committees quickly came to be roundly hated by anyone who valued
      their privacy, and were gradually recognized as instruments of political
      and social control rather than as any type of anti-crime units.
      As for the original claims about the block committee system, the
      criminal underworld had little to fear after a single BC leader was
      killed by armed criminals. A tacit agreement had quickly been reached:
      There would be little action taken by BC's against real criminality, and
      the block committee patrols would be left alone by the criminals.
      Young, tough, fast, vicious, fearless street gangs multiplied.
      What did they have to fear, after all? Only the new, and private,
      "security stronghold developments" were safe from crime. And only the
      politicians, media stars, and other rich people had the money to live in
      them.
      The block committee system quickly took on a life of its own.
      The more outrage the citizenry expressed at the petty and intrusive
      busybodies who made up the committees, the more the politicians, police,
      and media commentators defended the new instruments of social control.
      Many people sensed uneasily that something horrible had been put in
      motion, but most could not articulate it. The few politicians and other
      onlookers who had objected were quickly branded as "backward looking
      right-wingers" and dismissed. Some were voted out of office, others
      branded "wackos." Still others were sued by batteries of lawyers working
      for various interest groups. Nothing seemed to slow the widening system
      of neighborhood spying, even while it was so roundly hated by so many.
      Frank Bennett sighed and folded his illegal knife and slipped
      it back into a pocket. "Guess I'll have to take my chances with both
      sets of assholes, the gangs and the block committees," he said.
      "Not to mention the politicians," responded Bill Tidwell.
      "They're all scumbags, you ask me. But listen, you go out there, you
      better keep your eyes peeled. You know what it's like out there."
      "You take it easy Bill," said Bennett, gesturing for the door to
      be opened.
      "Try to," said the guard as he hit the buzzer to unlock the
      massive glass door at the front of the building. He watched Frank
      Bennett let himself out, then made sure the door clicked shut again on
      its heavy magneto-locks.
      Bennett moved quickly off into the darkness.
      /*
      */ (to be continued)/*


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