Thursday, August 15, 2019

Learning through play...a WSJ item

To Really Learn, Our Children Need the Power of Play

The U.S. can learn a big lesson from Finland’s education system: Instead of stress and standardized testing, schools should focus on well-being and joy


This past weekend the Wall Street Journal carried an interesting essay on variations in educational theory.   I commend it to you for the striking comparisons it raises between children's education in Finland and the U.S. 

You can find the entire essay here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/to-really-learn-our-children-need-the-power-of-play-11565262002

Here's a snippet to tempt you:

Pasi was flummoxed by the bizarre education concept of “preschool readiness.” Compounding the culture shock was the stunning price tag: $25,000 a year for preschool, compared with the basically free, government-funded daycare-through-university programs that the boy would have enjoyed back in Finland. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Poppycock Pop-up!

It's widely accepted that Academia, for purposes of this discussion, in the form of small, elite, highly selective private colleges, plays a leadership role in defining correctness in all things political; justice in every stitch of our social fabric; variations of expression and companion language in all things gender related; and most of all, providing safe spaces and places of refuge to all who set foot on their campuses.

In the latter case, we've actually seen a sign marking a "Place of Refuge" in the Moulton Union on the Bowdoin Campus.

Inspired by these realities, we went out on a limb and submitted a brief Letter to the Editor to The Ostrich.  Surprise of surprises, they published it today.



The text of the letter is as follows:

Bowdoin College, here in Brunswick, is surely among the wealthiest institutions in Maine. Its capital assets, combined with its endowment, total well over $2 billion, and conversely, its non-profit status subjects it to very little in tax obligations at all levels. 
Bowdoin prizes its stature as a paragon of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism. It seeks to infuse its students with a lifelong commitment to advancing the common good and a devotion to service to others. 
Its facilities are expansive and ever-growing. Housing, food services, field houses, gyms, ice rinks, common/social spaces, museums, arts rehearsal spaces (remember Longfellow Elementary?) and others too many to list define the luxurious accommodations on campus. Medical and counseling services are part of the basics on campus, as are focus centers serving various minorities. 
Given the above, shouldn’t it be expected that Bowdoin will publicly step up to the challenge of welcoming and providing for the needs of refugees and asylum seekers now arriving in Maine from other U. S. locations? The College has the expressed mission, the financial wherewithal, and the spacious and varied facilities to take this challenge on with grace and aplomb.
In the same vein, Colby and Bates should be stepping up to the pressing needs as well. Perhaps the office of Governor Janet Mills could call upon leaders of all three to inspire them, seek their help, and convince them that others need them like never before. Wouldn’t it be something to see these three historic, mission-oriented colleges practice serving the common good as they have long preached?
We're delighted they consider us a legitimate purveyor of local journalism.  Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Chasing “likes”– but at what cost?

We imagine many of you are hooked on the various ‘social media’ addictions of our day….sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and who knows how many more.

Here at Side, we’ve steadfastly avoided even creating accounts on such sites, and we regret it not one bit.

You don’t have to look very far or wide to see just how much damage these attention traps have visited upon our culture and our social graces, in spite of the advantages many claim they offer. 

One of the traps they suck users into, as we understand it, is the constant search for “likes.”  Try to find a web site for a new restaurant to check out their menu, and you’re almost always going to find a Facebook page instead, and a request to “like us on Facebook!”

We were recently reminded, however, that there is more than one type of “like.”  Including, we suppose, many we haven’t thought of.

The one at the top of our mind at the moment, though, comes to us compliments of the Bowdoin Orient….the campus newspaper operated by students.  It seems a campus ethnic group invited an “edgy” comedian to entertain on campus, and said comedian violated many of the modern day taboos held sacred by fragile elite college students.  You know, micro-agressions, triggering, oppression and all the rest are always ready to show up when thin lines are crossed.

You can read the entire article here:

https://bowdoinorient.com/2019/04/19/asian-heritage-month-guest-comedian-criticized-for-offensive-language/

In case you don’t care to, which wouldn’t surprise us, we give you this brief excerpt:

“David Zhou ‘21 said any commedian should be better about knowing the audience.  He should have known that if you come to a liberal arts college and start making like offhand jokes about like sex, race, gender, like, you’re going to get slapped,” Zhou said.

How’s that for “likes?”  Three in one sentence!  So David, a Bowdoin sophomore, is already up in the like stats before posting anywhere.

The overarching point in all this for us, however, is the apparent fact that a second year student at an elite, highly selective liberal arts college speaks with all the linguistic polish of valley girls from Southern California. 

Given that his higher education has a price tag of more than one-quarter million dollars for a Bachelor’s degree, isn’t it reasonable to expect he could utter such a brief thought without using conversational crutches?

While the editors of The Orient didn’t seem concerned enough to edit his words on his behalf, we have to wonder how the faculty and administration of the Ivory Tower will deal with this reflection on their English curriculum and teaching rigor.

Perhaps they’ll have to set up a program of “Like-aversion Therapy” for those so-afflicted, similar to the stuttering problem many of us saw in our youth.

We can’t wait to see, like, how they deal with this, like.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Calling Interested Students!

Don’t know if there are any interested students left out there, but if there are, here are a few homework questions for you.

1)  Where do  you stand on corporate welfare?  As you ponder your answer on this, ask yourself what “corporate welfare” is.

2)  How much do you think taxpayers should spend to build a hangar for a Gulfstream  G650 type private aircraft?

3)  If you had to guess, how many takeoffs and landings take place on an average day at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station?  As you decide on your number, think of how many you’ve seen doing so as you traverse down Bath Road past the runways.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Local journalism and fake news??




Remember the old campus  hijinx known as “panty raids?”  Well, the idea has ‘evolved,’ and apparently the focus has become more on helping others instead of scoring boola-boola points on campus.
 
Just when you’re suffering from a lack of inspiration to post something, someone else often comes to the rescue.  To whit:

 http://www.theforecaster.net/portland-wayside-to-open-food-panties-for-federal-workers/

Keep in mind that this snip was taken from The Forecaster web site at 7pm on Friday, January 25th well after the paper had gone to print and was distributed around the Maine coast.

It provides ample proof of the editorial acumen of the paper, as well as reader participation in notifying them to correct errors on their web site.  We can’t wait to see if the print edition has the same gaffe.  If so, it will become a real collector’s edition.


Note: it turns out that the print edition did not carry the item, so collectors will have to wait for another gem, which we're sure will appear.  The website was eventually corrected to show the correct spelling.  We apologize for the late posting, but our blog software seems to have swallowed various bugs, which we didn't discover until we hit the publish key.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Follow-up on “The Full Alexandria”

We happened to visit Leo’s Organic Barber Shop on a recent rainy day.  His reading selections are pretty sparse, other than the Press Herald, and previous editions of the Wall Street Journal.  We enjoy the latter since they priced themselves out of our range for regular delivery. 

    

For a number of years, we got the Weekend Edition for $1 a week.  We loved it, and usually found enough wide-ranging material to last us for several reading sessions.  Before you knew it, they jacked the price up to $200 a year for that one edition per week, and we just couldn’t justify that expense. 

No matter; we keep getting mailings marked “Welcome Back.”  Which in itself is a commentary on how modern marketing approaches dive off the deep end of common sense.

image

Enough with the mindless distraction.  Looking for something different, we happened upon “The Week,” a publication we hadn’t seen before.  And we came across an item that caught our interest:

https://theweek.com/articles/786937/rise-democratic-socialists

It dovetails ever so nicely with out recent piece on The Full Anastasia.  That would be this one: 

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2018/11/maine-wire-full-alexandria.html

If you’re the type who follows up on links, you’ll find that “Democratic Socialism” is a formalized and organized movement among us. 

Democratic Socialist v. Social Democrat; it’s a difference without distinction in our mind.  Eddie Beem, the lead opinion writer in The Forecaster, clings to the latter term because in his mind it portrays him as something other than a pure and committed socialist.  It gives him a clear conscience about his socialist inclinations.

If you read the item I linked to along with its referenced sources, you’ll find that the inevitable outcome for the policies espoused is socialism.  Unless you believe that entities like auto manufacturers can survive as “cooperatives” or “worker run” enterprises.  Go ahead if that’s your desire, but don’t expect any support from us.

We don’t know if you know the difference between “static analysis” and “dynamic analysis.”  The former is what utopians and dreamers use when they propose some sweeping economic change like doubling taxes or Medicare for all.  They assume that when their idea is implemented, nothing else outside that realm will change; people and companies will not change their behavior to compensate and preserve their interests as best they can. 

Hence, everything that follows becomes an “unexpected” or “unintended” consequence.  Failure was not foreseen, because they didn’t look beyond their idealism.

Dynamic analysis is what realists use to weigh policy proposals.  It requires that you consider the consequences; will higher taxes drive people out of state?  Will more generous welfare attract people from elsewhere and disincentivize work?

Along these very lines, these citations in The Week article jumped out at us, and in our minds, clearly demonstrated the utter lack of critical thought on the part of socialist thinkers.

One of Sanders' supporters, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, stunned the political world last month by winning her New York City district's Democratic primary on a platform of "Medicare for All," free public college, the abolition of ICE, and guaranteed work and housing. "In a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live," Ocasio-Cortez says. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has called Ocasio-Cortez and other democratic socialist candidates "the future of our party."

To pay for a similar safety net in the U.S., including free medical care and college education for all, Sanders would raise more than $1 trillion a year through higher taxes on most individuals and corporations. But the new guard of democratic socialists, organized under the banner of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), would go much further. Ocasio-Cortez, for example, has said she believes capitalism "will not always exist in the world."

Sanders, it seems obvious, doesn’t think that levying a trillion or more in new taxes will change the economic behavior of individuals and corporations.  And Ocasio-Cortez, drinking the Kool-Aid shooters he passes around, doesn’t see capitalism as the source of our economic wealth:

"In a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live," Ocasio-Cortez says.

The critical point here, which she fails to see through her rose-colored glasses, is that without capitalism and the economic vitality we currently enjoy, we will no longer be A WEALTHY SOCIETY, and hence the means to provide for all the free things like health care and college educations will cease to exist. 

         

As most of us realize, government can only provide that which it first takes from others.  And when there is nothing left to take, there will be nothing it can provide.  But many of us don’t know.

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Reality can be such a bummer.  Like snow before Thanksgiving.

If you haven’t yet accepted that there is a real and organized thrust to completely undo the underpinnings of our society and its economic engine, you better study up, pilgrim.

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Maine Wire: The Full Alexandria

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The current widespread fascination with all things socialist was too much for us to ignore, so we couldn’t resist submitting this sardonic riff on the subject.  The Maine Wire was kind enough to publish it on their web site:

http://www.themainewire.com/2018/11/full-alexandria/

We worry that too many in this day may not take it in the manner intended, but will instead see it as an argument for their beloved social justice revolution.

Here’s an excerpt to tempt you:

For a hardcore, lifelong conservative like myself, the mere mention of socialism, or it’s drag persona—social democracy—is enough to send me to the bunker with a small batch bourbon. The celebration in recent years of Bernie Sanders, followed more recently by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Kirsten Gillibrand, Andrew Gillum, and innumerable others is a movie made in hell. Add hordes of gullible, supposedly well-educated millennials, and the nation seems on a collision course of voluntary self-destruction.

Yet as the winds of change continue blowing in my face, ably reported and abetted by the usual suspects, the widespread fascination of pre-senility adults and our newest generations with certifiably destructive ideology gave me pause. Could millions of newly minted voters be so wrong, and so easily led astray by those who’ve been around long enough to know better?

Enjoy; and we mean that in a troubled way.  There are all too many signs of the majority looking to repeat the doomed social failures of history.  Largely because no one tells them about it.  Postmodernism demands nothing less because of its core principle that there is no such thing as objective truth.

That pretty much trashes history and anything else that gets in the way of nirvana.  And reality.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Where would we be without local journalism?

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“Journalism” is one of those charged words employed by any number of sources either in support or opposition.  Most often in our experience is the case where those working in various forms of media use the term in an attempt to elevate themselves above the little people who populate their audience.  They call themselves journalists to lend a certainty and loftiness to their efforts.

A perfect example in the local media mix is Edgar Allen Beem, the featured opinion journalist for The Forecaster.  Eddie has labeled himself a “journalist” innumerable times in his columns, which are in most cases nothing but personal screeds about the politics of the day, and in most cases, shrill and harshly partisan opinions at that. 

Recently he’s been drawn to weepy mourning over the incivility and partisan divides of our times, all while using language that only adds to the problem.  Calling “99% of Trump voters white trash Americans” is a classic example of how he reaches out to us all to calm the waters of political discord.

Which may explain why reader evaluations of his column have been increasingly negative in recent months.  Not only that, the comments posted by readers have lately been almost totally in opposition to his columns, as compared to past years where he drew upon a loyal cadre of adoring groupies to defend and praise anything he wrote, no matter how divisive, snotty, and condescending it was.

Which suits us just fine; we’ve jousted with him regularly, and driven him to fits of distraction and flights of incoherence in a number of cases.  In the process, we’ve amused ourselves no end.

Eddie often uses dictionary definitions of a term of interest to build his arguments on a given subject.  We thought we’d try the same by looking up the word journalism….and we found this:

journalism  (noun)

  1. the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.
  2. press1(def 31).
  3. a course of study preparing students for careers in reporting, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines.
  4. writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing: He calls himself a historian, but his books are mere journalism.

We find definitions 1 and 4 the most interesting.  Note the words news and superficial, and the absence of the word “opinion.”

Which brings us to another recent instance of “journalism” that caught our attention.  Our friends at The Ostrich use this graphic at the top of their web page and print editions.

image

Based on our years of following them, we could and would take issue with all three terms in their self-aggrandizing self-labeling.  Calling yourself legitimate is revealing; it’s like a politician saying “you can trust me on this, because I’m not like all the others.”  When you come right down to it, just exactly what does the term “legitimate” mean in this context?  For that matter, what do the words local and journalism mean in the same context?

We cannot think of an instance in recent memory where TR reporting (journalism) goes beyond the level of parroting press releases and perhaps talking to a local source or two.  The concept of investigative reporting is completely foreign to them.  Their coverage is 3 inches deep and 2 feet wide.  They carry the party line of whoever and whatever they are covering.  And for those who pay attention, they clearly make their coverage choices based on the overall editorial slant of whomever controls the content.  Increasingly, of course, that is shared content with other media outlets in Maine, almost all of which are owned by a single individual.

Under the circumstances, expecting a broad and balanced view of the events that occur on a daily basis is a fool’s errand.  And given the skimpiness of the staffs at these outlets, expecting a look below the first level or two of the onion skin is similarly ill advised.

But couldn’t we at least expect a fairly high degree of language skills from those who claim to be “legitimate” in informing us with their “journalism” efforts?  One of the challenges of running a media operation, especially a print operation, is that you put yourself out there for examination, and in the process you expose yourself and the skill sets inherent in your leadership.

Let’s take a recent example.  Jon Crimmins, a local resident with an every other week slot on the opinion page of The Ostrich, had this column run:

https://www.timesrecord.com/articles/opinion/jonathan-crimmins-does-the-times-record-still-value-local-journalism/

It ran with this appendage from the editors:

Editor’s note:

We agree with Mr. Crimmins’ ascertation that “a diversity of thought is important.” We would further argue that since the paper’s acquisition by Reade Brower, we have been able to provide a greater diversity of local and state coverage, thanks to partnerships with not only the Portland Press Herald, but with the Kennebec Journal, The Forecaster, Coastal Journal and others. Our Local and Maine pages are more robust and carry far more indepth stories that, prior to the acquisition, were out of our reach. Rather than supplant our own stories, this sharing agreement supplements our coverage, while allowing our own, admittedly small staff to take deeper dives into the stories that matter most. Local journalism matters at The Times Record. It always will.

Aside from the “deeper dives” comment, we learned two things in this add on note.  First, we gained a new word for our vocabulary; we didn't realize Jon had ascertated anything in particular in this column.  On the other hand, maybe one of these days The Ostrich will acquire a spell checker....or a copy reader with a vocabulary.

Secondly, no one is in a position to ascertate the sentiment in the last two sentences.

In a nutshell, this brief little editorial note tells us more about the supposed professionals who manage the Times Record than they could ever have imagined.

And it pretty much blows the claims of “local. legitimate. journalism” right out of the shallow water they were doggy paddling in.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Chance reports in…

Sometimes Chance has a way of providing a timely and entirely appropriate afterthought to our efforts.

Chance did so just now, dropping an email in our office inbox just moments after we published our latest post.  And here’s what it contained:

plunderbund

PRONUNCIATION:

(PLUN-duhr-buhnd)

MEANING:

noun: A group of political, business, and financial interests engaged in exploiting the public.

Seems more than apropos to us, but what do we know?

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“Freedom isn’t free,” it’s been said….

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Here we are, just trying to scrape the rust off our aged editorial body, and already we’ve run smack into the barricades of modern day news and information access.

As we noted in our post of Sept 11th, one of the items that captured our interest enough to comment was the recent awarding of taxpayer dollars to the Brunswick Executive Airport operation.  You can review that post here:

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2018/09/back-in-cockpit-in-manner-of-speaking.html

image

We ordered up a gallon jug of Geritol, and invigorated by its magical powers, we decided to do a little investigative reporting on the subject.  Doing so gave us a shot of adrenalin, and reminded us of the determination once a regular feature of our digging and reporting on your behalf.  As always, it’s abundantly clear that none of the local or regional “media outlets” has any interest in doing so. 

Frankly, we don’t think any of them even consider the idea; digging into stories that cry out for further investigation and reporting never occurs to them.  That would take work, initiative, and journalistic dedication.  Or at least what used to amount to responsible execution of First Amendment free press guarantees.  Not to mention that it would question the big government, free money status quo.

As you well know, we are not formally trained in such arts.  Which, we suspect, makes us the equal of most that write for our local sources.  Still, we exercised our curiosity by requesting relevant information via Freedom of Access statute, or what is generally referred to as “FOIA” provisions.

Our first missive was to Steve Levesque, Executive Director of MRRA, the Maine State agency responsible for redevelopment of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.  It reads as follows:

You are mentioned in today's TR article as follows:

"Last year, Levesque wrote in a Times Record op-ed that 31 resident aircraft owners were collectively paying $3,000 annually in excise taxes. At the time, Levesque had projected 18,000 air operations by year-end and a 10 percent annual growth in airport usage and fuel sales."

Please tell me how many air operations there were in 2017, and how many so far this year.  Exclusive of air shows, etc.

We posted this item to Levesque on 11 September, and have yet to receive a response of any sort.  “His people” may be working diligently to tally the air operations totals, but we have no way of knowing.  We believe that airports are required to keep logs of such operations, and at the worst, responding to our request would call for totaling daily counts.

Just for fun, the projected 18,000 air operations would yield an average of 49 per day.  We live within ear shot of the airport, and have a friend who lives close enough to the runway and aircraft pattern to hear each and every takeoff and landing.  Based on our “empirical” evidence, 49 operations per day is a bit much.  Actually, a lot much.

We expect you to be impressed, however, by the annual excise taxes paid by resident aircraft owners, averaging $97 each.   We own two motor vehicles, and our annual excise tax bill is significantly more than that.  While we’re sure the town is a far better place for that $3,000 in annual tax revenue, we fail to see how it offsets nearly $20 million in taxpayer subsidy to the airport…..so far, that is.

We are well aware that many in our local midst revile what they call “corporate welfare.”  We think it’s time they realize that this is exactly what these sums amount to.  To begin with, the operator of the airport is a private sector entity, and the aircraft are privately owned as well.  We believe that if the details of all $20 million in grants was exposed in detail, there’d be more than enough to cause gnashing of local teeth and wringing of local hands.  Unless, that is, the truth that corporate welfare for others is bad, but corporate welfare for us is wonderful.

On the same day (11 September,) we filed a request with the Office of Senator Susan Collins asking for documentation associated with the funding request, and the actual grant.  As of this writing, we have not received a single peep in response.

Just for good measure, we filed one more request…this time with the MRRA staffer designated as the Freedom of Information contact.  It read as follows:

I request documentation associated with this recent award:

BRUNSWICK

Brunswick Executive Airport will receive $6.2 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to build a new hangar, install fencing and make other improvements to the airport.

This would include applications and documented cost estimates for the proposed work to be done and the need, and documents associated with the award and details of what it covers.

I also request annual flight operation totals for the airport since it began operation.

We were gratified and encouraged by these prompt responses on 11 Sept:

Pem,  Thank you for your email.  I’ll email you when the documents are ready.  Would you like to receive an estimate of the cost beforehand?

Kathy

Pem,  Also, we will provide the information once we receive and execute the contract docs from the FAA, which should be fairly soon.

Best regards,

Kathy

We replied that same day as follows:

I only need an estimate if it's going to be beyond $20 or so.  I've forgotten what state law says.

Thanks,

Pem

Imagine our “surprise" when we received this response on 25 Sept:

Good morning.  We have compiled the documents you requested, 151MB total file size.   For determining the cost estimate, these documents add up to 2328 standard (8.5” x 11”) pages and 105 pages of plan drawings that are best viewed in large format (11” x 17” or larger). 

At $0.20 per sheet, that adds up to $486.60 for the printing.

So far time expended amounts to $130.00.  Additional time would be added for the time to print the documents.

How would you like to proceed?

Best regards,

Kathy

While we have yet to respond, it seems pretty clear MRRA has already obligated us to a minimum of $130, even though we said we’d like an estimate if the total cost was going to exceed $20.

We don’t even know where to begin with 2433 pages to document the funding request and the award.  Or the $486.60 for printing them.  You’d think a $6.2 million grant might have sufficient “contingency funds” to cover our request, but hey…they run tight budgets and tough ships in this game.

Right?

Here’s info on the relevant state law, found at https://www.maine.gov/foaa/faq/index.shtml:

Can an agency charge for public records?

There is no initial fee for submitting a FOAA request and agencies cannot charge an individual to inspect records unless the public record cannot be inspected without being compiled or converted. 1 M.R.S. § 408-A(8)(D) However, agencies can and normally do charge for copying records. Although the FOAA does not set standard copying rates, it permits agencies to charge "a reasonable fee to cover the cost of copying". 1 M.R.S. § 408-A(8)(A)

Agencies and officials may also charge fees for the time spent searching for, retrieving, compiling or redacting confidential information from the requested records. The FOAA authorizes agencies or officials to charge $15 per hour after the first hour of staff time per request. 1 M.R.S. § 408-A(8)(B) Where conversion of a record is necessary, the agency or official may also charge a fee to cover the actual cost of conversion. 1 M.R.S. § 408-A(8)(C)

The agency or official must prepare an estimate of the time and cost required to complete a request within a reasonable amount of time of receipt of the request. If the estimate is greater than $30, the agency or official must notify the requester before proceeding. The agency may request payment of the costs in advance if the estimated cost exceeds $100 or if the requester has previously failed to pay a fee properly assessed under the FOAA. 1 M.R.S. § 408-A(9), (10) P.L. 2013, ch. 350

So there you have it; the “state” of affairs in our latest effort to get to the bottom of a local story about the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars on top of previously spent millions of taxpayer dollars, with what in our amateur opinion is a suspiciously weak rationale.

In keeping with current cultural norms, we’re thinking of starting a Go Fund Me campaign to fund these expenses, and when it gets to $500,000 or so, we’ll be able to go ahead and pull the trigger on the story.

That’s a bit much, you say?  Not by governmental standards, we say.  After all, your correspondent pays more in local excise taxes per vehicle than the cited local aircraft owners!

         

And then there’s the cosmetic surgery required to make our forehead appear “normal.”

As a final thought, there’s this shot right between the eyes:

        

(note to local editors: replace “is done” in last sentence with “was once done.”)