Thursday, June 23, 2016

Post-script on the Crumbling Cookie….

We posted this item two days ago.

   

Take a look at the details provided below, and ask yourself how the new Metro Breez compares to the Downeaster in providing ‘public service.’  Check the fares, the schedule options, etc.

   

Anybody wanna bet that Brunswick, and especially the “All Aboard Brunswick” ensemble, won’t go to the mat to see that the service DOES NOT EXTEND TO BRUNSWICK?  Their options for Razzle-Dazzle will be a bit more limited than in the past, we think, though they could contract with MSMT to come up with a new song and dance routine to fool the jury.

You should begin your study here: http://gpmetrobus.net/index.php/metro-news/yarmouth-freeport-bus-service

Here’s a preview:

    image

That’s right, the public can ride from Freeport to Portland, including the PTC, for anywhere from $3.00 to $1.35.

You’ll find the route map and schedule here: http://gpmetrobus.net/images/stories/route-maps-pdf/Breez-REVISED.pdf 

Take a look at these schedule options, and compare them to the Downeaster.  The train, of course, is not capable of taking you anywhere convenient in Portland; it can only take you to the train/bus depot at the Thompson’s Point area (“A” in the below.)

             image

And our betters and elected officials want us to believe the Downeaster is a wonder?  It may turn out Brunswick area residents would be well advised to drive to Freeport and take the Metro south, whether to enjoy various points between Bean Town and Portland, or to connect to buses (or trains) to the Boston area, or both.

Talk about long shots!  This may be your last chance to get rich!

Now that we think of it, Brunswick could become a bookie’s paradise.   Besides the wager just mentioned, there’s the equally sure bet that the revaluation now underway won’t end up raising your property tax bill.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Could the cookie be crumbling?

             

Yes, you’re correct.  Your correspondent has been derelict in keeping up a decent posting tempo.

Such is the curse of being an aged observer of issues and events which hold less and less interest as the years advance.  Not to mention a growing sense of futility as to the value of posting opinions on these items.

Oh well, enough whining for now.

 

We’re here tonight to pass along the latest step forward in public transit, which if local authorities have any sense, should be a cause for concern.  Especially as it relates to Brunswick.

We refer to this fresh article in The Forecaster:

http://www.theforecaster.net/commuter-bus-breezes-into-freeport-yarmouth/

If you want a perfect example of the difference between passenger rail and passenger coach service, especially as to how long and how much it takes to get service underway, it’s all right there in plain sight.  Especially if you’ve followed our reports and comments over the years.

We couldn't help but think of this item we penned elsewhere in May:

The First Law of Public Surface Transportation:

There is nothing passenger rail can do that contemporary Motor Coaches can't
do more immediately, more economically, more flexibly, more cleanly,
more efficiently, more effectively, more safely, more reliably, with vastly superior
point to point service, and with little or no front end investment, no need
for new infrastructure, and no need for government
involvement/intervention.

Take a look at the number of stops, the frequency of trips, and the costs mentioned in the article.

                  

Then consider this passage:

"METRO General Manager Greg Jordan said Brunswick may be added to the service by next summer, with discussions taking place over the next year. METRO had extended the offer to Brunswick in 2014, but the Town Council and Town Manager had concerns about the cost."

Concerns about cost?  Oh sure!  What about the 80-100K we put into ‘Departure Center’ operations for the Downeaster?  And the various hidden costs associated with TIFs, Brunswick Taxi, and who knows what all, including the failure by JHR to build out the Station complex?

The real concern the council and TM should have, we might suggest, is the embarrassment this commuter bus service will expose them to for joining the ‘All Aboard Brunswick’ foamers in going ga-ga over the Downeaster, which has failed to deliver on even one projected benefit to our local economy.  Unless you're a retired Ambassador and his wife.

             

When some actual ridership and public response data for the Metro begin to accumulate and surface, we expect there to be a good deal of growth in the egg-wash business in town.

Maybe someone will build a face-cleansing business over at “Brunswick Landing.”  Or make use of the vacant space in the Maine Street Station.  Once locals become fans of convenient buses, should service be extended here, that space should be a fine location for a “Facial Spa.” 

Proximity to the Brunswick Town Hall should provide a steady supply of ‘walk-in’ customers.

PS:  If you happened to attend the special performance at MSMT last night featuring their performance interns in a production called “A Grand Night for Singing,” you enjoyed a very special treat.  They were all brilliant, and the special ticket prices made the show all the more incredible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Finally, Brunswick officials do SOMETHING to cut expenditures…..

Well, that’s not exactly what we mean.

           

Once we explain, you may not be so impressed.  And you may ask how much they’re cutting expenses by, and why.

We’re one of those ‘responsible’ citizens who years ago decided we didn’t want our property taxes impounded with our mortgage payments, because doing so numbed us to the annual increase in the levy.  Between the insurance increase and the tax increase, blended into a monthly mortgage payment, it was far too easy to shrug and say ‘so what else is new?’

More than that, when we get our property tax bill, we pay the first installment on time, and the second installment ahead of time so we can deduct the total amount in the current tax year.  The town gets to book our second payment ($4,000 plus) months ahead of the due date, and we get no consideration for paying early.  Several readers will call us an idiot for doing so, and you’re probably right.

At the very least, we think our early payment yields enough return to the town to pay for a few postage stamps and similar office overhead.

Which probably has you wondering why we’re here.

   

Here’s why.  The Side household has two vehicles; one is a 2012, and the other is a 2015.  As Chance would have it, both were bought and registered in June.  So responsible citizens that we are, we were mindful of the need to have both inspected this month, and to visit the Town Hall to cough up our excise tax and registration fees so we could get our ‘stickers’ for another 12 months.

We began our mail box vigil for the letters of notice from the town that we were due to re-register, but they didn’t show as they did in the past.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, we had been trained to expect them after years and years of such notices.  We even stopped by the Town Hall yesterday to vote, but didn’t think to inquire about the notice, believing that our trusty town officials would see that we are legal, and that they collect their revenue on a timely basis.

  

We happened to be looking for some town budget data today, and found our way to the Brunswick Finance Department page, where we found this notice:

PLEASE NOTE:

Effective July 1, 2015, the Town of Brunswick discontinued mailing automobile re-registration-by-mail notices.
Please call the Tax Office at (207) 725-6657 for more information.

                         

Maybe we missed the letter telling us, after decades of registering at the Town Hall, that this change was taking place so we were prepared.  Note, of course, that our vehicles need renewal in June, and this policy changed on July 1st.  Last year, we paid combined excise taxes of $1,000, which is not a trivial amount.

Old as we are, we understand we can be forgetful; and we often forget what we were supposed to remember.  We’re also old enough to know that from time to time we get bamboozled by various officials proclaiming how hard they work to reduce expenses, when in fact what they are doing is changing procedures to increase revenues.  A few months back, as we were renewing our dog licenses, we watched another resident pay a $25 penalty for being a few days late on renewing hers.

We hope you’ll excuse us if we’re leaning towards a penny wise, pound foolish view of town finances at the moment, and suggesting there might be a penchant for nibbling around the edges to sqeeze a few more shekels from us.  We plan to look into that.

For the time being, be forewarned that if  you’ve grown accustomed to getting a notice from the town to renew your vehicle registration, you are now officially SOL.

You’re on your own, as the old saying goes.  But hey, a stamp here, a stamp there, next thing you know, your property taxes are going up by a dollar less than they would have, and late registration revenue, and related tickets, are on the increase.

It’s all good, right?

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Monday, May 30, 2016

School Board members throw temper tantrums; meanwhile, Council Members are shocked, shocked, we tell you…..

Graphically speaking, here are hints about today’s subject:

It’s not often you hit the daily double in any form.  So we’re delighted to report that as a ‘community,’ we have done just that, and in the context of our most recent post, which was not all that ‘recent.’ (http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2016/05/maine-wire-impossible-dreampublic.html)

Even more amusing is that this winning combo comes to us compliments of Brunswick’s elected town ‘leaders,’ who are expected to provide our cues on how to behave civilly in matters of important civic policy, otherwise known as governance.  They’re supposed to be the adults in the room, demonstrating wisdom and maturity, especially when the circumstances would seem to suggest otherwise.

Regular followers of local theatrics can probably guess who the leading leaders are in this springtime tradition; betting on the favorites may not be exciting, but it is less risky.

All the proof we need to make our case is here in one Forecaster article:

http://www.theforecaster.net/brunswick-school-board-members-vow-to-oppose-budget-if-council-stands-by-cuts/

In cases such as this, where the source events and behaviors are so rich with material crying out for attention, we’re going to revert to a method we’ve used before: cite a source passage, and comment as we see fit.  This is much easier than composing an overarching essay on the subject, which we feel confident wev’e done in past posts.  Sparing you should be appreciated, we hope.

So let’s begin, with these related pix of “Numbers” Ellis and “Teardrops” Perreault.

       

BRUNSWICK — The School Board Wednesday night rejected the Town Council’s mandate for additional cuts to the fiscal year 2017 budget. Two board members went even farther, promising to publicly oppose passage of next month’s school budget referendum unless the council restores the most recent reduction of $85,000.

“I will advocate publicly to reject the school budget and send it back to (the council) again,” board member Rich Ellis said after the meeting. “I couldn’t agree more,” board member Corinne Perreault said. “I refuse any additional reduction.”

           

                 

  • We’ve come to understand that “for the children” is the standard approach to getting your way in the budget negotiation process; what we didn’t realize until now is that school board members are so inclined to throw the kind of juvenile tantrums we used to associate with toddlers ‘making a scene’ in public.  This is the first time we feel moved to describe them as spoiled brats, but in retrospect, we realize we’ve been biting our editorial tongue for far too long.  Hence, “for the children” takes on a whole new meaning – placating the board members – instead of ensuring a quality education for town youth.

This is a good time to remind you that the larger context of this budget cycle is shown in our post of last week:

=======================================================================

This is Mr. Manager’s briefing to the public hearing on the budget less than two weeks ago.

16-17 budget a

The above screen snip may be a bit difficult to read, but we call your attention to the “Education” lines.  Note that the amount actually spent by the school department in FY15 (2014-15) was $33.391 million.  The approved budget for the following year (FY16) was $36.526 million, and until figures roll in some time from now, this is the best available.  Actuals won’t be publicized in time to have any real effect on our knowledge base. 

No matter; the difference was $3.135 million, or an increase of well over $1300 per student, of which there were roughly 1000 less than the peak enrollment in FY05.

So FY16 budget/available is up by 9.4% over FY15 actual expenditures.  Compare this to the tentatively approved budget for the coming school year – FY17 – of $37.7 million.   This is $4.3 million more than actual spending two years earlier, for an increase of 3.3% over the present year, and 13% over actuals two years ago.  Since enrollment continues to decline, these increases should be, we say SHOULD BE, especially troubling.

=======================================================================

                  

And now this passage:

The council originally asked the school board trim about $410,000 from its nearly $38 million budget. The board complied with that request, cutting money slated for reserves and carrying over current-year revenues.

                              

                         

But some councilors thought those cuts did not go far enough. Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman said she was “shocked” by how easily the board cut its budget; Councilor Kathy Wilson said she felt “hoodwinked.”

                              

Councilor Jane Millett spearheaded the move May 16 to cut the additional $85,000, earmarked for a proposed paving project at Brunswick High School. Millet said the pavement “is not nearly in as poor shape as some roads leading to the high school,” and that the town and school should uphold equal “community standards.”

  • Do these councilors really expect you (and yours truly) to believe they just realized they’ve been gamed by the School Department, with the full agreement of both the School Board and Department staff?  Gimme a friggin’ break, will you?  As we’ve ‘hinted’ and written about more times than we care to regurgitate, this is SOP in the annual Kabuki budget drama.  Brayman and the others acting as if they just realized this is beyond the pale, or whatever the right term for it is.  Frank Lee, they should be ashamed, and embarrassed, for acting so naively.  How are we supposed to respect town officials who don’t ‘get’ the standard approach to pulling the hood over the winking eyes of our elected representatives?

Now let’s look at these words from another School Board member:

Trying to take a step back from the feud, board member Sarah Singer said the real blame lies with the state and years of declining school subsidies. “We are in an austerity climate … and we are trying to keep our schools intact,” she said. With less money coming in from the state, she argued, the town has to raise property taxes to maintain services.  “(It’s) shifting the costs to poorer residents,” she said. “It drives me bonkers.”

  • Ah…there we go; it’s never the consequence of the SPENDING LEVELS the board sets locally, it’s always the fault of other higher levels of government for not sending enough free money to the lower levels.  The towns blame the state, and the states blame Washington.
  • We remember writing about Ms. Singer some years back.  If we recall, she was a lead organizer in Brunswick Community United, pushing for more and more school spending, no matter the realities.  Her professional background in union organizing prepared her well for this role, and her husband’s role as ‘government affairs’ manager for the Maine Teachers Union didn’t hurt either.
  • But the least she could do is realize that if you look at total budget numbers, total enrollment, and state GPA funding, you’d find a picture far different than the one she portrays.  And, we might ask, if towns double per student spending over ten years or so as Brunswick has, does she think the state should double their contribution as well?  If state funding must follow town increases, why not up the budget at even faster rates?

On a final note, we do understand that the Town Council does not have ‘line item’ authority over the School budget, but they clearly have authority over the top line of that budget, since they have to approve the amount before it can move forward for a public vote.

In view of this, we suggest the following.  If $85,000 for repaving the High School driveway sticks in the craw of a council member or two, as it does in ours, just tell the Board to reduce spending overall by another $200,000 or so.  This, as we said earlier, is chump change on a $38 million budget that is increased big time over prior years.

Let the spoiled brats on the Board fight it out between themselves to decide how the new upper limit will be achieved.  This should allow Ellis, Perreault, Singer, and the rest to get their pictures and their comments in the paper as much as they’d like if they play it right.

                                   

And allow the cited councilors ample additional opportunity for expressions of shock.

When you come right down to it, haven’t we all had enough of these silly charades and gamesmanship?  Your correspondent has, but judging from the behavior of voters and the lack of pushback from the general citizenry, such behavior is applauded in one sense or another.

And we deserve the consequences, even if we can’t ‘afford’ it.  We can tell you this; we’re getting to where we’ve had about all we can take.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Maine Wire: The impossible dream–Public School accountability…..

The Maine Wire carried another of our commentaries recently, which we post here for you in full.  We’ll follow with other content and related observations.

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http://www.themainewire.com/2016/05/bring-accountability-public-schools/

“When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” – Albert Shanker – President of the United Federation of Teachers [1964-1984] & the American Federation of Teachers [1974-1997]

(There is some dispute over whether Shanker actually said this, but there is no arguing with the thought. To think otherwise would be to believe that United Auto Worker union members organized to advocate for the interests of American car buyers.)

In the last week of April, 2016, Dr. Bill Beardsley of the Maine Department of Education spoke on education policy at the MHPC luncheons in Portland and Auburn.

During the Q&A period that followed his remarks at each event, it was observed that while there are numerous organized professional groups that advocate for adults in the school establishments, yet there is not a single one that advocates “for the children,” otherwise known as the students, and their parents or guardians.

At the state level, we have the Maine Municipal Association, the Maine Education Association (the teachers union), the Maine School Management Association, the Maine School Board Association, and the Maine School Superintendents Association. Nationally, there are the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, both of which are teachers unions. Who knows how many others there might be working the hallways of their respective state capitols and the US Capitol in Washington.

The only opposing force I can recall is one that was formed by Michelle Rhee some years back called “Students First.” Michelle was a uniquely courageous and principled school administrator appointed to the position of Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public school system, widely recognized as one of the absolute worst in the country.

As Michelle began working to reform the system, she inescapably found herself getting cross-wise with the teachers themselves, entrenched school administrators, and numerous members of the public and District government. Embarrassment on a major scale was a regular occurrence, and this could not be countenanced. Ms. Rhee “resigned” her position after only three years when the mayor who appointed her was thrown out of office, largely on the basis of her aggressive approach to fixing things. Shortly afterwards, she announced she would be forming a national group to advocate for the students.

Reflecting on the luncheon discussion, I began to ruminate on school system accountability.  Here in Brunswick, the school budget represents approximately $37 million of total municipal expenditures of roughly $60 million, or more than 60% of total spending in spite of the fact that school enrollment has significantly declined in recent years.

I pay $700 a month in property taxes, for which the ONLY directly provided municipal services are trash collection (plus ‘pay per bag’ charges) and winter road maintenance. The 13 houses on my rural lane pay roughly $10,000 per month in property taxes. Out of the 13, only three have school-age children, and one of those sends their children to private school.

              Pem 3

Given those details, I began to ponder ways in which local citizens might begin to push for greater accountability and transparency in their individual school systems. For a few microseconds, I considered approaching a supportive legislator in Augusta to talk about developing and sponsoring legislation that would require this. Given the teachers union and education lobbyists strangle hold on the hallways of our Capitol, I threw cold water on that idea, knowing it had an ice cube’s chance in Death Valley.

The only chance to make headway, I’m afraid, is to work the situation locally, which is likewise a tremendous uphill challenge. So here are some thoughts for discussion on what such a proposal might look like.

To begin with, school unit management (the superintendent and key staff) and the school board chair should be required to make an annual report to the municipal governing body and town citizens in a scheduled, public briefing roughly 3 months before approval of the budget for the coming year. This meeting should be well advertised, and scheduled to accommodate the majority of town residents; not during typical business/working hours.

The following components, as a minimum, should be included in their report:

  • A ten-year financial summary showing total budget amounts; school specific mil-rate and total mil-rate; total enrollment; total spending per-student; teaching staff head-count and total head-count; and reserve fund balances.
    • Summary status of employment contracts and negotiations underway or upcoming. Include head count for health, social worker & counseling staff.
    • Total cost of free/reduced price meal service, and total student count receiving such service.
    • Enrollment projections in use for planning purposes.
  • A detailed review of the physical assets belonging to the school unit and/or used by the school unit, including all educational buildings and attached real estate with related recreation provisions, school buses, and any other assets under use for education purposes.
    • Age and known status of assets
    • Known items of deferred maintenance; upcoming needs
    • Plans for new construction, major renovations, and other capital expenditures
    • Status of all major systems: heating, ventilating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, food prep/service
  • A five-year summary of all measures of student performance and teacher performance that shows trends in each
  • Projected budget levels and capital expenditures for the next five years

In conclusion, it’s safe to say that taking on the extremely powerful education lobby with legislative initiatives is a fools’ errand. They’re a major source of donations supporting political campaigns, and there is no hope of countering the money they spend, which of course, derives from taxpayers.

I want to think that a better informed town council and public, especially when year-to-year trends are reported on, will eventually lead to more rigorous oversight and involvement in school system decision making. Especially when combined with those responsible having to get up in front of their sponsors to advocate for their spending and what it buys.

Perhaps eye to eye contact at a very personal level can have a transformational effect.

====================================================================

And some say we don’t have a drop of optimism left in our bones.  Contrast the above with this recent item in the Forecaster:

http://www.theforecaster.net/brunswick-council-cuts-school-budget-board-member-fires-back/

                                 

and the glowing countenance of Rich “Numbers” Ellis that appears in the article.  Ellis has years of practice fire-hosing town councilors, the press, and your correspondent with numerically rich floods in response to any challenge to school department funding.

Note, by the way, how the referenced article, and others linked in the body of the item, scrupulously avoid giving total budget figures in specific detail.  So we had to go in search of them on your behalf.

   

Frank Lee, each year as we review these events, it gets tougher and tougher to stop the bleeding in our eyes.  This is our twentieth year of watching and absorbing the annual Kabuki theater put on by the town council, and in particular, the choreography they use whenever the school department is on the stage with them.

Every single member of the council we can recall over these decades is terrified of challenging the school budget, the school board, and the school department in any regard.  Now that we mention it, the same is true of every school board member we can recall over the same time frame. 

We had high hopes a few years back when Billy Thompson joined the school board and then became chair, but we should have known better.  Ellis and the others drew upon an endless supply of kool-aid, and soon whatever reform ideas Billy might have had were tossed out the window, and the same-old, same-old prevailed, if not more-so.

Oh sure, the council looks at the roughly $38 million school budget proposal and viciously asks that perhaps 1% or so be ‘slashed’ from the request, putting the entire school system at risk.

Yeah, right.  If there’s anything you can be sure of, readers, it’s that the school department has mastered the art of submitting a budget that includes ‘something to leave on the table’ so the drama of highly motivated town councilors watching out for local taxpayers can play out.  We’d even go so far at this point to suggest that the amounts to be bandied about in public are agreed upon ahead of time, along with semi-scripted comments to be offered up on camera and for press consumption.  Why risk losing control?

To think otherwise would be so naive as to be laughable.  And you can search far and wide to find evidence of any questions of accountability found in our opening commentary above.  Ain’t gonna happen; “it’s for the children,” and anyone who thinks otherwise risks public humiliation, or worse.

To further our disgust with how things work around here, we refer you to this link:

http://www.brunswickme.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/2016-2017-BudgSumm-PH.pdf

This is Mr. Manager’s briefing to the public hearing on the budget less than two weeks ago.

16-17 budget a

The above screen snip may be a bit difficult to read, but we call your attention to the “Education” lines.  Note that the amount actually spent by the school department in FY15 (2014-15) was $33.391 million.  The approved budget for the following year (FY16) was $36.526 million, and until figures roll in some time from now, this is the best available.  Actuals won’t be publicized in time to have any real effect on our knowledge base. 

No matter; the difference was $3.135 million, or an increase of well over $1300 per student, of which there were roughly 1000 less than the peak enrollment in FY05.

So FY16 budget/available is up by 9.4% over FY15 actual expenditures.  Compare this to the tentatively approved budget for the coming school year – FY17 – of $37.7 million.   This is $4.3 million more than actual spending two years earlier, for an increase of 3.3% over the present year, and 13% over actuals two years ago.  Since enrollment continues to decline, these increases should be, we say SHOULD BE, especially troubling

But not if you’re deathly afraid of challenging the conduct of the school department, which it’s clear is the case.

BTW, to give some sense of perspective to the figures here, the proposed budget for the coming year includes $665,000 for street resurfacing.  This resurfaces just under 3 miles of town streets.  If you are even barely conscious as you go about your daily business in town, you know our streets are in horrible shape, and we should be spending much more than this to keep things in basic repair.

The total annual budget is in the $60 million range, so our streets get 1% or so of our spending.  If you think that’s the right amount to spend on maintaining basic paved infrastructure, we won’t ever agree.  The article above points out that a figure in the same range is thrown on the table as chump change in school department v. town council budget deliberations.

We’re offended, and you should be too. 

But we both know it won’t make a dimes worth of difference.  Just wait until the reveluation is complete; let’s see what your reaction is then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Brunswick’s “Health Care” Evolution, wanted or not…

This might be a good time for you to reread this post-

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2015/08/you-can-trust-us-with-your-health-care.html

from last August, which featured this graphic as an opening:

image

It included these as well:

                    

How prophetic, thought it took no particular insight or genius to read the handwriting on the wall.  And the Side family has now experienced the final shoe dropping.

Let’s go back a bit.  At least for us, there have been three ‘major’ players involved in this evolution.  The Mid Coast Health System; the Parkview Adventist Medical Center (PAMC); and the Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC), located in Lewiston.  From Side’s perspective, all three have failed to live up to their commitments and ideals of their calling, and worse, been downright dismissive of the clients involved in all the churning and chafing of ownership, practices, and facilities.

Mid Coast, in recent years, has been on an expansion/acquisition crusade that at least from our perspective approximates the feeding behavior of crocodiles.  PAMC, never particularly ambitious or aggressive business-wise, in keeping with its roots, was easy prey on Mid Coast’s home turf.  CMMC somehow came into play in a futile attempt to rescue PAMC from imminent total financial collapse.

Going back to last year’s post, we told you how we lost our specialist, who had become an employee of PAMC.  In the letter notifying us of his ‘separation,’ it’s fair to say that the explanation and guidance offered were at best perfunctory.  In fact, his practice in the nearby Parkview Professional Building was shutting down completely.

The practice that included our PCP’s, which operated in the main Parkview building, in the medical office wing, continued to operate more or less ‘normally.’  At one time a privately owned practice, it eventually became Parkview Family Health Care, and all employees became employees of PAMC.

Eventually, as part of dealing with their financial difficulties, CMMC got involved in ownership/management of the practice, at which time it became Brunswick Primary Care, still located in the Parkview office wing.  How that worked we have no clue.  But checks got written to CMMC for services rendered.

A little more than a month ago, Side visited his Primary Care Physician for an annual ‘wellness check.’  At that visit, a memo posted in the office said that one of the Doctors who had been there for years was leaving, with no further details provided.  I mentioned it to the nurse who took me in and took my vitals, asked the usual questions, etc.  She has been there for quite a while.  She told me they were confident that the practice was in a stable position, and no-one was particularly worried.

Our visit with our Doctor went as usual, with no indication given that change was in the air.

A few weeks later, Mrs. Side had an office visit with her Nurse Practitioner at the office, and came home to tell me that Side’s Doctor was leaving, with no details, other than for a non-clinical position with Mid Coast.  Oops….several more dominoes fall.

Yesterday, April 25th, both of us received letters dated April 8th from Central Maine Medical Group stating that Side’s doctor had ‘resigned,’ and that the Brunswick Primary Care practice would be closing in mid-May.  Why it took 17 days for that letter to reach us we can’t say.

So besides your editor having to find a new specialist, both Side and Mrs. Side have to make new arrangements for our primary care.  Having to do so in our mid-70’s with so little notice is not the least bit appreciated, thank you very much.

Service providers in the health field are often referred to as members of the ‘caring professions.’  While we were generally happy and pleased with the care we received from our personal practitioners, we are anything but happy with those managing the major transitions underway, to who knows what end. 

We don’t know whether similar churning is going on all around the country as the Health Care industry adjusts and realigns to Obama Care (the ACA), or that instead, we in this area have been singled out for our own narrowly targeted travails.

What we do know is this.  The management of the one time proposed “Mid Coast Parkview Health System” has been mis-leading and duplicitous in its pronouncements, and progressive disclosure has been the norm.  Public assurances that things would be worked out for the benefit of all seem insensitive at the least in retropsect. 

Respect and consideration for their aggregate client base, which leans heavily toward the senior citizen demographic, has been essentially non-existent, at least from our personal experience.  We assume this reflects on whatever combination of Mid Coast and one time Parkview management has been and is in place over the transition period.

Similarly, the letter we received yesterday, signed by the VP of Practice Operations at the Central Maine Medical Group, is a model of detached, impersonal, and disinterested language.

If this is what ‘caring professionals’ are like in our day, heaven help us and our progeny.  If we had a say in it, which we clearly don’t, you’d be hearing raspberries all around.

Gender concerns invade food science; finally, the wait is over!!

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As we’ve told you before, Other Side has a small cadre of anonymous, strategically placed correspondents who from time to time give us a tip on a ‘breaking’ news story.

The most recent such tip came yesterday, telling us of a segment on Good Morning America on ABC.  It featured two successful young food entrepreneurs, who in the screen clip above with host Robin Roberts, look for all the world like soul-mates of Mark Zuckerberg.

The one on the right has developed pasta made from garbanzo beans, making it gluten free.  The one on the left has developed a collection of “Fluffbutters,” and other healthy snack items.  Fluffbutter is promoted as a healthy alternative to peanut butter and similar products.

We decided to see what all the buzz is about on our own, and found this on a retail web site:

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The 10 ounce jar ‘lists’ for $10.99, but is on sale for $8.99.  To put that in perspective, we have a 40 ounce jar of JIF Peanut Butter on hand, which Mrs. Side believes we paid on the order of $4.00 for, perhaps in a dual pack from BJ’s.

So in round numbers, the Fluffbutter sells for ten times the price of the JIF on a per serving basis.  But as you would expect, and we hope demand, you get so much more in your jar of Fluffbutter.  Just gaze at the label info:

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Do you see that?  The damn stuff is GENDER NEUTRAL!  Where the hell else are you going to find certifiably gender neutral spread to use on your snacks?  It’s also dairy free, gluten free, soy free, and suitable for vegan diets.

What a breakthrough; no doubt commercially available ‘off the shelf’ peanut butters are loaded with dairy products, gluten, and soy.  Both though, do include ‘nuts’.

Why D’s Naturals didn’t mention that the product is catsup free, broken glass free, and corn by-product free we can’t say.

Given societal pre-occupation with matters (or variations, if you prefer) of gender these days, we can only wonder whether trans-gendered Fluffbutter is in the works.  We expect it to have a higher shelf price to cover the cost of the scientific research and genetic modification to the ‘natural ingredients.’  This could be followed by gender-fluid Fluffbutter.  The possibilities are nearly endless if you follow contemporary cultural ‘transitions.’

Just think of the opportunities for revolutionizing our healthy, natural food supply.  And think of the possibilities for new major fields of study at fine institutions like Bowdoin.  Gender and woman’s studies programs are old news these days, but imagine combined emphasis on gender and food sciences.  It might even call for a new building on campus!

In conclusion, anytime you wonder, like we do, if we’re losing our minds, console yourself with the reality that we’ve already traveled a long, longggg way down that slippery road. 

Kind of ironic, we think, that this trip involves ‘nuts.’

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Other Side joins the grievance groupies; freaks out and is in pain; demands appropriate response from local authorities

We often quip to friends, family, and acquaintances that life is one long learning experience.

Which fits well with the premise of this post - that our perfect little town is, in a manner of speaking, an institution of higher learning: Brunswick College, a small, elite(ist), Northeastern progressive arts campus.  Progressive arts seems far more to the point than liberal arts, especially if you understand the original meaning of ‘liberal arts.’  (Hint: the meaning of the word liberal, at least in the political sense, was pretty much the diametric opposite of what it is these days.  Any connection to liberty has been tossed aside.)

Brunswick College, though, is not particularly selective.  Our student body represents the full spectrum of human age, and all the other measures of diversity, as modern sensibilities demand.

We think of our Town Manager as the Chancellor; the Town Council as the Board of Trustees; and our Public Safety team as Campus Security.  We look to them to see to our comfort, tranquility, and sense of self-esteem.  Which includes responding forcefully to anything that might offend us at any level, because we’re fragile in so many ways.  Not to mention that our annual property tax payments are vital to ‘college’ operation, even if our membership in the ‘student body’ is at best incidental.

Which brings us to this item: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3506491/Emory-president-Students-scared-Trump-2016-chalk-signs.html

It begins with these words, which should frighten even the most stoic amongst our readers:

Students at Emory University claim they were frightened and 'in pain' after someone wrote 'Trump 2016' in chalk around campus.

Officials at the Atlanta school, which has an enrollment of more than 14,000, were forced to act after the youngsters claimed their 'safe space' was violated when the messages of 'hate' appeared on sidewalks and buildings.

One student even said she 'feared for her life' as she thought a 'KKK rally' was going on, while others were scared a mass shooting was going to take place and wouldn't walk alone. 

Jim Wagner, president of the 19th century establishment, wrote Tuesday that the students viewed the scrawling as intimidation, and they voiced 'genuine concern and pain' as a result.

He set up an investigation after members of the student government wrote to him and slammed the university's response, prompting a meeting that was shrouded in protests. 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3506491/Emory-president-Students-scared-Trump-2016-chalk-signs.html#ixzz46VDMJZx2
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While some might find the chalking on the stairs shown above disturbing, we submit that the image just below is a hundred times more threatening; nay, a thousand times worse.  It is indicative of what we now see shamelessly displayed on the Brunswick College campus.

We saw it recently on Brunswick’s Quad, and it’s got us all verklempt.  It’s micro-aggressive, and has triggered all sorts of feelings of being in dangerous territory.  The worst of it is that we suddenly feel like we’re back in college, and need to get our grievance gravitas buffed back up for present day use in this most hostile of towns.

We have no choice but to ask that the Brunswick College Human Rights Task Force take our concerns into consideration, and address them in upcoming reports.  They might consider these quotes from others as they do so:

"The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive." -- Thomas Sowell

Kenneth Minogue writing in National Review, Nov. 18, 1991:

An ideological movement is a collection of people many of whom could hardly bake a cake, fix a car, sustain a friendship or a marriage, or even do a quadratic equation, yet they believe they know how to rule the world. The university, in which it is possible to combine theoretical pretension with comprehensive ineptitude, has become the natural habitat of the ideological enthusiast. A kind of adventure playground, carefully insulated from reality in order to prevent absent-minded professors from bumping into things as they explore transcendental realms, has become the institutional base for civilizational self-hatred.

We hope and trust that you will bond with us as we call for emotional justice, and look for the town to provide safe space and emotional counseling to help us deal with the outrage and endangerment we’re feeling.

And we can’t wait to see what the Human Rights Task Force reports out.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Bubbleheads reporting for gender sensitivity training, Mr. Madam

                                        

On those occasions when Blogger’s Block besieges us, we sometimes find ourselves thanking our lucky stars for the Bowdoin Borient, the would be campus newspaper at the nearby college, operated by members of the student body, whatever that means in the postmodern era.

Take this week’s issued, dated today, April 1st.  It’s possible we could be falling for a ‘fools’ day’ trap set by the editorial staff, but two things argue against that possibility.  First, playing an April Fools Day prank on readers would infer at least a modest sense of humor, and based on our experience over the years, we’re pretty confident humor is not an aspect of anything inside the Bowdoin College bubble.

Secondly, the articles that caught our attention in this issue are entirely in keeping with what we have seen in the way of cultural and editorial ‘norms’ in all things Bowdoin.  In other words, this issue differs not a whit from all the others we’ve perused, except for its date.

So let’s begin with a reference to our most recent post, nearly two weeks ago, titled thus:

Appropriately Inappropriate: the self-inflicted trials and tribulations of those inside the Bowdoin Bubble

The front page of the current edition includes this headline:

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It contains this passage (http://bowdoinorient.com/article/11074):

Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Rick Ganong said that in the weeks following the party, his office has received over 400 formal comments from alumni and parents. The “overwhelming majority” of these complaints expressed disapproval of how the incident was handled.

That recent post, as readers know, made sport of things inside the Bubble, especially as they related to the response.  We’re not a media consultant, or a statistical expert in public reactions.  None-the-less, for a small institution like Bowdoin, we’re guessing ‘400 formal comments’ is a pretty overwhelming response.  Which we suggest lends significant credence to this passage in that prior post:

Leading us to suggest that the icing upon the sponge cake of this post is the delicious irony that according to published reports, the Grand High Poobahs of Bowdoin’s administration have wet the very beds they sleep in.  On more than one recent occasion, they’ve approved/sponsored the very “cultural appropriation” they so virtuously despise.  Post-modernism is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?

But we’re reminded of the old saying: ‘the proof of the public bed-wetting is in the effect on alumni donations.’

Next, we’d like to highlight this suprisingly revealing article (http://bowdoinorient.com/article/11056,) particularly as it relates to total lack of self-awareness on the part of the student body, if not abject cluelessness.  At least a ‘segment’ of the student body.

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Forgive us a moment of pettiness, but if this was our daughter writing, from her lofty slot at a high end elite ($60,000 plus per year) liberal arts college, we’d call her home and tell her to find something else to do with our money.  Several passages in the column rise up and slap us in the face, including these:

according to Natalie Kitroeff in the New York Times, “many young women are finding that casual sex does not bring the physical pleasure that men more often experience.” The hookup is “over” when the guy “finishes.” This misconception is true here at Bowdoin, but there exists a more serious problem. Frankly, many of the men are so detached and therefore sexually inept that physical pleasure is beside the point. The real inequality that exists in heterosexual hookups at Bowdoin is rooted in disrespect. Men have ceased to treat women in the polite and courteous manner we deserve and have begun to view us as disposable playthings.

Hookups are not a service.

This particular male unjustly deemed my friend and me disposable and still is blind to how objectifying and deplorable his treatment of us was.

As a community and a generation, we need to ask ourselves how we let this happen and how we can establish a safe environment going forward.

I am simply advocating change. Men should not, under any circumstance, treat us like we are disposable objects. There needs to be a complete shift in our hookup culture.

The gender inequality that our hookup scene perpetuates is disgusting. It is absolutely time for men to treat women at Bowdoin with the respect we deserve.

(note that the author is a ‘senior,’  whatever that means in this day and age)

Consider these thoughts in the context of a campus and student newspaper that recently indulged these items :

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This one (http://bowdoinorient.com/article/11056) features this graphic:

                               

And this related item (http://bowdoinorient.com/article/9962)

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Anyone familiar with this “production” knows that it is about ‘women’ getting on stage and waxing theatric about ‘down there.’

And then members of their cohort have the unmitigated gall to talk about being objectified?  Does the word ‘feminism’ mean anything in the common sense area?

Can you say “Duhhh” loyal readers?  Are we to take these fragile flowers seriously?

On the flip side, so to speak, the same Borient issue addresses the merit of “Unmasking masculinity” in an editorial (http://bowdoinorient.com/article/11072.)  A passage or two:

Recently, discussions about the potential dangers of masculinity have been coming out of the woodwork on campus. On Wednesday, the Bowdoin Men’s Group, partnering with the Women’s Resource Center and the Center for Gender Violence Prevention and Education, hosted a screening of “The Mask You Live In.” The film explores the limiting ways in which masculinity is socially constructed and taught to boys from an early age. Many of the ideas it addressed are not foreign to our campus. For instance, in her article for this week’s opinion section, Skye Aresty ’16 calls attention to what she sees as an unhealthy and unequal hookup culture at Bowdoin fueled by men exerting a sense of entitlement over women.

We’re not sure how “gender violence” is differentiated from all the other forms of violence, but we can tell you we don’t feel ‘socially constructed.’  Then look at this passage:

As Professor Judith Casselberry pointed out in the discussion following the screening of “The Mask You Live In,” autonomous spaces, that is, spaces where people can talk with people like them, can be incredibly valuable. This is not to downplay either the importance of incorporating diverse experiences into conversations, or the necessity of recognizing that many of the people hurt by toxic displays of masculinity are not men. The Men’s Group is a good effort by a small group of students to recognize that issues of masculinity—including sex, fatherhood, emotional expression and mental illness—often go undiscussed, and to facilitate healthy conversations in spaces specifically designated for this purpose.

Notice how insiduously the statements infer that ‘toxic displays of masculinity’ (though not all by ‘men’!!!) are a concern, and that safe, designated ‘spaces’ are extremely valuable to address these ‘experiences.’

We’re not sure what the term “Orwellian” means, but we have a hunch it’s creeping right here into our very own perfect little town and its discourse, led by the cultural architects and renovators on the Bowdoin campus.  Think Human Rights Task Force.  Or overpriced gobbledygook spewing from coddled academics.  And degrees in “studies” of various sorts.

Please be careful where you pee, lest you be acused of a display of toxic masculinity.  Such behavior is reserved for the ‘boys will be boys’ men of Bowdoin, who frequently find public settings to be their preferred choice.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Appropriately Inappropriate: the self-inflicted trials and tribulations of those inside the Bowdoin Bubble

    

Appropriate is an interesting word; it’s both an adjective and a verb, each with several distinct meanings.  And it’s the root of other words: appropriately and appropriation, which likewise have multiple diverse meanings.

Lately it’s gained featured stature in the Bowdoin Bubble, and other enlightened spaces, in the term ‘cultural appropriation.’

You do know what the Bowdoin Bubble is, don’t you?  If you follow things in Brunswick vis-a-vis Bowdoin College, you should have heard the term frequently over the years.  Our take is that students use the term to suggest a hermetically sealed environment.  One in which they are intellectually, socially, politically, and culturally confined by the college establishment during their matriculation.  It has as much to do with being held captive, whether one realizes it or not, as it does to do with preventing the fresh air of outside thoughts from polluting the campus atmosphere they are expected to breathe.

                                           

Most of us over the years have seen Bobbleheads here and there.  They’re those goofy figurines with heads mounted on springs so they can move humorously about with the slightest disturbance.  They were once popular on dashboards or the rear package shelf of automobiles.

Town jester that we are, we’ve decided to play off this classic and call the denizens of the Bowdoin campus Bubbleheads.  Given their frequent mention of existing within the Bowdoin Bubble, the moniker seems poetically apt. We trust readers and the Bowdoin community will agree, and embrace the label.

You know us; we reflect on things and look for more logical, precise ways to explain things to you.  Here’s what we came up with during our latest reverie on this subject:

The Bowdoin Bubble:

A unique combination of institutional elitism; administration and faculty pomposity and virtue signalling; and student body self-absorption, immaturity, victimization syndrome, and assorted other trending neuroses of our day.  The result is a toxic and explosive atmosphere where one can barely breathe without threatening the delicate balance and fragile sensibilities of the campus ecosphere.

The “air” inside the bubble consists primarily of obsessive social justice warrior rhetoric, which has the effect of controlling one’s voice, even when one’s mind knows it shouldn’t. Sort of like an inverse truth serum.  This maintains pressure inside at acceptable levels, and helps those submerged in the deep dark underwater canyons of controlled speech and thought avoid the Bowdoin Bends. 

The bubble behaves like an ideal echo chamber, in which officially approved speech and thought reverberate over and over, but disapproved speech and thought disappear into a black hole.  It has multiple safe spaces, but only for officially recognized victimization classes approved and funded by the college establishment.

Those of us on the outside don’t want to get too close to the bubble, inasmuch as it has been known to suck the unwary in, quickly infecting them with early stages of Bubblehead Syndrome.  Intervention and lengthy deprogramming can be required to overcome it.

Drawing a spotlight to our perfect little town, the Bubbleheads have recently been making a big splash in National media outlets, thanks mostly to simple hats that have drawn attention to the workings of elite institutions of higher education like Bowdoin.  Without whom, we remind you, Brunswick would be nothing.

                          

For example, there’s this:  Bowdoin Wrongdoing

We really hope you’ll read it; “The Scrapbook” is a section of The Weekly Standard that often pokes fun at modren (sic) day cultural phenomena, as we like to do ourselves.  It contains references to coverage in the foreign press, among other things.  A few passages:

In early March, a story made its way into the national media that could have come out of Monty Python’s Flying Circus or some other absurdist British comedy revue of the mid-20th century. A group of Bowdoin College students were invited to a "tequila party" on February 20. Someone handed out sombreros.

Two days later, in an email sent to all students under the heading "Investigation," dean of student affairs Tim Foster wrote: "It has come to my attention that an act of ethnic stereotyping may have occurred at the College over the weekend." Foster mentioned that he had been in contact with college president Clayton Rose, who in turn wrote that Bowdoin must be a place where "race, ethnicity and other aspects of identity are not mocked or stereotyped, but rather are understood and celebrated."

On February 24 the Bowdoin students' general assembly voted unanimously to condemn this act of "cultural appropriation" and to demand that administrators establish a "supportive space for students who have been or feel targeted." The assembly made clear that it "adheres to the definition of cultural appropriation as the manifestation of racism where there exists a power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systemically oppressed by that dominant group, perpetuate racist stereotypes, and/or misrepresent a people's culture." In other words: They made fun of my hat.

And this:

But, since it is our country, forgive us if we don't LOL as readily as our British colleagues. Bowdoin, a once-great American institution, is not being hypersensitive and ridiculous. It is being authoritarian in deadly earnest. Notice that the assembly's complaints of cultural appropriation were followed by a summons to intolerance and retribution: "The Assembly furthermore asserts that such behavior as displayed on 20 February 2016 and the anonymous attacks in the aftermath are unacceptable and do not reflect inclusive values. Such behavior will not and should not be tolerated by the Bowdoin community." The resolution recommended that the college "develop processes for punitive measures to be undertaken against those involved in such incidents."

Punitive measures appear to have been carried out. An op-ed in the Bowdoin Orient alleged that "punishments were given without any opportunity for students to defend themselves. The girls who threw the party are being kicked out of their room and forced to move, as well as being placed on social probation." Those who attended the party had been reprimanded, the correspondent alleged.

It is no wonder that further details are hard to come by, or that students who disagree with the political activists among them have resorted to anonymous posts on social media. The administration and the vigilantes of conformism it has empowered mean to stifle contrary views and have the disciplinary tools to do so. They are not whimpering and hypersensitive. They have got an imaginary grievance in their fevered heads and they are carrying it into the public square in hopes of finding people whose lives they can wreck. Certain Bowdoin parents must by now feel they are paying $60,000 a year in order to subject their children to persecution. Are they wrong?

None other than the “highly respected” Washington Post has written at least twice on the subject.  In case you think we’re pulling that fake moustache of yours, you can look here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/rampage/wp/2016/03/04/bowdoin-update-on-facebook-school-flaunted-photos-of-alumni-students-in-school-provided-sombreros/

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And here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/party-culture/2016/03/03/fdb46cc4-e185-11e5-9c36-e1902f6b6571_story.html

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In the above, you’ll see not only the image this post opens with, but several others that are curious, to say the least.

Then there’s this:  https://bajadock.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/snowflake-students-protest-sombreros/

Which contains these words:

The school’s reaction seems especially arbitrary when you learn that — on the very same night of the “tequila party,” just across campus — Bowdoin held its annual, administration-sanctioned “Cold War” party. Students arrived dressed in fur hats and coats to represent Soviet culture; one referred to herself as “Stalin,” making light of a particularly painful era in Slavic history.

What principle makes one theme deserving of school sponsorship and another of dorm expulsion? Perhaps race is the bright line, but not long ago people of Slavic heritage weren’t considered white either. Does intent matter? What about distance (geographic or chronological) from the culture being turned into a party theme?

These are worthwhile questions, ones tailor-made for academic debate. But they are also ones that Bowdoin’s students — like students on other campuses roiled by cultural appropriation controversies — now avoid discussing publicly for fear of being labeled a bigot. Many have instead taken to Yik Yak, an anonymous social media platform that the administration has repeatedly urged them to abandon, because anonymity lends itself to ugliness.

But this necessary conversation has no place else to go so long as colleges remain unsafe spaces for free and open dialogue.

Leading us to suggest that the icing upon the sponge cake of this post is the delicious irony that according to published reports, the Grand High Poobahs of Bowdoin’s administration have wet the very beds they sleep in.  On more than one recent occasion, they’ve approved/sponsored the very “cultural appropriation” they so virtuously despise.  Post-modernism is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?

If only it had been in effect during our college years, we could have ‘evolved’ Ohm’s Law (V = IxR) to Poppycock’s Law: V = W*xIxR, where W* is the Whatever Constant, which can be anything we’d like it to be.  We’d have aced most of our Double E courses!

The Bowdoin establishment, predictably, has been profuse in their virtue signalling in recent reports and statements, working feverishly to “wipe clean” the memory banks of past months and school years.

Is the punishment recently meted out to party-hearty students sufficient atonement for the administration’s own mortal sins?  Or should the juveniles on high be forced out of their offices, and placed on administrative probation?

             

Given the administration’s reunion gaffe, we think appropriate members of the administration should be perp-walked across campus, and made to lie prostrate in the center of the quad until such time as they can recognize and admit to what knuckleheads they are.  Submitting resignations would be ample proof of their change of heart.  The Board of Trustees, heavily comprised of one percenters, should demand this response.

On another note, we can’t help but wonder if students behaving sedately over a weekend could be accused of appropriating the culture of normal adulthood.  Leading to the need for Bowdoin officials to create a safe space for town residents who exhibit such minority behaviors.  Think about the possibilities:

A New, Less Hostile Form of Cultural Appropriation:  A Grown Up Party. 

This party will run from 3 pm on Friday afternoon until 11 pm on Sunday night.  Among other diversions, the party will include these fun activities and lessons in real life:

Pay-day:  Each party goer will be issued an identical amount of Monopoly Money with which to navigate the rest of the party.  After all, everyone deserves to be equal and receive their fair share.

Budget Segment:  Players will sit down and project their total expenditures for the rest of the party, and how they’ll allocate available funds to manage them.  Among other things, they’ll have to decide how much to spend on food, clothing, shelter, utilities, insurance, health-care, entertainment, transportation, digital services, etc.

Home Care Segment:  Party-goers will be given a sinkful of dirty dishes and a stack of bills to deal with.  They’ll also be assigned a plot of real estate on the campus, for which they are responsible.  They’ll have to rake leaves, mow the lawn, and pull weeds.  And then they’ll have to do it over and over every week.

Common Good Contributions:  Local, state, and federal officials will man tables in a central space through which party-goers must pass with their available Monopoly Money on display.  Officials will pluck currency from their hands as they see fit to finance whatever it is they wish to do.  Whiners will be ostracized and told that they ‘get what they pay for.’

Running Errands and Other Trivial Pursuits:  Students will have four hours to get an oil change, pick up their dry cleaning, shop for groceries, get their teeth cleaned, stop by town offices to pay property taxes and auto excise tax, pay bills, and work on their income tax filings.

Work:  This segment will include two hours of making phone calls, filling out various reporting documents, and listening to others drone on in Powerpoint Presentations, all while being affirming and non-judgmental.  Diversity training will add another two hours.

Social Interaction:  Party-goers will be required to turn over their digital devices, sit around a table with others, and spend two hours engaging in eye contact and verbal communications while doing so.

Rest and Relaxation:  Finally, a reward for the above efforts.  All in attendance will get to sit down on crappy old couches in their underwear and watch TV.  Shows like Dancing With B Listers, American Wannabes, and Dumbass Reality series with riveting scripts like  “If ah cain’t get this here still a’workin raht, ah may hafta get anutha year outta them thar tars on mah pickup.”

While we can’t speak for our readers and others in town, we give our solemn promise not to charge those attending this party with cultural appropriation of adult realities.

In light of all the foregoing, we’re a little worried that Brunswick could one day be known as the setting for the Bowdoin Cultural Insensitivity Witch Hunt, in which the accused were dipped in the hot oil of campus socio-political orthodoxy to see if they could survive the deep-frying.

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Frightening as this may sound, we remind you that Salem, Massachusetts has reaped the tourist rewards of similar silliness for hundreds of years, so there may be a silver lining to this kerfuffle.  We can even envision NNEPRA’s promotion of Downeaster packages to Brunswick, home of the “famous” Bowdoin Party Costume Trials.  Can’t you imagine vendors on the Town Mall selling Sombreros, Tam O’Shanters, Leprechaun (Irish fairy) toppers, Indian Headresses, and outsized Gangsta’ baseball caps and gold chains?

Color us outrageous for stereotyping Bubblehead culture if you must, but when you shoot yourself in the foot over and over, you’ve got to expect people to start selling bullet-proof shoes.

Before we say Goodnight, Mrs. Callabash, we should let you know there is an occasional voice of reason inside the Bubble, who we note, pays a price for his contrariness.  Read here: http://bowdoinorient.com/article/11019.  We warn you; what you read will be encouraging on the one hand, while confirming of the worst of our impressions on the other hand.  Such is the reality of our day, especially inside the Bubble.

We’ll leave you with these additional images mined from the reports cited above:

Note the fake moustaches, sombreros, Bowdoin Reunion tee-shirts, etc.  And make this final observation as well.

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The Bowdoin Bubble is like a snow globe: give it a little shake, and you’ll get endless amusement watching the flakes inside move every which way as they seek a collective equilibrium at the bottom of the globe.