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May 24, 2013 8:46 PM   Subscribe


 


awww, aren't they cute, thinking they can stop a well-funded corporate special interest group from doing whatever the fuck it wants....
posted by deadmessenger at 8:53 PM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Each March, Sugar Hill’s voters gather at the white meetinghouse—a converted church built in 1830 with a trio of gold-leaf clocks on its steeple—for their annual town meeting.

Okay, I was really expecting this to turn out like a Shirley Jackson story.
posted by elizardbits at 8:54 PM on May 24, 2013 [36 favorites]


Well... It is the logical extention of our current protracted love affair with "states rights". N'est pas? An ever increasing balkinization
posted by edgeways at 9:04 PM on May 24, 2013


Yeah MrMoonPie they got to that near the end.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:05 PM on May 24, 2013


Where will things like this lead? On the one hand I am sympathetic with these communities who would like some say over what their land gets used for, and who have trouble defeating well-funded corporate interests. On the other, yeah, at some point the local government necessarily has to yield to the state and the federal, and successionism isn't any better an idea now than it was when the Confederacy tried it.

The answer to this I would prefer is reining in the rights of corporations, but for whatever reasons that doesn't seem to be happening yet. Maybe once enough of these local measures get stomped on they'll build up enough political will to fight on a more national scale?
posted by JHarris at 9:09 PM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


The answer to this I would prefer is reining in the rights of corporations, but for whatever reasons that doesn't seem to be happening yet.

Exactly. Though I can see the vast negatives associated with letting towns do this sort of thing, it's also hard to hate democratic action and community organizing. The problem here isn't politics or federalism. The problem is a corporatocracy run amok and a populace that doesn't effectively deal with it in the aggregate, so ends up (trying to) deal with it in the local and specific. In the end these projects just get run through communities that happen to have less social capital, and the shareholders live to profit another day.
posted by Miko at 9:15 PM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


> successionism isn't any better an idea now than it was when the Confederacy tried it.

Was it a good idea when the thirteen colonies tried it? When the centralized government has more and more power all you can do is hope they stay morally correct perpetually. If there is a push and pull of power, and people have the option of moving elsewhere and living under different laws and law enforcement priorities, the central power can get the mood of the population and respond more effectively. A/B testing governance.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:16 PM on May 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


The article doesn't mention that Federal and State governments have shown that they aren't interested in following the law when it doesn't suit them, not to mention corporations.
posted by junco at 9:22 PM on May 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Was it a good idea when the thirteen colonies tried it?

Debatable.
posted by Miko at 9:23 PM on May 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


There is some hope in the fact that this is an issue that many liberals and conservatives can agree on, as the article says, in that it's simultaneously fighting big business and government. Maybe this kind of thing can provide a route through the endless bickering and hateful obstructionism that have dominated American politics as of late.

Was it a good idea when the thirteen colonies tried it? When the centralized government has more and more power all you can do is hope they stay morally correct perpetually.

The difference here is that the United States is a democracy, and there is still, despite all the challenges and difficulties involved, a peaceful route towards changing the government. Which isn't something the colonies were so much able to avail themselves of.
posted by JHarris at 9:24 PM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I believe some states/towns are trying this one with health care reform and various gun laws, though that doesn't get nearly the "aren't they adorable with their spunky small town spirit?" coverage.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:39 PM on May 24, 2013


Yeah I like it when the good guys do it, not so much when the bad guys do. So yes, I'm a hypocrite, what's yer point?
posted by evilDoug at 9:48 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whether or not this is a good idea depends on the laws they're ignoring. California has been ignoring federal law on Marijuana for years. Now other states have fully legalized it for recreational use. For a long time there have been sanctuary cities that have been around since the 1980s ignoring immigration law.
So yes, I'm a hypocrite, what's yer point?
There's nothing hypocritical about it. Good laws should be followed, bad laws ignored. It's a completely consistent rule.
posted by delmoi at 9:49 PM on May 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, it's because when you fight health care and gun control people ultimately die.
posted by JHarris at 9:51 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The difference here is that the United States is a democracy, and there is still, despite all the challenges and difficulties involved, a peaceful route towards changing the government. Which isn't something the colonies were so much able to avail themselves of.
So, as long as a group of people are in the majority, it's totally fine in your view for them to stomp all over the rights of the minority? Do you think majorities of people are incapable of immoral action?

Yeah, it's because when you fight health care and gun control people ultimately die.
There is nothing cities can do to "fight healthcare." States and municipalities can chose not to enforce any federal laws they want (or do you think states legalizing marijuana or sanctuary cities should clamp down on pot smokers and undocumented immigrants?)
posted by delmoi at 9:53 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


BTW: did you even read the article? It's about towns fighting off things like fast food chains, fracking, and factory farms. You think if the right companies bribe the right state legislators, those things should override the wishes of the local community?
posted by delmoi at 10:03 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Was it a good idea when the thirteen colonies tried it?

Depends on what color you are.
posted by goethean at 10:18 PM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Democracy always seems to be okay when it is used for purposes I like and questionable when used for purposes I don't. That's the nature of the beast. But, in general, I applaud civic engagement, and I applaud when local communities don't let corporations run roughshod over them. And there is a difference between activism that seeks to preserve a community, as this does, and activism that seeks to protect one group in the community and disempower another, as "States rights" during the Civil Rights era did. I take no issue with the powerless taking a stand against the powerful to protect the thing they have built; I take issue with the powerful using their power to guarantee they have more rights than neighbors they despise.

I see no contradiction here.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:24 PM on May 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


“New Hampshire has always had an independent spirit,” Darrell says. “The soil here is crap, and you really have to work hard to farm.

If I recall correctly, the soil in the Litchfield area is unusually rich, due to glaciers passing through and roughing up the landscape a few millennia back. Aside from that, though, yeah, the land is pretty rocky and crap LIKE THE CITIZENS AMIRITE

Anyway I will think on this more but my gut reaction is Fuck Yes New Hampshire and I thank you for posting this!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:48 PM on May 24, 2013


Speaking of environmental civil disobedience: Why Tim DeChristopher Went to Prison for His Protest

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 10:53 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The ordinance stripped those corporations of their free-speech and due-process rights under the Constitution, as well as protections afforded by the Constitution’s commerce and contract clauses. Judicial rulings that recognized corporations as legal “persons” would not be recognized in Sugar Hill.

I'm sure they have good intentions, but I fear their brash defiance of the law will get them into trouble. They should really claim these exceptions under a secret interpretation of the Constitution.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:55 PM on May 24, 2013


I got a bad taste from the beginning, for reasons I couldn't pin down at first.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for smaller, more limited federal government. I just think they're doing it wrong.

For one thing, I don't get the constitution hate. That document limited centralized power in a way no centralized power had ever been limited before, while still providing enough power to the feds to keep the fledgling republic together, while also allowing for improvement and maturity in the form of amendments. Yes, amendments are difficult and take time, but that counters a different type of central power, mob rule. It's a balancing act which is bound to be imperfect. But it's good.

I also smelled a certain self-contradiction and a lot of NIMBYism, especially in the introductory story. Self-proclaimed environmentalists fighting a connection from the predominantly fossil-fueled northeastern grid to a hydro plant? Isn't hydro good? Would perfect be better...?
posted by MoTLD at 10:59 PM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


...a local ordinance that would ban corporations from acquiring land or building structures to support any “unsustainable energy system.”

Hydro is "unsustainable" in a state that gets most of its electricity from coal and gas?

I'm no expert on Sugar Hill. Maybe they've recently built their own wind power facility, or reduced their electricity usage to well below the US average. But otherwise, they seem to have no problem with coal mines or gas drilling operations, as long as the ugly parts aren't near them. NIMBYism at its finest.
posted by vasi at 11:07 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Price says that when he chats with mainstream environmentalists, “what I constantly hear is, ‘We need to have a seat at the table. If we’re not sitting down when they’re talking about these rules and regs, we’re left out. Is that what you want?’ My answer is yes. We need to stop legitimizing what they’re doing by being invited to the table of power, and then having no power.”

'The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House.'
posted by winna at 11:07 PM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Self-proclaimed environmentalists fighting a connection from the predominantly fossil-fueled northeastern grid to a hydro plant?

Do you know what source Sugar Hill draws from? Lots of Southern NH depends on hydroelectric power, and lots of Eastern NH takes it from Seabrook's nuclear power plant, but I don't know what percentage of Sugar Hill's power is based on fossil fuel.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:17 PM on May 24, 2013


"Whether or not this is a good idea depends on the laws they're ignoring. California has been ignoring federal law on Marijuana for years. Now other states have fully legalized it for recreational use."

That's not the same thing.

What this town is doing, what Kansas is doing with guns, and what other communities and states have done in the past, particularly involving slavery and civil rights, is nullification. That is, local laws that specifically contradict federal law.

States that have decriminalized or legalized drugs, or whatever else, is not nullification unless and until they include in those laws specific obligations of local officials to not observe federal law or cooperate with its enforcement. That is to say, California can choose to decriminalize or legalize marijuana for its own purposes, but it cannot obstruct federal enforcement of laws against it.

The states that legalized marijuana did not just pass nullification laws. They legalized it within the context of their own laws. They did not assert that federal law does not apply and is not to be followed.

Nullification is a long settled matter in the US. Even today's notably conservative, states rights friendly SCOTUS will unanimously strike down any nullification law. If Texas passed a law saying that it doesn't recognize the federal government's right to pass a law relating to health care and thus prohibiting state employees from following the ACA? Scalia and Thomas, along with everyone else on the court, would kill that sucker. Except it won't happen because such a case wouldn't make it to that level.

For every example like this one of a progressive community embracing nullification because they're fighting the good fight, there's twenty conservative communities doing the same thing because they're regressive nuts. Nullification is a bad thing, it's a kind of lawlessness.

And it's bad, too, as a matter of civic engagement. It's snake oil, it's like the folk that convince others that there is no actual legal requirement to pay federal income taxes. It's a falsehood that forecloses on productive democratic engagement. It's irresponsible, and it's irresponsible to encourage it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:20 PM on May 24, 2013 [31 favorites]


greg you should power new hampshire by flexing at it majestically
posted by elizardbits at 11:21 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The last time I tried that the Old Man Of The Mountain collapsed
posted by Greg Nog at 11:23 PM on May 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Greg, I got the impression this line would go through Sugar Hill, not feed it directly.
posted by MoTLD at 11:24 PM on May 24, 2013


Greg, I got the impression this line would go through Sugar Hill, not feed it directly.

Ah, yes! That does seem to be the case!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:29 PM on May 24, 2013


I was thinking it sounds more like a Stephen King novel. What exactly goes on at the yearly town meeting? Two horny teenagers and a struggling writer are about to come face to face with an ancient horror.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:34 PM on May 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


So, as long as a group of people are in the majority, it's totally fine in your view for them to stomp all over the rights of the minority? Do you think majorities of people are incapable of immoral action?

1. I'm not quite sure how you arrived at this assumption.

2. It's not that majorities are intrinsically more moral than minorities. It's that, if people have at least some say in their governance, then at least when they're ruled incorrectly it's their fault, and not that of some disinterested party. Because those are the two choices.

There is nothing cities can do to "fight healthcare."

I was responding to someone else who made the claim. I wasn't aware of any particular instances, but I wouldn't put it past anyone to try.

States and municipalities can chose not to enforce any federal laws they want (or do you think states legalizing marijuana or sanctuary cities should clamp down on pot smokers and undocumented immigrants?)

I think ultimately these things need to be fixed on the federal level. I'm not in favor of essentially evil laws being enforced, but selectively ignoring laws is not a long-term solution, because different people have different ideas of which laws are bad ones, and what can be used against corporate interests now can be used against legitimate authority later.

BTW: did you even read the article? It's about towns fighting off things like fast food chains, fracking, and factory farms.

for the love of god YES I READ THE ARTICLE. That's why I said "as the article says" in one of my comments. Sheesh.

You think if the right companies bribe the right state legislators, those things should override the wishes of the local community?

I think companies shouldn't be bribing state legislators. Democracy cannot long stand stuff like that. Fix that and a lot of other problems will vanish.
posted by JHarris at 11:44 PM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not that majorities are intrinsically more moral than minorities. It's that, if people have at least some say in their governance, then at least when they're ruled incorrectly it's their fault, and not that of some disinterested party. Because those are the two choices.

Yes, this! A thousand times this!

And the not-intrinsically-moralness of majorities is the reason we have a representative democracy with tons of built-in gridlock, and not just a democracy. I love the old saw that democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding on lunch.
posted by MoTLD at 11:51 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


there is a difference between activism that seeks to preserve a community, as this does, and

While I agree with your distinction, I'm not sure that this case qualifies - it seems to smell a bit too much like NIMBYism. They are blocking infrastructure needed for the wider community to access clean energy, because they don't want it in their back yard.
posted by anonymisc at 12:13 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I was responding to someone else who made the claim. I wasn't aware of any particular instances, but I wouldn't put it past anyone to try."

The South Carolina Freedom of Health Care Protection Act, which passed in SC's House but is sitting in the SC Senate finance committee, includes:
Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that a person or business is being harmed by implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and that proceedings would be in the public interest, the Attorney General may bring an action in the name of the State against such person or entity causing the harm to restrain by temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, or permanent injunction the use of such method, act, or practice.
Right now, the ACA aside, the bulk of nullification laws are gun rights laws that assert that federal gun control laws are unconstitutional. The Kansas law is the most extreme version of this, but reflects a ten-year trend in the passage of such laws. Most of them are symbolic and don't require, or create a mechanism, whereby local officials obstruct federal enforcement of the targeted federal laws. The Kansas law does this, and in my lay reading, that SC bill does this, too. It's unclear whether the Sugar Hill law does this, but if, in practice, town officials violate, or aid residents who violate, federal law under the aegis of this law, then it won't be symbolic anymore and people will go to jail.

You can achieve the same result with organized civil disobedience without the false hope that no one will be punished and without giving credibility to all the communities that want to, say, jail people for having gay sex because they don't recognize the constitutionality of Lawrence v. Texas.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:55 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


It just seems hopeless to me, if states say No, we won't renew your permit for a Fukushima-era reactor, close it down, but the Feds and the NRC say sorry, I know we said the permit expired but we are going to keep operating it anyway.
posted by surplus at 1:11 AM on May 25, 2013


Ivan, my read of that SC bill is that it would authorize a challenge of federal law, likely in federal court. IANAL, but it doesn't sound like nullification to me.
posted by MoTLD at 1:27 AM on May 25, 2013


Hmm.

“It could destroy our economy,” says Dolly McPhaul, a lifelong Sugar Hill resident. “If people don’t build their second homes here, where are the builders going to get their money? The plumbers? The grocery store that feeds these people?”

Yup, NIMBY.
posted by davemee at 1:28 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


All this talk of fracking and the thirteen colonies makes me wonder when the Cylons are going to turn up.

As you were ...
posted by walrus at 1:38 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, all because engineering can't be bothered to make their damn towers look a little nicer.
posted by effugas at 1:53 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is reminding me a lot of Gaveling Down The Rabble, the author of which gave a really informative talk in Madison not too long ago. Basically, the thing where big companies use different levels of government against each other has a long, long history in the United States; we've pretty much been a model for how this can be done all over the world. The book focuses on the Commerce Clause, although it's not the only mechanism that can come into play.

(I don't remember if it was at this talk or a related one where I heard that there is one not uncommon positive result for communities that fight this way: the companies in question will apparently often decide that whatever they wanted isn't worth the hassle and will go somewhere else.)
posted by anbaric_gareot at 1:58 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Ivan, my read of that SC bill is that it would authorize a challenge of federal law, likely in federal court. IANAL, but it doesn't sound like nullification to me."

Oh, yeah, I see that now. Thanks for the correction. I'm not sure about the rest of the bill, but that part is just a symbolic "we think it's unconstitutional so the AG should file a suit if it comes down to it, although he/she could have done that anyway".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:01 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


What this town is doing, what Kansas is doing with guns, and what other communities and states have done in the past, particularly involving slavery and civil rights, is nullification. That is, local laws that specifically contradict federal law. …

Nullification is a long settled matter in the US. Even today's notably conservative, states rights friendly SCOTUS will unanimously strike down any nullification law.
So what's the problem? The laws will be struck down, they're just throwing a tantrum basically. It sounds like a lot of these cities are trying to avoid state law, rather then federal law anyway, although it's not clear.
For every example like this one of a progressive community embracing nullification because they're fighting the good fight, there's twenty conservative communities doing the same thing because they're regressive nuts.
Where exactly did you get those statistics?
Nullification is a bad thing, it's a kind of lawlessness.
Only if you assume 'lawlessness' is a bad thing. If laws can be both bad and good, then being 'less' of bad laws would be a good thing.

1. I'm not quite sure how you arrived at this assumption.
Because you said:
The difference here is that the United States is a democracy, and there is still, despite all the challenges and difficulties involved, a peaceful route towards changing the government. Which isn't something the colonies were so much able to avail themselves of.
As if somehow the fact that the US is a 'democracy' meant that for some reason that a central, all-powerful government somehow wouldn't or 'couldn't be a problem. Obviously you can have a geographic minority getting crapped on by the rest of the country, so something like Yucca mountain where the rest of the country 'democratically' decides it wants to store all of it's nuclear waste in Nevada, regardless of how people in Nevada feel.

Can you explain how the Yucca mountain nuclear waste dump would be "the fault" of people in NV?
___
2. It's not that majorities are intrinsically more moral than minorities. It's that, if people have at least some say in their governance, then at least when they're ruled incorrectly it's their fault, and not that of some disinterested party. Because those are the two choices.
That doesn't make any sense at all. Or it only makes sense if you consider "the people" a monolithic group. Were blacks at fault in the segregationist south because they were "the people" and "the people" voted for segregation? Obviously it ended in a democratic way, but only after about a hundred years of legal support.

The whole point is that "the majority" are not stomping on themselves but rather on some minority. Look at all the laws passed against gay marriage passed by referendum over the past couple decades. "The people" voted for those things, but the people who were actually affected probably didn't. Drug laws are similar, non-users vote to throw users in jail.

I was responding to someone else who made the claim. I wasn't aware of any particular instances, but I wouldn't put it past anyone to try.
Try how? How can they stop the federal government from giving people health insurance?
posted by delmoi at 3:03 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


it ended in a democratic way

Not so much. Democratic = majority, no?

Methinks maybe justice prevailed despite democracy.

Laws passed by referendum sometimes demonstrate the same flaw.

Don't even get me started on the 17th amendment... ;)
posted by MoTLD at 3:21 AM on May 25, 2013


They fought the law...
posted by Segundus at 3:32 AM on May 25, 2013


Not so much. Democratic = majority, no?
What are you talking about? You don't think ending segregation was supported by the broad majority of voters in the US in the 1960s? There was a reason it was it was opposed by politicians like Kennedy and LBJ, and a reason why people like them were elected.

Don't forget the US had just fought a giant war against the biggest racists in history.

Also in a real democracy you end up with coalition politics. Policies that benefit small groups get taken up in coalitions that add up to a majority, even if most people in the coalition don't really care about the issue. But in any event, a majority needs to be at least indifferent for progress to get made on the minorities issues.

Mostly what I meant is that it happened through the democratic process, which includes things like nominating supreme court judges, having them confirmed, etc.
posted by delmoi at 3:44 AM on May 25, 2013


Map of proposed route through Sugar Hill. Visual Simulations showing what the finished project would look like. In Sugar Hill it seems the new line is following an existing transmission line.
posted by humanfont at 4:07 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mostly what I meant is that it happened through the democratic process, which includes things like nominating supreme court judges, having them confirmed, etc.

Fair enough. My inner pedant feels the need to point out that judges and other appointees are the least democratic part of the process, being the farthest removed from a direct vote.

But that's a feature, not a bug. ;)
posted by MoTLD at 4:08 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


For every example like this one of a progressive community embracing nullification because they're fighting the good fight, there's twenty conservative communities doing the same thing because they're regressive nuts

Ivan Fyodorovitch, you're better than this. Couldn't you have made the same argument without denigrating others? You usually don't, I'm genuinely surprised.

Whether or not this is a good idea depends on the laws they're ignoring.

I'm hearing a lot of "It's okay when people I agree with do it, bad when people I don't agree with do it." So, okay to repress local governments if you agree with the repression, not so if not. That's...kind of not awesome in a lot of ways. So some people like sanctuary cities and want them to flourish, while other people like cities with more invasive immigration checks and want them to flourish. If you believe in the right of self-governance, it's important to be okay with both, even if you don't like them or agree with them.
posted by corb at 4:16 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


CELDF's main goal is ending corporate personhood rights. They are often portrayed as NIMBYs, and nullificationists and all sorts of other bad names, but as Lindsay says, the idea is to bring all this to light, to create battles that get people's dander up about how corporate power overwhelms individual rights.

And that is turning out to be the the problem we all have, isn't it? Corporation are granted full rights while their owners are shielded from responsibilities, and when they already have the money and power to buy and control entire federal governments.

Used to be, small local governments were described as the bed of corruption, but then monied interests decided, for a number of matters of practicality, it was more efficient to buy off the state and federal governments.

NIMBY's are often criticized for selfishness and narrow views, but they are actually fighting for self-determination, for having a say for what happens in their back yards, rather than letting others intrude on their lives.

In some cases, NIMBYs stand in the way of the common good - hospitals and schools and other needed infrastructure - or at least it's portrayed that way. But they also force the powerful to think about all the effects of their glorious projects and maybe find the most beneficial way to accomplish them rather than simply the most efficient or corporate-profitable.

But maybe I'm biased, because CELDF actually helped keep our poor and much-abused rural county from being abused once again by being covered with sewage sludge trucked in from a big city.
posted by tommyD at 5:07 AM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


The article doesn't mention that Federal and State governments have shown that they aren't interested in following the law when it doesn't suit them, not to mention corporations.

Yes, it does.


Used to be, small local governments were described as the bed of corruption, but then monied interests decided, for a number of matters of practicality, it was more efficient to buy off the state and federal governments.

Except where the local government still has control. Then, the local officials can still reap a windfall of corporate cash. Increasingly rare, though.

Corporate 'rights' are ascendent in the US, at the expense of the rights of actual people. If this campaign helps to slow or reverse that, it's good.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:22 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Birmingham, UK where I used to live there was a charming suburb, Bourneville - home of Cadbury's that was part of the inspiration for Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. It was a quaker motivated experiment in improving the quality of workers' lives back in the day. Now it is a moderately wealthy suburb that is run in accordance with the dictates of a trust that bequethed the land to the city as long as certain quaker principles are adhered to. It essentially keeps all of the ugly business out of Bourneville. The result is that the surrounding suburbs are ugly and bournville is ringed with high traffic gas stations, grocery stores and off-licenses.

Behind every cute rustic village there is usually other areas that are absorbing the burdens they refuse to accept.
posted by srboisvert at 6:10 AM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


communities like Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, are defying laws they deem illegitimate


Wow, just like people and corporations.
posted by sfts2 at 6:31 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


After reading this, and reading the comments, I conclude that Sugar Hill, and this issue, may well be a hill I would die protecting.
posted by Danf at 6:48 AM on May 25, 2013


Good laws should be followed, bad laws ignored. It's a completely consistent rule.

Fine, but when, say, ND tries to ban abortions, we very often see people arguing that ND is wrong because it's defying the constitution and our federal system. People making that argument in the context of abortion laws can not argue that towns should defy, say, bans on GMO labeling.

If this campaign helps to slow or reverse that, it's good.

You see a similar argument from supporters of unconstitutionally restrictive state abortion laws. The problem with this thinking, whether applied to abortion laws or something else, is that it won't do any good. It's just a transfer of wealth from the state or municipality passing the law to the law firms that will lead the challenge.
posted by jpe at 6:52 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


porcfest is jun 17-23 2013 and apparently the free state project ain't defunct yet.

(The Nation's website is a piece of crap.)
posted by bukvich at 7:14 AM on May 25, 2013


This isn't virginal forest and breath taking views being despoiled, there are existing big power lines in place today that will be upgraded as part of this big project. I'm really struggling to see this as anything other than small town politics gone awry.
posted by humanfont at 7:24 AM on May 25, 2013


That document limited centralized power in a way no centralized power had ever been limited before

You skipped the Articles of Confederation, whose lack of central power the Constitution was written to correct.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Behind every cute rustic village there is usually other areas that are absorbing the burdens they refuse to accept.
Are ugliness and high-traffic gas stations burdens we all have to accept?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:48 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ugliness, high-traffic gas stations, soggy macaroni, mushed peas and chicken that tastes like wood.
posted by box at 8:08 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quite a lot of the American Northeast gets its power from Quebec. Centralizing power in one overarching federal government is not necessary or advisable to solve all problems. (and talk of secession should be settled democratically. Send people to the ballot box to decide whether federal government meets their needs or should be dissolved)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:30 AM on May 25, 2013


If I may add a related example from Arizona: the city of Bisbee. Once a copper mining town, now known for its eclectic, progressive vibe, Bisbee passed a law to permit same-sex civil unions, for the limited purposes of access to municipal services. This is notable because the state passed, by referendum, a constitutional amendment some years back prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The state's Attorney General, a right(wing) wanker, Tom Horne*, filed suit against the city to kill the law. After much back and forth, Bisbee agreed to "tweak the law" to avoid running afoul of the bigots, while still allowing same-sex domestic partners privileges so vile and heinous that the state Attorney General** must stand athwart history and shout "Stop!"

You know, privileges such as being able to be buried next to each other in the municipal cemetery, and being able to use each other's city pool pass, like married couples are allowed to do. Real civilization-ending stuff.


*The same guy, when he was the State Superintendent of Education, was the dark lord Sauron's minion in helping destroy our public school system further, in favor of charter schools owned by large donors to the Republican party in the state.

**Seriously, the guy's a real asshole.

posted by darkstar at 9:39 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


That document limited centralized power in a way no centralized power had ever been limited before

You skipped the Articles of Confederation, whose lack of central power the Constitution was written to correct.


Well, the very next part of the very sentence quoted from, "while still providing enough power to the feds to keep the fledgling republic together," was kinda meant to allude to that.
posted by MoTLD at 10:28 AM on May 25, 2013


Are ugliness and high-traffic gas stations burdens we all have to accept?

A big part of the issue I have is that these NIMBY villages force even higher concentrations of these 'undesirable' kinds of places on their surrounding areas because not only do they now serve their own neighbourhoods they also serve the neighbourhood that refuses to house them.

The people of Bourneville drink, eat and drive just like everybody else. They just impose the ugliness of the supporting infrastructure and traffic congestion on others in the surrounding communities rather than having their own high street like every other village. So right next to Bourneville you have Stirchley.

Much like the article's first mentioned village no doubt receives electricity via power lines that enter their town via wires that come from a generating station somewhere else. In their case one option for them to get their power is from a NH based electric coop that proudly advertises having 5600 miles of power lines.

[Also the pylons and wires they are opposed to would deliver Canadian hydro-electricity, a non-fossil fuel energy source]
posted by srboisvert at 10:40 AM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


>2. It's not that majorities are intrinsically more moral than minorities. It's that, if people have at least some say in their governance, then at least when they're ruled incorrectly it's their fault, and not that of some disinterested party. Because those are the two choices.

That doesn't make any sense at all. Or it only makes sense if you consider "the people" a monolithic group. Were blacks at fault in the segregationist south because they were "the people" and "the people" voted for segregation? Obviously it ended in a democratic way, but only after about a hundred years of legal support.

Yes, the plight of the blacks in the South up until the 60s was grievously tragic and way too long in coming. I don't pretend that democracy is perfect, its just the best system out there. And democracy did end it eventually; it took a lot longer for the feudal system back in Europe to end, and I see that as an improvement.

Faster change means change ahead of that of the attitudes of society, which means changing society from without, which ultimately means a Wise Dictator. Which you could either view as 1. great if you can find one and everyone can agree that he's wise, and he's wise on all counts, neither of which is going to happen, 2. a subtle yearning to have the hard choices taken from you and fixed by Mama and Papa, which is bad because tyrants are called "strongmen" for a reason, or 3. good in the short run, but bad in the long run when the challenges we face may be of radically different character from the ones we have now, and what now seems wise may in decades seem foolish.

The whole point is that "the majority" are not stomping on themselves but rather on some minority. Look at all the laws passed against gay marriage passed by referendum over the past couple decades. "The people" voted for those things, but the people who were actually affected probably didn't. Drug laws are similar, non-users vote to throw users in jail.

Yes, these are all bad things, and they all happened under democracy. The solution, however, isn't to do everything we think is right, because that just poses us as the wise dictators and there's a thousand people ahead of us in line for that post, but to find a system under which right things happen more often than wrong ones, where they can be evolved out naturally.

The only system like this that has ever been devised is democracy. And the only way to fix democracy is to make it more democratic: get corporate money out of politics and make the populace better and more accurately informed. I don't disagree that local governments should have some defense from these kinds of top-down decisions, but I'm afraid that law nullification isn't a healthy answer. It certainly doesn't apply to the drug war, since in that case the argument effectively becomes such that individuals should have the right nullify laws, which is essentially arguing against laws all together.

Try how? How can they stop the federal government from giving people health insurance?

Well, how can the federal government impose Sharia Law on states? This has never been a threat, but that hasn't stopped state legislatures from passing laws against it. Once you get into state government the loony factor increases significantly, which is one reason I find law nullification extremely questionable. And, again, I knew of no examples on the town level of opposing Obamacare, I was responding to another user, but it sounded much like something that someone would try. I doubt that someone hasn't tried it, somewhere.
posted by JHarris at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing about building a transmission line in New Hampshire is that it's really hard to avoid the White Mountain National Forest and adjacent state parks, as the forest starts only a few miles East of the Connecticut River (Vermont Border) and runs East past the Maine Border. Map. The route they're proposing doesn't seem too bad: it takes a diagonal through the forest to get to the Pemigewasset/US 93 alignment at North Lincoln, and from there runs to South New Hampshire.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:36 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what does work for getting things done? I am not crazy about this approach but the lawyer who founded CELDF made his backstory and reasons clear. Going through the current system was not working.

Any ideas, opinions, resources?
posted by Michele in California at 1:56 PM on May 25, 2013


Going through the system was not working quickly enough, maybe. Massive change (sans violence) takes time, as previous allusions to civil rights and even slavery demonstrate.

I like the idea that gov't can't shape public opinion, only reflect it. So the system he should be addressing is that of public opinion itself, and only then can the gears of governance eventually grind out policy that reflects it, if the system is not completely corrupt.

If the system is indeed corrupt, he needs to join a militia.
posted by MoTLD at 2:03 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


According to the article, it was not working:

“Then the community group would have a victory party,” he recalls. “Everybody would pat each other on the back and say the system works. Meanwhile, thirty, sixty days from then, the corporation would come back and submit a new and improved permit application, and the project would move forward. So we weren’t stopping anything.”

And that wasn't really what I was asking. Say you know of a situation where some parties got representation and some didn't and the process, though legal, was just bad and the decision was just bad. You want to fix that, not address something nebulous like "public opinion." What tools are there? How do people get things done effectively?
posted by Michele in California at 2:16 PM on May 25, 2013


I wonder how much more it would cost to follow existing right of ways near roads or rail road tracks.

It seems a lot of work to continually clear the area beneath a transmission line.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 2:41 PM on May 25, 2013


Well, there's that eternal vigilance thing. There's no such thing as "mission accomplished," even if you have a victory party. This group comes in and stirs things up and wins a symbolic victory, but unless they're laying the foundations for the community to continue to fight the good fight, in a way that's more than just symbolic, all they are selling is false hope in easy solutions, with a large dose of self-aggrandizement to boot.

But I'm sorry if I came across as dismissive. The discussion of advocacy and grassroots activism is a big one that deserves more consideration than I gave my response.
posted by MoTLD at 3:51 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Maybe once enough of these local measures get stomped on they'll build up enough political will to fight on a more national scale?"

That's actually the explicit goal of the guy writing a lot of these statutes.
posted by klangklangston at 4:16 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what does work for getting things done? I am not crazy about this approach but the lawyer who founded CELDF made his backstory and reasons clear. Going through the current system was not working.

A law not being changed because other citizens aren't convinced it should be changed is a feature of democracy, not a bug.

I suppose the lawyer could try holding his breath and stomping his feet if he's not getting his way.
posted by jpe at 4:16 PM on May 25, 2013


I guess it's just lots easier to just say the town is a pawn of two powerful, opposed outside interests, which it seems to be, than to explain (as an outsider myself) how it could work within the system to get meaningful results, if its goal is noble.

About all I can say in less than a novel is, gain inspiration from successes such as the US civil rights and women's suffrage movements, or Indian independence, among others of course. And none of them are over either, as racism, sexism, and classism still exist, but you can get an idea of what's possible and how much work it takes.
posted by MoTLD at 4:29 PM on May 25, 2013


If believing oneself to be right trumps process, and because most everyone believes themselves to be right and the rest opportunistically claim to believe themselves to be right, then process becomes irrelevant and only power is decisive. The less powerful have the most to lose in this scenario.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:45 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I understand the need for eternal vigilance, but let's try to address this like it is limited to a specific thing with a clearly defined scope. The article is about a town not wanting these power lines to go through. For the sake of argument, let's say that if the power lines go elsewhere or some other solution is approved and built, they "win." How do people generally make something like that happen? Does it work to do the legal battle thing? Or is some other approach known to have a better proven track record?

And if you are up for writing a tome, I am happy to get memail.

PS I have had a couple of environmental law classes. I am not completely clueless. Sorry if my question is coming across that way.
posted by Michele in California at 6:08 PM on May 25, 2013


Sounds more rhetorical than clueless to me, but I love me some rhetoric. ;)

At first blush, my counterquestion would be, simply, is this a battle they should win?

But, since that's not the question posed, well, it seems like if they had a strategy that stalled the company trying to erect the lines by showing where they weren't in compliance with existing regulations, they were already on the right track. If the company then came back with a new plan which was in compliance with all regulations, then the regulations might need changing, in which case it's time to lobby the state legislature or congress, whichever made the regulations or appointed those who did. Get your message out to folks and get them to write, call, and show up.

Even then, sometimes you lose the good fight. That's when you unelect the representatives who weren't responsive to their constituency. Unless the rest of the constituency didn't agree with your cause, in which case you must go back to getting your message across more clearly.

I know just how simplistic these arguments sound, but they're the system as I see it, distilled. And having some law education, you likely already know the details better than I; if I'm gonna write a tome, more work will go into educating myself than actually writing it. That's what I don't know if I'm motivated enough to do right now on this particular subject. I'm more of a generalist.
posted by MoTLD at 6:27 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if it's me you're asking, but I'm also not sure what kind of answer you're hoping to get. Sometimes legal battles are won. Sometimes things are improved through democracy. Sometimes the battle is won via the press and marshaling public opinion. Sometimes civil disobedience is effectively used to accomplish these things.

I don't see nullification as properly civil disobedience because nullification laws try to be both contrary things at the same time. In their legal rationale, they claim to be in some sense procedurally valid, except that they're not. In this, they're both misleading and these legal arguments create public credibility for nullification used for injustice, not justice.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:28 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, the question is out there for anyone. Before life got in the way, I wanted to do something related to the built environment. I was pursuing a bachelor's in Environmental Resource Management. I acquired a certificate in GIS. I wanted a master's in urban planning (or similar).

It is easy to criticize and say they are wrong to do this. But I always wonder (about anything that gets criticized) "If not this, then: What?" I am a big believer in "light one small candle rather than curse the dark." People who are critical of x, y or z rarely have a viable alternative to offer. But there are a lot of smart, educated people on MeFi. I was wondering if it would be possible to discuss the piece that always interests me: What are the viable alternatives? What actually works? In a world gone crazy, what can people do to try to create a healthy community?

And so on.

Just wondering if people here had ideas on that. That's all.

Thanks.
posted by Michele in California at 6:46 PM on May 25, 2013


what can people do to try to create a healthy community?

Talk about distillation! That's the underlying back-to-basics question, no?

And the uber-simplified answer, IMO, is right there in the question: communicate.

Which, I guess, is the one thing this outside group did right. Even if they might've done it for entirely self-serving reasons, they packed the town hall, and that's something.
posted by MoTLD at 7:02 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Behind every cute rustic village there is usually other areas that are absorbing the burdens they refuse to accept.

Crusty jugglers, for example.
posted by jaduncan at 12:07 AM on May 26, 2013


I'm hearing a lot of "It's okay when people I agree with do it, bad when people I don't agree with do it." So, okay to repress local governments if you agree with the repression, not so if not. That's...kind of not awesome in a lot of ways.


It's simply valuing actual real world results over abstract and completely irrelevant "principles."

It's like saying someone is a hypocrite because they'd prefer some cases be appealed in the 9th circuit and some in the 6th circuit because they'd be more likely to have the case go the way they want based on the issues and the circuit.

Most people recognize there's no "principle" in play in choosing one circuit over another, likewise there is no principle in play in choosing local or federal government as the venue on the basis of what outcome you prefer.

I think marijuana should be legalized and I think it should be legal to film the police, therefore I support states that want to legalize weed and support the federal government clamping down on states like Massachusetts that have tried to prosecute people for filming the police. I'm against global warming, so I'm for NIMBYism if it's in relation to fossil fuels and against it when it comes to renewables.

___
Yes, the plight of the blacks in the South up until the 60s was grievously tragic and way too long in coming. I don't pretend that democracy is perfect, its just the best system out there. And democracy did end it eventually; it took a lot longer for the feudal system back in Europe to end, and I see that as an improvement.
Slavery ended in Iceland in 1102, in Japan by 1200, in France in 1315, it was banned by the catholic church in 1435, and in Spanish colonies by law in 1542. So actually some non-democratic dictatorships beat the more 'democratic' ones several hundred years. In some cases several hundred years before.
Well, how can the federal government impose Sharia Law on states? This has never been a threat, but that hasn't stopped state legislatures from passing laws against it.
Presumably it would involve repealing the first amendment. Following that, the federal government could institute Islam as the national religion and appoint federal judges based on their adherence to Sharia.

By the way, what the state anti-sharia laws do is make arbitration clauses unenforceable if they stipulate arbitration based on Sharia law even when both parties agree. Arbitration agreement are what make the decisions of people like Judge Judy legally binding.

Either way, your response doesn't answer my question at all: how can a local government prevent the federal government giving people health insurance? Because if there isn't a method by which they could do it, which means it's impossible for anti-obamacare local ordinances to have any negative effect. Or any effect at all.
posted by delmoi at 1:45 AM on May 26, 2013


> "... how can a local government prevent the federal government giving people health insurance?"

Hmm. Well, I suppose theoretically, they could send thugs to your house to counteract any medical treatment you received. You get a cast, they re-break your leg; you get insulin, they force-feed you cake; you get a flu shot, they send a schoolchild to sneeze on you -- that kind of thing.

I can't see a law mandating such actions passing anywhere but North Carolina right at the moment, though.
posted by kyrademon at 5:08 AM on May 26, 2013


I think that the biggest trouble with living next to high transmission lines is the noise and vibration.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:56 AM on May 26, 2013


porcfest is jun 17-23 2013 and apparently the free state project ain't defunct yet.

Yeah, I was actually really surprised to see no discussion of how the Free State Project plays into this. Sure, they only have about 2000 people actually moved, when you count families, but they are deliberately focusing on moving to small towns where one person can significantly impact the political process. The concept of nullification has FSP all over it - if there's not an FSP member in that town, then I'd bet money they're looking at other towns which do have FSP individuals and have been talking about things like nullification, etc.

(Disclaimer: I am a loose member of the Free State Project. But I do find it really encouraging.)
posted by corb at 8:05 AM on May 26, 2013


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