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P3130011

Money is Not Speech and Constitutional Rights are for Human Beings

Following an unusually placid series of votes approving budget items, Canterbury, New Hampshire’s annual Town Meeting came to life during a debate over a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

Discussion began with a well delivered speech by Laurie Lockwood, who said that due to the 2010 ruling, “there can now be no effective restraint placed on campaign spending by corporations, Political Action Committees, unions,  or groups of any kind.  If you have a mailbox, a radio, or a TV, you are aware of the results.”

Lockwood explained that the purpose of the resolution is to pressure Congress to act, in accord with Article Five of the US Constitution.  Amendments are rare, P3130042

Laurie Lockwood

but not unprecedented, she said, and it is our duty as citizens to take action.

The resolution was pretty straightforward, calling on the town’s elected officials to support an amendment to the US Constitution establishing that “only human beings, not corporations, are endowed with constitutional rights; and money is not speech, and  therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”

Without change, according to Lockwood, we will have more “nasty, expensive elections that discourage participation, and we end up with representatives who are indebted to wealthy and powerful interests.”

In a thinly veiled reference to the brothers Koch, Lockwood said “fossil fuel interests have already pledged to spend a billion dollars on the 2016 elections.” 

When she finished, many town residents applauded and it looked for a moment like we might proceed to a vote without further remarks.  But Howard Moffett, a retired attorney who serves as one of Canterbury’s State Representatives, decided to share his reservations.  Although he had voted for similar resolutions at the State House, he said he was concerned that language calling for the end of corporate personhood went too far.  He said he would have preferred the resolution was drafted differently, but that he would support it because “we just have too much money in our politics drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.” 

Rep. Moffett’s statement elicited a invitation for him to elaborate on his concerns and a request for information about how the resolution had been drafted.  Rep. Moffett spoke again briefly, and I addressed the origin of the resolution and its relationship to others being considered all over the country, which together can create a groundswell of pressure on Congress to act even if they don’t share theP3130015 exact same wording.  

Another voter asked about corporate personhood, which brought Laurie Lockwood to the microphone again for a short history lecture. 

Finally Judy Elliott took the floor.  “We want to make it clear that corporations do not have the right to spend unlimited money on elections.”  That was the last word.

Wayne Mann, the town’s Moderator, called for a vote, which in Canterbury is conducted by voters waving a green card for “yes” or a red card for “no.”  There were a few “no” votes, but no doubt that the resolution had the overwhelming support of the citizens present.   

The vote followed weeks of organizing by a small, informal committee of Canterbury residents who worked together to draft the resolution, collect petition signatures, organize an educational program at the library, and talk up the issue in town.   Canterbury now joins dozens of other New Hampshire towns, and hundreds across the country, that are calling for the Constitution to be amended.  

Disclosure: the photos of people voting were taken during earlier votes, not the vote on Article 9, the resolution on Citizens United.

 

 

 

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2014 06 20 eab &woodchuck 008 

Report from  the Center of the Infestation

When news came out a few weeks ago that emerald ash borers have been found near the Loudon-Canterbury line, for some reason I pictured somewhere on the other side of town  Turns out our house is a couple hundred yards up the road from a spot that’s drawing the attention of entomologists from miles around.

The emerald ash borer is a beetle that probably was imported to North America from Asia and was first detected in Michigan in 2002.  They are now found in 23 states plus 2 Canadian provinces. It attacks only ash trees, one of the major species of New Hampshire’s mixed hardwood forests. 

The little green insect is a significant threat.  Ash trees are not only handsome; the wood is also valuable for wood products, including traditional baseball bats.  It’s great for firewood because it’s easy to split and can be burned green.  Unless a natural predator arrives2014 06 20 eab &woodchuck 048 on the scene, the ash could go the way of the elm and the chestnut. 

Several entomologists (bug experts) from Merrimack County Extension, the UNH Cooperative Extension, and the Division of Forests and Lands gave a presentation yesterday at Canterbury Shaker Village to help area residents identify the bug and learn what to do to control the outbreak and limit damage to ornamental trees.

The best ways to identify them are by looking for what the foresters call “blonding” of the bark, caused by the scratching of woodpeckers that feed on the bugs.  An abundance of woodpeckers can also be an indicator.  (Piera Sargent, the State

2014 06 21 eab  possum 039

“Blonding”

Entomologist, says that when people ask her what kinds of  woodpeckers go after ash borers, she responds “hungry ones.”) 

The bugs leave a characteristic hole when they exit the bark.

2014 06 21 eab  possum 054

If you peel back the bark, you can also see a distinctive pattern of curvy “galleries” left by the ash borers.

2014 06 21 eab  possum 051

Molly Heuss, also from the Division of Forests and Lands, showed us what the bugs look like and led a field trip into the woods to demonstrate what to look for in the bark of ash trees.  Because ashes dry out quickly, she said, larvae die off pretty fast from cutting down trees.  Bucking the logs for firewood or other uses speeds up the drying process.

2014 06 20 eab &woodchuck 081 

Molly Heuss peels back the bark.

Other infestations have been identified in Concord and in Methuen, MA, just south of the state line.  If you live in southern New Hampshire they are probably headed your way.

The state’s foresters want help finding EAB infestations.  You can look at their easy-to-remember website, www.nhbugs.org, for more information on EAB identification and control.

Kyle Lombard, a forest entomologist with the Division of Forests and Lands, explained that a v2014 06 20 eab &woodchuck 042ariety of chemical insecticides can be used to control the EAB if you catch the outbreak in time.  Some chemicals can be purchased at garden stores  while others can only be used by licensed applicators.  

Living as we do in the middle of a forest that’s already heavily infested, trying to save any of the ashes on our property would have little impact. 

But if I were living in a city or suburb where ashes serve an ornamental purpose, I’d be watching for signs of the EAB and figuring out whether anything could be done to save the trees.

 

 

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P4270040Bud Light – the King of Beer Litter

First I need to say that when doing sophisticated empirical research one has to pay attention to the size of the sample.  The 42 cans I found by the side of Asby Road during the annual springtime trash pick-up is 66% as many as I found last year.  The plastic bottle count (7) is 58% of last year’s.  And the glass  bottles (11)  only 38% of last year’s haul. 

Does this mean there was less littering this winter, and if so, what would account for the change?  Or perhaps it means one of my neighbors (I suspect Phyllis or Greg) beat me to the discards.  Maybe there were some cans and bottles hidden in the crusts of snow that still clung to the shaded north side of the road. 

In any case, Bud Light still carries a significant lead in both the can and glass bottle categories with 33% of the cans and 73% of the bottles.  The Anheuser Busch family of beer again displayed a stellar performance in overall litter with 57% of all cans and 82% of bottles.

2013 2014
CANS
Bud Light 30 14
Bud 5
Michelob 2
Other Anheuser Bush 11 3
Coors Light 8
Twisted Tea 6
Miller 2
Pabst 1
Coke 1
Other 23
Total Cans 64 42
GLASS BOTTLES
Bud Light 14 8
Bud 1
Other Anheuser Busch 2
Sierra Nevada 1
Harpoon 1
Other 13
Total Glass Bottles 29 11

It’s hard to draw conclusions.  While the % of Bud Light cans dropped, the % of Bud Light bottles went up.  Does this indicate that those who drink Bud Light in P4270041 bottles are becoming more likely to litter?  Of does the drop in total litter indicate a rise in conscientiousness among beer drinkers?  And what are we to make of this year’s impressive showings for Coors Light and Twisted Tea?  Will these brands threaten Bud Light in future years?

And as asked following last year’s census, are we measuring the beer-drinking habits of litterers or the littering habits of beer-drinkers?  We’re sure someone in Anheuser Busch’s marketing department has the answer, but we have yet to hear from them.2014 04 012 asby rd 002

A few words about other litter are in order.  As usual, we picked up some plastic bottles.  This year we also found five 1-quart paint cans.  Any theories out there?

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Twenty Canterbury residents exchanged perspectives with their three State Representatives at the town’s Meeting House Saturday morning.  Long-time Representative Priscilla Lockwood, and first-termers Howard Moffett and Lorrie Carey fielded questions on topics including unsatisfactory road conditions, tar sands, burdens on municipal government, building codes, GMOs, and the influence of corporations on elections and policy-making. 

Responding to a question for Doris Hampton, who organized the session, Rep. Moffett gave a passionate call for the state to expand Medicaid.  “The House is going to support Medicaid expansion as often as it’s given the opportunity to do so,” he said, but explained that the resistance is coming from Republican Senators.

“It’s partisan,” agreed Rep. Lockwood, who made sure to say she was one of six Republican Representatives who voted for it.

“What I have seen coming out of Republican Senators just doesn’t hold water,” Rep. Moffett said.  Medicaid expansion would bring two and half billion dollars – money we’ve already paid in federal taxes – back to the state “to create jobs andcanterbury state reps 1-25-14 004 

Rep. Howard Moffett

provide health insurance,” he observed.  

“It feels like a war on the poor,”  Rep. Moffett said.  No one in the room seemed to disagree.  Rep. Carey threw in an anecdote about a landscaper badly injured on a job across the street from Concord Hospital who was afraid to seek medical attention for fear of getting a bill he’d be unable to pay.  

“We can’t let any member of our population think they need to bleed to death because can’t afford care,” she said.

Rep. Moffett hopes pressure can be exerted on Republican Senators – only two are needed to join the unified Democrats and create a majority – in order for the Medicaid proposal to pass. 

Rep. Carey is a member of the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee, which tends to get responsibility for non-binding resolutions that ifcanterbury state reps 1-25-14 003 

Rep. Lorrie Carey

adopted express the sense of the legislators on a wide range of topics.  Last year the House adopted a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and declare that constitutional rights are intended for natural persons, not corporations.  The Senate refused to take it up, but the issue has re-surfaced this year, with two resolutions in Rep. Carey’s committee calling for a Constitutional Convention to be convened on this matter. 

“Is there a lot of money being pumped in by the corporations?” she asked.  “The answer is yes,” she responded to her own question.

Despite what the Representatives indicated was strong support for something to be done, none of them felt that passing resolutions makes any difference.  “Resolutions in the end are meaningless,” Rep. Carey said. 

The presence of two town Selectmen guaranteed that state-municipal relations was on the agenda.  The Selectmen, Tyson Miller and Bob Steenson, worry the legislature could adopt bills intended to increase transparency but which would have the effect of impairing the ability of volunteer town officers to manage local affairs.  They also were eager for funds for road improvement.  The three State Representatives were supportive of proposals to raise taxes on gasoline, with Rep. Carey pointing out that it hasn’t been hiked since 1991. 

canterbury state reps 1-25-14 006 

Rep. Priscilla Lockwood

The Representatives said they read all their email, but that messages which appear to be form letters crafted by advocacy groups tend to be ignored.  So write your legislators, use your own words, and make sure you let them know you’re a constituent.  

 

 

Rep. Lockwood, a legislative veteran who has also served on the Select Board, said she plans to step down after the current term. 

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Traditions don’t travel from generation to gcanterbury 4-14-13 005eneration on their own; it takes people  to carry them forward through the years.  Dudley Laufman played that role in the world of traditional New England country dancing for the second half of the 20th century and now for a decade-and-a-half into this one.  Today, with his partner Jacqueline, he shared some of his experience at the Canterbury Town Hall.

Dudley has been playing fiddle and leading dances for 64 years.  Speaking to about 35 people at a program sponsored by the town’s historical society with support from the NH Humanities Council, Dudley said he learned his trade from Ralph Page, a fiddler and dance caller from Nelson, New Hampshire, where Dudley attended an agricultural high school.  Page learned from his uncle and from Happy Hale, who used to travel up to Nelson from the Greenfield, Massachusetts area.  Dudley didn’t say how Happy Hale picked up the tradition, which dates from New England settlers in the 1600s.

The first dances were held in homes, usually in the kitchen, which Dudley said was usually the biggest room.  “The fiddle was the big instrument,” he said, but sometimes fiddlers would be joined by harpsichords, flutes, and cellos, especially in the homes of rich people.  Tunes we know as “Muffin Man” and “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” wdudley canterbury 4-14-13 008cropere among those brought over from England and used for dances. 

Dancers knew the steps and passed them on to newcomers, according to Dudley’s version of traditional dance history.  It wasn’t until the 1800s, when dances began taking place at larger venues like town halls, that dances started having callers, usually fiddlers. 

The style of dances Dudley leads are sometimes called “contra dancing.”  The name derives from “country dancing,” as it was called back in the day.  French dance masters learned the style and steps and re-named it “contra.”  The name traveled back across the Channel and stuck.  Since many dances are performed in opposing lines, “contra," which means “against,” seemed a fitting title. 

By now, Dudley says pure “contra” dances are more popular in urban areas and often involve intricate steps that are difficult to learn.  He prefers to mix simple contracanterbury 4-14-13 019s with square and circle dances, generally with calls that are easy for beginners and dancers of all ages.  These days, Dudley usually calls his programs “barn dances.”

From Nelson, Dudley moved to Fremont, New Hampshire, where he took a job on a dairy farm with a farmer who played the fiddle and a farmer’s wife who called dances.  He tagged along to “kitchen junkets.” 

“That’s how I got hooked,” he said.

Dudley doesn’t get sole credit, but he played an essential role carrying the New England country dance tradition from the Ralph Page era, when callers learned the steps by observation and the music from playing, to the modern era.  Page recorded the first albums of traditional New England dances in the ‘50s on 78 rpm discs.  Dudley’s later recordings with the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra were the canterbury 4-14-13 026 first 33s. 

Now we can learn the music without even going to a dance and learn the steps on You Tube.  (I don’t recommend that method.)

With Jacqueline, Dudley has written a book to teach the dances, mentored six apprentice callers, and led untold numbers of dancers through balances, swings, and promenades for six decades.  In 2009 Dudley was named a National Heritage Fellow, the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. 

Unlike many lectures, Dudley’s presentation mixed tunes, stories, and poetry with stories, and finished up with a short dance.  That’s how education ought to be!

You can learn more and find dances schedules on Dudley and Jacqueline’s web site.

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The “King of Beers,” Indeed 

When the snow melts but before the Canada Mayflower’s green shoots pierce the leaf litter, the winter’s accumulation of beer cans and bottles emerges alongside the road near our house.  Today, the day designated for roadside clean-up in Canterbury, we headed out, equipped with blue trash canterbury 4-13-13 016bags provided by the town recycling center.

Walking from the corner of Mudgett Hill Road to Shaker Road and back, we found  a few styrofoam containers, a small load of shingles, one empty pack of cigarettes, and some other shreds of plastic and paper.  But mostly what we found was bottles and cans.  And this gives me a scientific tool to measure the drinking preferences of local litterers (or the littering habits of local drinkers).

Today’s collection: 64 aluminum cans, 12 plastic bottles, and 29 glass bottles.

What always impresses me most about the roadside trash is Anheuser Busch’s commanding market share.  Within the AB family, Bud Light is clearly the most popular.  Of the 64 cans, 30 (47%) were Bud Light.  That brand also captured 48% in the smaller bottle category.  Counting other brands, AB made up 64% of the cans and 55% of the bottles. 

And that makes me wonder if Bud drinkers more prone to littering.  Or is Bud’s share of the market so commanding that these statistics show the company’s customers are more responsible than the average beer drinker.

Of course I have shared my findings with the company, via its web site.  I’ll let you know if they write back.

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