Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“Freedom isn’t free!”

               

Hell; in Brunswick, it isn’t even affordable.

The title above is a reminder that the American experiment, based on personal liberty and Government by consent of the governed, carries with it a cost to maintain those ideals.

As long as we’re into tried and true bromides, we might as well roll out “all politics is local.”

This post combines the two, more or less, at least as our idiosyncratic intellect sees it.

About six months ago, we posted this item, which we hope you will re-read to provide context for this post.  It talks of Brunswick School Superintendent Paul Perzanoski’s memo to his staff back then.

A related post can be found here.  It’s amazing how soon we forget what transpired in ‘the public square,’ even just slight months ago.

At that time, we submitted a “Freedom of Access” request to the School Department that read as follows:

To: James Grant, Brunswick School Board Chair

cc: School Board Members; School Superintendent

Subject: Freedom of Access Act Request (13 M.R.S.A. § 401 et seq.)

Date: 10 September 2012

From: Pem Schaeffer

Inspired by School Board Member Michelle Small’s thoughts on transparency in a column published last year (attached), I hereby request that the following documents be made available for my inspection:

1) Any and all School Board, School Department, and School Administration documents, including emails, memos, and any other forms of written communications that contain any of the words governor, LePage, governor’s office, Bowen, or legislature, and dated beginning 1 December 2010 up to the present.

2) Superintendent Paul Perzanoski’s contract(s) and all related performance reviews.

3) Any drafts of the August 17, 2012 Perzanoski memo to staff in which he criticized the governor.

4) Any and all School Board, School Department, and School Administration documents, including emails, memos, and any other forms of written communications containing the words Schaeffer (or any version thereof,) or Other Side blog (or any version thereof) dated from June 1, 2009 up to the present.

5) Copies of any past or present contracts with Systems in Sync of East Thetford, VT, and any written communications, including emails, related thereto.

I further request that you direct the Superintendent to provide the financial impact data of the 102 position cuts that were discussed in presentations made by him and Board Member Rich Ellis in budget presentations this spring, as he said he would in an email dated April 19, 2012 (attached.)

Documents may be made available for inspection electronically, and I will provide a flash (thumb) drive to do so when the items have been compiled. Depending on the results of the inspection, I may request copies of certain documents, and am prepared to pay for such services.

Please advise when the documents are ready to be inspected.

Thank you,

Pem Schaeffer

798-6919

pemster4062@yahoo.com

Michelle Small’s column read as follows:

Don’t cast a cloud over ‘Sunshine Week’

Wednesday March 16th, 2011

Michelle A. Small
Brunswick Times Record
March 15, 2011

Gov. Paul LePage has recently come under fire in connection with his formation of a business advisory group. Organizations as varied as the Maine Civil Liberties Union and the Maine Heritage Policy Center are upset that the governor closed this group’s proceedings and records to the public. The irony is that Gov. LePage had just proclaimed March 13-19 as “Sunshine Week.”

Sunshine Week is a seven-day celebration of the importance of transparency in government and freedom of information. The event is always held during the week of James Madison’s birthday (March 16). Among the milestones celebrated are the federal Freedom of Information Act and the 50 separate state acts.

In Maine, the act is called the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), 13 M.R.S.A. § 401 et seq. It requires that all public proceedings be open to the public; that public notice be given for all proceedings; and that public documents be available for inspection and copying.

Every meeting and every document at each level of government — state, county and municipal — is public unless there is a specific exception written in Maine law. The presumption is that the people’s business should be done in public.

Public proceedings are defined as “transactions of any functions affecting any or all citizens of the State.” They include legislative hearings, county commissioners’ meetings, town council meetings and school board meetings.

Notice of a public proceeding must be given “in ample time to allow public attendance.” This notice must be circulated in a manner “reasonably calculated” to inform people served by the government body of the proceeding.

Public documents are defined as “any written, printed or graphic matter or any mechanical or electronic data compilation from which information can be obtained.” They include meeting minutes, tax assessment records, financial statements, union contracts, correspondence and e-mail.

To request access to public documents, members of the public need only ask. If that does not work, they should file a written FOAA request. Examples are available at www.mfoic.org. A government body must provide access to the documents within a “reasonable period of time.”

If a public official denies the request, ask to see the statute that makes the document unavailable to the public. If the official cannot point to a statute, ask to see a supervisor or an elected official. Requests may sometimes be denied because public officials do not fully understand FOAA.

All elected officials, including the governor, are required to complete training on the requirements of FOAA within 120 days of taking the oath of office. Many high-level public officials are also required to complete the training.

There are some exceptions to the Freedom of Access Act set forth in statute. Portions of public meetings may be held in executive session. That means that government bodies may privately discuss matters such as personnel issues, student suspensions, real estate transactions and labor negotiations.

Likewise, there are certain documents that are not available to the public. For example, documents related to labor negotiations, medical records, juvenile records and documents describing security plans are kept private.

Over the course of an eight-year cycle, the Legislature must review exceptions and determine if they are still necessary. According to the statute, each exception must be as “narrowly tailored” as possible.

Government bodies that violate FOAA are subject to fines of up to $500. A plaintiff who prevails in a lawsuit against a government body that violates FOAA may be awarded attorney’s fees and costs.

By executive order, Gov. LePage exempted his Business Advisory Council from application of FOAA. His action was permitted by an exception in the statute and was, therefore, within the letter of the law.

However, his action was not within the spirit of Sunshine Week, which emphasizes the importance of transparency in government. As a result of the executive order, members of Maine’s public will be denied access to the comments and recommendations of the Advisory Council.

Surely, this council will be engaged in conducting the people’s business. Members of the public should have access to proceedings and documents that will inevitably spawn legislation that affects Maine business.

Following criticism about the executive order, Gov. LePage was interviewed by MPBN and said, “National Sunshine Week — yeah, I know and I’m told there might be a storm.”

Maine’s public hopes the comment was truly a joke and that the LePage administration will honor the requirements of FOAA.

Michelle A. Small represents the League of Women Voters on the Board of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition. She lives in Brunswick.

Now the good part.  Here’s the response to our request from Superintendent Perzanoski as posted on Scribd.

As you can see, his estimate for complying with our request ranges from $84,000 to $168,000.

So…as we said in the beginning, “freedom isn’t free.”  Frankly, we wonder whether the Super intends to pad the budget with funds earned by charging for information. 

Readers, of course, could always send us a check for two, three, four, or even five thousand dollars, which we promise to accumulate in a fund to pay for the information we requested.

And you can trust us on this, because we’re not like all the others.

Should you wonder why we’re only now getting around to posting on this turn of events from September of last year, all we can say is start your own blog, and at some point you’ll come to understand.

Or maybe you won’t, because you’re too busy protesting on Saturdays, or working to get our town councilors to apply pressure on the Federal Government for a Constitutional Amendment.

     

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Other Side to Brunswick Town Council: Pass Resolution Making Obama President For Life

            

Ha!  We thought this title might catch your attention.  Now that we have it, let us explain what we’re talking about.

A week ago, inspired by the successful public campaign demanding our Town Council pass a resolution supporting a Constitutional Amendment to invalidate the US Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United v. FEC, we came before the Council with a statement of our own.

Here it is in it’s entirety:

· Good evening. I’m Mr. Schaeffer from Crestview Lane. And I blog at othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com.

· One of the things that struck me about the action you recently took on Citizens United is that for years we’ve been told that you can’t do anything about the school budget, but yet you can press for an amendment to the US Constitution! How curious and selective your powers are.

· Could I please have a show of hands for how many of you know that Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion for Citizens United? (let the record show no hands were raised.)

· And how many know that the opinion is 86 pages long in pdf form?  (let the record show no hands were raised; but one councilor gave us a knowing nod.)

· And a show of hands for how many of you read the opinion before deciding which way to vote?  (let the record show no hands were raised.)

· That’s interesting, because it was written by Justice Kennedy, and it’s 57 pages long in pdf form.

· As long as you’ve decided to expand your jurisdiction into national political activism, I think it’s only fair you tell us how high the bar is for passing a resolution on something my friends and I support.

  • How many citizens must speak at Council meetings, and how many signatures on a petition are the magic numbers? Is it 5 and 200, or 6 and 500, or just what?
  • It would be ever so much easier for the rest of us if you codified the numbers in the rules of council order.

· Some of my ideas are as follows:

  • The Council should pass a resolution endorsing a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the Federal Income Tax. As long as meddling, busy-bodying, and council activism in somebody else’s business is acceptable, why not?
  • How about an amendment to make Barack Obama President for Life? Is there any doubt the population of Brunswick would support this in at least the numbers they supported the Citizens United petition?
  • And then an amendment to provide that labor unions and various associations are not entitled to the entirety of protections or rights of natural persons, specifically so that expenditure of their money to influence elections is not a form of constitutionally protected speech.
  • Brunswick needs a buttle law to add to the bottle law. This would call for a $2 a pack deposit on cigarette butts, or 10 cents each. Imagine how this might clean up our streets, sidewalks, and gutters.
  • We need a Constitutional Amendment to stop George Soros from spending his ill-gotten billions infiltrating American society with his collectivist agenda.

· I’d like to cite some language from the town charter, Section 101. - Incorporation. The inhabitants of the Town of Brunswick shall continue to be a municipal corporation called the Town of Brunswick, Maine.

· From Section 102. – Powers of the town.

  • (a) The town shall have, exercise and enjoy all the rights, immunities, powers and privileges of municipal corporations incorporated under the laws of the State of Maine. It shall be subject to all the duties, liabilities and obligations provided for herein, or otherwise pertaining to or incumbent upon such municipal corporations.
  • (b) The town may enact by-laws, regulations and ordinances consistent with the Constitution and laws of the State of Maine and establish penalties for the breach thereof as provided by the laws of the State of Maine.

· I note that at the 22 January council meeting this year, Councilor Favreau moved, and Councilor Richardson seconded a motion to affirm support for hiring a lobbying team. The motion carried 8 to 0. So in other words, the corporation that is Brunswick is spending money on political free speech, as if it was a ‘natural person.’ Odd coincidence, that. But I suppose such irony is lost on most of you and the town.

· Thanks for this chance to speak. And you can find my blog at othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com.

It took all of 4 or 5 minutes to deliver our remarks.  Each time we asked for a show of hands, all councilors in attendance sat on their hands.  This may have been because they could not answer in the affirmative, or because they refuse as a matter of principle to respond to public questions, which would put them on the record for their stance.

Except for one councilor, who, we suppose, wanted to earn our respect for having studied the decision.  Just like that, our trap snapped shut.  The councilor nodded at us that he knew the decision was 86 pages long, except it wasn’t.  It was, as you read above, 57 pages long.

Oops!  And so we are left wondering where our councilors come down on major federal issues of the day, which, of course, is their greatest responsibility.

Given the elective bias here in the Town of Perfect, we submit this graphic to provide inspiration for a new poster that tells the story of Brunswick.

You may think we’re being absurd, and so did we when we came up with the gambit for opening this post.  But try googling ‘Obama President for Life’ and see what you get for results.  Then tell us we’re being absurd. 

If you do, it’s you who are being absurd, not us.

    

Friday, February 22, 2013

Occupy Bowdoin? How long must we wait?

Earlier this week, we suggested that our loyal Maine Street Occupy zealots, pictured just below, should join with the justice-minded students at our local Ivory Tower to Occupy Bowdoin, because there were more than enough affronts to essential human fairness evident in the financials of the Bowdoin corporation to more than justify an extended and well-staffed occupation of the campus.

At one level, we had our editorial tongue in cheek.  Yet at another level, we have come to believe that the wealth, privilege, and elitism characteristic of Bowdoin, and all the others just like it, including Bates and Colby here in Maine, provide a perfect target for social protest from our local activists.  At least if they’re going to be true to their beliefs, and not give a pass to local SOBs just because they are Brunswick’s SOBs.

In other words, blatant hypocrisy is the crux of the issue.

 DSCN0425

In that earlier post, we focused on the extra-ordinarily high compensation of Bowdoin’s top earners, and the very generous property tax exemptions received by the college.  Some of you may argue that Bowdoin is not a ‘corporation.’  To you we say, make your case, remembering that even the Town of Brunswick is, by law, a corporation.

As we followed up on our research, we came across this item:  http://bowdoinorient.com/article/7205

In the article, you’ll see Bowdoin’s IRS Form 990 for taxable year 2009.  Note that this form is for an ‘Organization Exempt From Income Tax.’

We’re not a tax attorney, or a CPA, or anything close.  But we do confess to an insatiable thirst for knowledge.  At least in those areas that attract our interest.

So we want to highlight the figures stated on this form 990.  First, Bowdoin’s gross receipts for 2009 are shown as $501,731,000.  ‘Total revenues’ for 2009 are listed as app. $159 million, and ‘total expenses’ as app. $148 million.

‘Total assets’ are shown as $1.14 billion, and ‘net assets’ are listed as $947 million, or $50 million more than the prior year.

Simple country blogger that we are, we take this to mean that this ‘non-profit’ entity, which pays no income taxes, and virtually no property taxes, is sitting on $1 billion in assets, on which it earns very sizable income.  We take this to mean cash assets, not property value.

It wasn’t too long ago we remember reading that their investment fund had made a profit of $200 million plus on a base of less than $500 million.

Did you make that kind of return on your IRA or 401(k)?  More importantly, if you had, could you exclude that gain from income taxes?

We don’t think so, Tim.

If we were to adopt the rhetoric and bluster of the capitalism despising, free market hating, we are the 99% occupiers, we’d be moved to ask:

- How many hundreds of thousands of middle class families and their children had to go without so Hedge Fund Manager and loyal alum Stanley Druckenmiller could amass his multi-billion dollar personal fortune?

- How many hundreds of thousands of working families had to be oppressed so Bowdoin College could earn a $200 million plus return on it’s endowment fund (40% plus!) in a recent year?

- Why does Bowdoin, a fortress of wealth and the wealthiest, continue to benefit from tax breaks and loopholes, while the oppressed working families of America have to carry the burden of financing our Government on their shoulders?

- Why isn’t Bowdoin, and every similar ‘Corporation’ being asked to pay their ‘fair share’ to begin with, and then ‘a little more’ so that the President doesn’t have to enact his draconian 57 step program to destroy the nation next week?

Well, there you have it.  A rant based on what we see and hear from the socially conscious multitudes here in Brunswick.

To which we say, the next time anyone affiliated with Bowdoin, in any capacity, including faculty members spending their working hours organizing Brunswick Community United, suggest that local taxpayers aren’t ready to pay their ‘fair share,’ they can stuff it where the sun don’t shine.

Or they can make their case where the sun DOES shine, which we would argue is right here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Isn’t it time for Occupy Bowdoin collaboration?

Brunswick, as readers know better than Side, is an ‘interesting’ town.  Oh, we could be trendier and call it a ‘community space,’ but we’re not into such eumphemisms.

We’re blessed with any number of protesters, advocates, and general show-er-uppers, ready at a moment’s notice to carry signs and say their peace, even if they’re not sure what it is they’re protesting against, advocating for, or showing up to support.  If you have to ask, then you aren’t down for the struggle.

To make our point, as we returned Saturday from breaking fast, we came across this scene on Maine Street, which has become as dependable as death and tax increases.

DSCN0425

Presumably the loyal few have a bone to pick with Bank of America, considering it the epitome of all that evil capitalism, free markets, and corporations are doing to oppress ‘working families’ and earn obscene profits on the backs of the less fortunate.

You might remember this larger example of their efforts here in town:

Check out these comments posted with the video:

Prayer won't get you our wealth back from the capitalists. We need to demand the wealth that we, the working class, created! That means mass strikes, re-appropriations from banks, bossnapping, and other direct actions.

This is what Democracy looks like!

A peaceful and informative demonstration by the Maine People's Alliance.

“Bossnapping” anyone?  “Re-appropriations from banks?”  Where can we find classes for these here in town?  Or should we just read up on John Dillinger?

Shifting gears just a bit, we’re well aware that as a resident of Brunswick, we’re expected to regularly genuflect at the altar of Bowdoin College.  As a matter of fact, the Brunswick Downtown Association just named the College ‘Member of the Year.’

Bowdoin Campus

It’s a lovely and impressive place; there’s no denying it.  Not to mention that its optics (quad, etc) remind us of our years at our Alma Mater, which was founded 30 years before Bowdoin.  Pish, you say.

It’s fashionable to believe that Brunswick is nothing without Bowdoin.  We were reminded of this by an undergraduate not many months ago.  Do you think he came here believing this, or that he was infused with the notion during his matriculation?  Are you serious?  Here are the high points of his testimony:

You know what's awesome about Brunswick? Bowdoin College. Without Bowdoin, what is Brunswick? 

However, the point is Brunswick thrives on the presence of Bowdoin College, both financially and culturally.

Here at Other Side offices, we are ever so grateful for the personal financial benefit we’ve experienced.  More about that later.  As to the cultural benefit, we’re struggling to find the right words, especially since engineers can barely spell culture.

We aren’t struggling to find these words: the campus is awash in self-righteous pontification about the common good, multiculturalism, diversity, social justice, economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, environmental justice, food justice, fair share justice, climate justice, cosmic justice, polar bear justice, energy justice, and numerous other mantras du jour that eventually take one to the Occupy movement and the great divide between the 1% and the 99%.  The latter emphasizing income distribution justice.

Which makes it an ‘intellectual curiosity’ when one reads of the College’s ‘top earners,’ as we did in a recent edition of the Bowdoin Orient.

Total compensation for the Bowdoin staff mentioned ranges from just under $800,000 at the top, to nearly $500,000 for the President, and three other administrators pulling in packages in the range of $300,000.  The highest paid faculty members have total compensation in excess of $200,000.

While the President’s wife just stepped down from her Cabinet post at the SBA, and is already being mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor, one would think that the President’s family had a very good year financially, and find themselves comfortably in the 1% category.

Good for them all; they’re at the top of their professions, and earning rewards commensurate with their abilities, achievements, and positions.  While many of us see nothing wrong with this picture, it would seem to make them brothers and sisters of the ‘greedy capitalist pigs’ (GCPs) we’re sure students hear plenty about in their classes, and our friends with signs on Maine Street surely despise.  Funny how that works.

The difference between the Bowdoin top earners and the GCP’s is that if you’re going to be true to the Bowdoin creed, brand, and image, you’ll be committed to paying your fair share, and addressing the wide income disparities in this nation gone horribly astray. 

Accordingly, we’re confident that a good portion of the ‘financial benefit’ to our community is the sum paid by campus high earners to encourage full employment of local tax lawyers, CPAs, and others as they seek to maximize their tax obligations to the IRS and the State of Maine. 

Doing anything but would make them untrue to the College commitment to the common good, and we know none of them could look caring students in the eye if they hadn’t gone out of their way in fair share achievement.  Sheltering income from the rightful grasp of the taxman would devastate the tender young idealists who come here to make the world a better place.

Germane to this last point, we had our breath taken away by this ‘justice-driven’ reality: Government is apparently a top interest of Bowdoin students, as this report in Wikipedia states:

Government & Legal Studies was the most popular major for every graduating class between 2000 and 2009.

Since the article must be a few years old, we don’t know if the choice still holds.  But we’re stupefied that our ‘brightest and best’ think pursuing a future in the Government sector holds greater reward (whatever that might mean) than any other pursuit.  What joy this gives, and what promise for our future.

All things considered, we suspect you can’t walk on campus without stepping into the ooze of delusion and self-adulation.  Oddly, the campus is also awash in extravagant evidence of the financial successes and unjust incomes of the evil 1%.

Which suggests an object lesson.  The US Congress, composed of the House and Senate, has had an approval rating around 15% for several years.  That’s because just about everyone considers all those congress-critters down in Washington to be self-serving, dissolute, crooked, and corrupt sons-a-bitches.

On the other hand, if you ask Mainers what they think of Senators Collins and King, Angus, and Representatives Sussman-Pingree and Michaud, you’d probably get approval ratings of 60%, or even higher.  That’s because while Congress taken as a whole are sons-a-bitches, OUR OWN DELEGATION is made up of OUR sons-a-bitches.

That’s why we continue to have a Congress with an overall approval rating just above food-poisoning.  Virtually every MOC has mastered the art of being OUR PERSONAL SOB, thereby neutralizing a categorical SOB identity.  Especially when campaign time rolls around, which is always and forever.

In the same vein, we’re confident that the aforementioned downtown Occupy troops, and the Bowdoin student body, are convinced that the 1% taken as a whole is a bunch of dirt-bag, profit-mongering oppressors who could care less how many workers’ wealth they take for themselves and send into abject poverty.

Except, that is, for those who are OUR dirt-bag, profit-mongering capitalists. Because without them, what is Bowdoin, to borrow a phrase, and by extension, Brunswick?  (For those interested, we provide below various citations of mega-gifts provided by those in the upper reaches of the 1%.  All brought to you compliments of Wall Street devils.) 

That marvelous science building at the corner of Bath Road and Sills Road?  Thank alumnus hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, about whom this appeared in the Wall Street Journal in May, 2011:

A financial crisis is surely going to happen as big or bigger than the one we had in 2008 if we continue to behave the way we're behaving," says Stanley Druckenmiller, the legendary investor and onetime fund manager for George Soros. Is this another warning from Wall Street that Congress must immediately raise the federal debt limit to prevent the end of civilization?

No—Mr. Druckenmiller has heard enough of such "clamor and hyperbole." The grave danger he sees is that politicians might give the government authority to borrow beyond the current limit of $14.3 trillion without any conditions to control spending.

Widely credited with orchestrating Mr. Soros's successful shorting of the British pound in 1992, Mr. Druckenmiller also built his own fund, Duquesne Capital, into a $12 billion titan. He announced plans last year to close the fund and now reports, "I have no clients." He is still managing his own money, which Forbes magazine recently estimated at $2.5 billion.

Too bad Druckenmiller didn’t have the same sway over President Obama that he had over George Soros.

Meanwhile, Soros has sprinkled millions here and millions there to fund his collectivist vision, and in the process, kill off the capitalist system that made he, Druckenmiller, and scores of other Bowdoin alums wealthy beyond measure.  Along with windfall growth of the college endowment fund.

Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last we’ve found you: “we are the 99%,’ indeed.  Which brings us to our main point, if you’re still with us.  Q: Why don’t the Maine Street B of A souls collaborate with outraged Polar Bears to “Occupy Bowdoin,” which is by far the most egregious local symbol of 1% domination over our existence?  We’re trying to come up with an answer, and if we do, we promise to pass it along before we close.

We can’t end our study of ‘the common good’ without discussing institutional fair share.  According to town data, Bowdoin College receives a property tax exemption on the order of $120 million.  At the current tax rate, this amounts to about $3 million in property tax exclusion, or 10% of current property tax revenues.

We’ll add this: anyone who believes the assessable value of Bowdoin College properties and holdings is $120 million is sadly uninformed.  We argue it’s much more like $500 million, especially after studying the links we provide below.  If we’re right, that means their exemption is more like 50% of the total taxable value in town.  That would translate to $12 million or so in avoided property tax charges per year.

This leaves us verklempt over how a socially conscious institution, a corporation, as it were, could stand by and let such gifts be heaped on them when community needs are so great?

Why do we, the hosts of this operation, give them hundreds of prime acres in addition to subsidizing student tuition and staff salaries?  To the tune of somewhere between three and twelve million dollars a year?  We’ll take plenty of grief for this position, but so what. Just tell us how this makes sense overall, please.

Now for the question we posed a few paragraphs back:

A: Because those who symbolize and prove the dominance of the 1% within Brunswick boundaries are sainted benefactors, and are exempt from the animus reserved for more easily identifiable oppressors and GCP’s.

“We are the 99%?”  Get a clue, folks.  Looks good on TV, but most who spew the words have no idea what they’re talking about.  If they did, Bowdoin students would be un-enrolling to prove their solidarity with the 99% oppressed by so many Polar Bears who preceded them.

Unless, that is, they actually like basking in the reflected glory of those who manipulated Wall Street and unfair free markets to their own huge advantage, and in so doing, accumulated massive wealth and power over the little people.

Kind of like summering at the Breakers while you write your anti-capitalist manifesto.  Is there a better way to prepare for a career as a member of the ruling elite class?

Further Study:

Should you decide to check the following links, you’ll discover news of a $290 million plus capital campaign, and you don’t get there with $50 checks from loyal alumni.  And you’ll read of several hedge fund managers and various others who it’s pretty clear made their fortunes in/on Wall Street, the global centroid of all evil and exploitative capitalism.  And Subway Sandwiches as well.

http://www.bowdoin.edu/president/columns/index.shtml

http://www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1bowdoincampus/000460.shtml

http://www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1bowdoincampus/003897.shtml

http://www.nescac.com/news/2006-07/BOW_New_Arena_022207

http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2010/news/1004/gallery.no_loan_financial_aid/10.html

http://www.bowdoin.edu/about/multimedia/slideshow/studzinski-recital-hall-kanbar-auditorium/

http://www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1bowdoincampus/005151.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowdoin_College

http://bowdoinorient.com/article/5674

http://bowdoinorient.com/article/5632

http://www.bowdoin.edu/facilities/campus-construction/completed-capital-projects.shtml

http://www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1bowdoincampus/006390.shtml

http://www.bowdoindailysun.com/2011/06/the-most-important-imperitive-for-bowdoin-college/

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_slate60/2010/02/slate_60_donor_bios.html

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I heard the bells, and other things…

“How shall we amuse you; let us count the ways….”

Poetry is something we were exposed to in only bare measure during our formative years, since we pursued a path in science and engineering for our formal education.  Sure, our Mother would often say “Blessings on thee, O little man; barefoot boy with cheeks of tan.”  Not to mention “snips and snails and puppy-dog tails; that’s what little boys are made of.”

But in our vast personal library, which now numbers more volumes than we can count on our fingers, we’ve yet to find a book of poetry.  It is true that we had a fling with Sonnets to the Portuguese in early adulthood, and that our wedding bands are inscribed with ‘to live with thee, and be thy love.’

Strange, then, that our senses were recently awakened to the charms of poetic verse.  For the Christmas season, we had loaded up our flash drive with a number of Christmas Albums, including a couple of Frank Sinatra specials.  We used the drive to provide holiday tunes in our truckster as we traveled far and wide.

Side became enamored of Sinatra’s rendition of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” and found it very moving.  When we read the liner notes, we were surprised to discover the song was based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who is especially well known in Brunswick and Maine.  You can listen for yourself right here:

Here is that poem:

Christmas Bells

    I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Even now, we can’t read the words without following the melody of the Sinatra carol.

The more we heard the song, the more our imagination got away from us.  That teensy-weensy little corner of our intellect that meddles in creative madness began to adapt the words (with melody intact) to a topic of more immediate and local concern.

We’ve labored long and hard, but not too hard, to bring our variation on the theme to you.  Please be gentle on us as you review it; this is our first time publishing original verse.

We hope you’ve taken the time to listen to the music above.  And that you keep the melody in your head as you read our verse.  It will be ever so much more lyrical if you do.

(Watch out for ear-worms; they afflicted us for some time.)

Ode to the Budget Trolls; a Variation on Christmas Bells

By Poppy Littleworth Oddfellow

    I HEARD the drones at budget time 
    Their old, familiar verses chime. 
        They stood to say 
        You all must pay 
    To prove you love the chil-der-en!

    And thought how, as the days had come,
    The belfries of all Brunswickdom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of spending more on chil-der-en!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The town repeated night and day,
        A voice, a plea, 
        Oh please tax me 
    For brand new schools for chil-der-en!

    Then with a solemn, sudden boom, 
    A cannon thundered in the room, 
        In statements read 
        Faint voices said 
    This is not for the chil-der-en!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The schoolies born
    Of spending more on chil-der-en!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is a lie in town," I said; 
        With guile intact, 
        They hide the fact 
    This is for women and for men!"

    Town Council then gave schoolies cheer:
    "Spend what you want, we're standing clear."
        The schools you’ll build,
        The lilies gild,
    "Praise us! We love the chil-der-en!"

It may not be that good; but on the other hand, it could have been verse.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In case you forgot, and you may well have….

A loyal reader sent along this marvelous video, and we are very grateful that he did.

To begin with, the individual who put it together was very clever and creative in producing the video.

More importantly for our purposes here, it reminds us of a time when our ‘entertainment’ was often defined by grace, style, talent, and a general desire to lift our spirits and reinforce our sense of human dignity.

Compare that to today, where more often than not, hump-hump, grab-grab, show it all, shock, defile, affront, and profane are the keys to public raves and wealth in the entertainment field.

Why is it that we can’t have another Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, and others of that era?  Did those ‘cultural genes’ simply disappear from the human DNA base?

We wish we knew the answer, but we don’t.

We do know, however, that we are worse off for the lack of those genes, and because of what has replaced them.

Monday, February 11, 2013

John “Johnny Protocols” Richardson: Emphathetically leading Brunswick…..

…over the cliff of unconstrained Government, that is.

 

We begin with motherly common sense from some 65 years ago:

“Everyone else is doing it?  So tell me, if everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you do that too?''

Barely a month into his seat on the Brunswick Town Council, John (Johnny Protocols) Richardson has already established himself as a darling of the ‘new schools at any cost’ crowd at BCU.  And now he’s led the Town into Corporate Affiliation with PeaceWorks, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and umbrella group Maine People’s Alliance.  Who knows how many others we’ll be joining as J.P. builds his campaign apparatus through his role as Town Councilor.  For those with ‘expansive’ thinking, you’ll find numerous candidates here; enough to make your eyes bleed, frankly.

We use this all to set the stage for a recent news report on Brunswick Town Councilor Benet Pols web site:

“The Council passed a resolution seeking a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United on a 6-3 vote. Wilson, Watson & Favreau were opposed.”

(The above is a report from the Council meeting held Monday, February 4th, and updates this earlier post on Pols’ site:)

“We’ll also be hearing a request that the Town Council take a position against the Supreme Court’s decision known as Citizens United. This is a decision that has allowed corporations to spend much more than they were allowed in the past to influence elections. Many municipalities have taken similar actions.” (Could you please name them, Councilor?)

“The item is sponsored by Councilors Brayman and Richardson. The Council has been hearing about this issue during public comment at almost every meeting since September. To this point, all speakers have urged the council to adopt a resolution like the one before the council at this meeting. (emphasis ours)”

So there you are; It doesn’t matter what the jurisdiction of the Council is, or what powers are invested in it by the Town Charter.  The Council can simply assume any powers those using the public comment period ask that it take for its own, especially when certain members are seeking higher office, and are pandering to local special interests.  And it makes them look good on camera.

Let’s parse things a bit here.  We’ll use some videos, which if you watch carefully, will prove to you that the advocacy here was anything but a ‘grass roots’ effort to convince an ‘apolitical’ and ‘non-partisan’ group of ‘public servants’ to do ‘the right thing.’

This first one combines the statements of six residents over five council meetings into one clip, very professionally produced, to lead the uninformed (dare we say Ostrich fans?) into believing that a flood of citizens appeared to make their case on a single night.

This conflicts with Councilor Pols’ comment from above, which we repeat here;

“The item is sponsored by Councilors Brayman and Richardson. The Council has been hearing about this issue during public comment at almost every meeting since September. To this point, all speakers have urged the council to adopt a resolution like the one before the council at this meeting. (emphasis ours)”

Official council minutes show that six people spoke over a span of five Council meetings ranging from October to December.  So we call bravo sierra on the hyperbole from Pols.

This next video shows just how far individual Councilors will go to expand their powers and responsibilities beyond just bounds if it can 1) expand their hopes for future office, and 2) help them pander to special interests.  Note especially the professional production values as they apply to the visage of Johnny Protocols. 

Any claim that this was simply ‘candid’ footage is so deceitful as to be a public, bold-faced lie.  This is not cable channel footage; this is professionally produced private film-making. It features Johnny P., who played the leading role in meeting coverage, and appeared to be very well prepared for his ‘brief’ moment on camera.  Pre-planned script and coverage anyone?  Multi-camera pre-arranged production crew?  Serious post-production expertise?

Be sure before you watch the clip to click on the play arrow in the audio clip just below and above the video clip.  It will make your overall experience far more enjoyable.

We don’t know specifically where the boundaries between anarchy, tyranny, and ordered liberty fall, but as we heard someone famous say recently, '”what difference does it make?”  This outcome indicates that governance is more or less a free-for-all, and that squeaky wheels should get oiled, especially if it makes for good TV, good press, happy special interests, and rising polls.

The intent of this post is not to debate the Citizens United decision, per se, but Instead, to question the common sense, motivations, and propriety of our elected officials.  Some call them ‘public servants;’ don’t get us started down that path.  Most behave as ‘our betters.’

Now that we’ve seen how things work, perhaps we should come before The Council to ‘urge’ them to adopt the following resolutions:

  • The growing of broccoli with heads larger than 10” across the widest point within Brunswick town limits should be outlawed.
  • Parking a car in a way that consumes two marked parking spots while shopping at Morning Glory Natural Foods should result in a fine of $500, and a requirement to eat twelve non-organic carrots in public.
  • Shooting a U-turn on Maine Street to cop a parking spot on the other side of the street should result in loss of your Drivers License, and your perp photo being published on this blog.
  • The Federal Income Tax should be repealed.
  • Subarus, Volvos, and Priuses should not be permitted to display political bumper stickers.
  • Barack Obama should be declared President for Life.  Is there any doubt that Brunswick citizens would overwhelmingly support such a Constitutional Amendment, and that the consequences would effect the lives of every Brunswick resident?  What more should be needed to compel Council action?
  • July and August cannot be too hot.
    And there's a legal limit to the snow here.
  • The winter is forbidden till December
    And exits March the second on the dot.
    By order, summer lingers through September.
  • The rain may never fall till after sundown.
    By eight, the morning fog must disappear.

Further, we should come before the State Legislature and ‘urge’ them to pass the following resolutions:

  • Hamburgers at The Big Top Deli should be free, and required to be cooked to medium-well or more on Fridays.
  • Brunswick property tax rates should be limited to no more than $15 per thousand of assessed value.
  • The sky should be declared turquoise on the third day of each month that has 31 days.
  • The Maine Constitution should be amended to allow Johnny P. to simultaneously hold the offices of Governor, Senate President, and Speaker of the House, with no limits on terms.

Finally, we’d like to ‘urge’ the Federal Government to pass the following resolution:

  • Municipal Governments should mind their own damn business, and stick to what they are supposed to do, which is managing the local municipal enterprise.

Further Study Note:  In case you wanted to know more about Maine People’s Alliance, you’ll get a ‘kick’ out of their “Fair Share” platform:

Our Plan to Pass Through the State Legislature or Referendum:

1. Universal education from pre-K through college. Education is a human right. From the time a child is 3 years old until they enroll in the University of Maine or Community College system, their education should be free.

2. $1 billion to eliminate unemployment. Meaningful work is a human right. The Job Creation Fund will create jobs in key sectors of the economy, such as infrastructure, health care, clean energy, and education. We’ll also raise the minimum wage to $10/hr to get closer to a living wage.

3. Publicly Financed Health Care. Health care is a human right. In a “single payer” system with no health insurance companies, everyone gets the care they need by contributing what they can afford through taxes.

4. We’ll pay for it by making our tax system fair. Lower taxes for the bottom 70%. The top 10% will pay 5% more than low-income Mainers pay now.

No doubt which side of the political spectrum they’d have us reside on.  And won’t this make a fine candidate for the next resolution the Council wants to pass.  In this town, you could get 6 people to demand the Council support this policy, and 2,000 petition signers to endorse it, in front of a Bank on Maine Street of a Saturday Morning.  Or at the upcoming Peace Fair.

Clearly, we are not among the elites to whom ‘it’ has been revealed, especially the ruling elites.  In our frustration, though, we feel it is our obligation to remind you of a few things. 

Maine is comprised of unincorporated territories and incorporated territories.  And wouldn’t you just know, Brunswick is a municipal corporation.  To whit:

http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/30-A/title30-Asec2002.html

Title 30-A: MUNICIPALITIES AND COUNTIES HEADING: PL 1987, C. 737, PT. A, §2 (NEW)

§2002. Municipality as body corporate

The residents of a municipality are a body corporate which may sue and be sued, appoint attorneys and adopt a seal.

Further, it doesn’t take much of a logical leap to recognize that labor unions, LLC’s, Associations, and any number of other institutions in our society are, ipso facto, corporations.  How about AARP, the AMA, and the ABA?  How about The Corporation for Public Broadcasting?  How about small businesses?  (Note: anyone who thinks Johnny P. and friends are going to limit labor union political activism and financing needs to not pass go.)

Then there’s Brunswick’s Town Charter, which says the following:

Section 101. - Incorporation.

The inhabitants of the Town of Brunswick shall continue to be a municipal corporation called the Town of Brunswick, Maine.

Section 102. - Powers of the town.

(a) The town shall have, exercise and enjoy all the rights, immunities, powers and privileges of municipal corporations incorporated under the laws of the State of Maine. It shall be subject to all the duties, liabilities and obligations provided for herein, or otherwise pertaining to or incumbent upon such municipal corporations.

(b) The town may enact by-laws, regulations and ordinances consistent with the Constitution and laws of the State of Maine and establish penalties for the breach thereof as provided by the laws of the State of Maine.

Too bad we didn’t have any attorneys on the Town Council to explain these nuances of the proposed resolution to the other councilors and the seen and unseen audience.

What?  We have three attorneys on the Council?  Then how the hell could this have happened?

OK, Roger that, but we can’t print those words here.

While we’re on the subject, let’s make one more point.  The Council CAN’T DO a damn thing about the School Budget, but it CAN press for an Amendment to the US Constitution?  And they want us to take them seriously?  And buy into their ‘costs beyond our control’ rhetoric?

And you want this Town Council to determine the future of this town?  And you want this Councilor, one Johnny Protocols, to be our next Governor?  Or is it Senator, or Representative, or all of the above?

We wore ourselves out as we worked on this post; the snow was (and is) snowing, the wind was blowing, but we can weather the storm.  What do we care how much it may storm, we’ve got our love to keep us warm.  And our dogs, and our common sense.

As counterpoint, here’s a clip that credibly examines the subject at hand:

A Little Historic Background, and the Origin of “Emphathetic” 

Lest you think Johnny Protocols simply bends with the wind on such matters, we remind you of a Sept 2009 Forecaster Article that discussed public concerns over drones coming onto the scene at the redeveloping Naval Air Station:

Richardson, who is considered a potential gubernatorial candidate, made an effort to emphathize with the crowd, noting that as the former state House speaker, he was one of the few state lawmakers to oppose the war in Iraq.

"That was not a popular position at the time," Richardson said.

Once could infer, then, that J.P. took an anti-drone position at that time.  Funny how things change.  Now that Barack Obama is in office, and Senator King, Angus supports their use, drones have suddenly taken on a left-wing Radical Chic, and J.P.’s resistance is no longer au courant. 

So there you have it; If there’s anything Johnny Protocols is good at, it’s emphathizing.   You learn that in Augusta.  We take this to be a combining form of emphatic and empathizing.  Or, being blunt, as you expect us to be, politically expedient pandering.

And Even More Historic Background:

This story is so juicy because when it served his purposes, Johnny P has been completely enthralled with evil corporations, and all too ready to find loopholes and tax breaks and any other form of incentive to bring them to Brunswick. 

in June 2009, speaking to the Town Council, he bragged of how he was involved in ‘no less than a dozen opportunities,’ speaking to Fortune 500 CEOs and COOs, about coming to the former BNAS.  That same night, he advised that we need ‘a protocol’ to keep the Council informed.  And that’s when we decided to call him Johnny Protocols.  You can read about it here, in the post that featured the now classic line “take two protocols and call me in the morning.”

Funny, isn’t it, how those dozen Fortune 500 prospects were never to be heard of again, not even one of them.  Our man Johnny mustn’t be too good at passing the baton.  Passing the buck seems to suit him better.

We have one last thought on resolutions for our Council leaders to consider:

  • Brunswick Council Chambers should be renamed Cape Richardson as J.P. regularly launches campaign shots from the site.

            

Sadly, as must all things, this post has to end.  We’ll do so musically, as we ask you to imagine Johnny singing these words:

Bruns-a-wick! Bruns-a-wick!
In far-off halls I heard your call.
Bruns-a-wick! Bruns-a-wick!
And here am I to give my all.
I know in my soul what you expect of me,
And all that and more I shall be.

The soul of a pol should be a thing remarkable,
His heart and his mind as pure as morning dew.
With a will and a self-restraint
That's the envy of ev'ry saint
He could easily work a miracle or two.
To love and desire he ought to be unsparkable,
The ways of the flesh should offer no allure.
But where in the world
Is there in the world
A man so untouched and pure?
(C'est John!)

And just because we like it, and it seems fitting, here’s a parting shot of BCU members and other town notables evaluating the dives of Council Members as they plunge into the Sea of Madness.

(We’d like to thank W. T. Fugawy, who contributed significant research to this post.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Other Side Staffing Update

                

“There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”  - W. C. Fields.

‘Truer words…,’ as they say.  And lord knows there’s more than enough bull to face around here.

So we’ve decided to use our excess profits here at Other Side Media to expand our staff, in hopes of providing even more effective coverage, and greater diversity of viewpoint.  Things always look different from the back of the bull than they do from the front of the bull, and we’re here to help you see and understand the difference.

Here’s the new staff line-up:

B. S. Balderdash: an intern who will, from time to time, be given a chance to author an item, but will have to prove to us that he has what it takes by handling other entry level chores first, like hitting the street for research, and bull on the street interviews.

LT Benjamin Dover: known to his friends as Ben, Dover last made an appearance on Side in this item.  He’s been hanging around the office lately, asking if he could do some free lance work.  We don’t have any lance work that needs doing, but as long as he’ll do it for free, what’s the harm of letting him hang around?  Everybody deserves a chance, don’t they?  And we’re pretty sure that soon enough we’ll stumble upon something that needs lancing.

W. T. Fugawy: we recently received an application from Fugawy, backed up with a couple of laudatory phone calls from references, and based on what they had to say, we’ve decided to give the kid a chance.  The references said that while Fugawy is not very good at knowing where he is, he has an uncanny sense of not knowing which way to go from there.  We concluded this would provide a much needed alternate universe view of things hereabouts, which should double or triple our readership.

P. C. Poppycock: founder and publisher.  Peaches and cream, writer supreme, God’s gift to readers.  We’re very proud of our role in this enterprise, and we pledge to maintain the humility you’ve come to expect from us.  Much as we regret having to say it, we’re ever so aware that Other Side is nothing without us.  Many say it’s nothing with us either, but hey, they can spend $100 or more a year watching what an Ostrich does.

In closing then, pick a bull, grab it by the tail, and come on along for the ride.  We expect this to be a fertile year here in Perfect, or as it’s known officially, Brunswick.  From the looks of things, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Except down.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A note from the head office…

We’re working on several other articles, all in need of a bit  more information before we finalize them.

For the nonce, we give you this update to the workings of our media empire.  If you look just to the right of this item, you should see the red sidebar column listing the blog topics, subject areas, quote of the day, and other miscellany.

At the very top, you should now see a “Subscribe via email” heading, with a link just below it.  Click on that link, and in theory, you can arrange to get an email notification when a new post appears on our site.

We’ve had some Ostrich like thoughts about this new feature.  Like setting things up so that you only see the first sentence and a half of the new post, and then requiring you to become a paid subscriber to our print edition to see the rest.

Or offering you an ‘on-line’ subscription for slightly less.

Don’t worry; so far, our nobler self has prevailed over the profit driven COO we have on staff.

Matter of fact, we just checked with Igor, and it says we don’t have a print edition.

Yet, that is.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Afterthought on a recent post….

A few hours ago, we posted “In case you didn’t know….,” which included a link to a newspaper article posted today.  That article included glowing statements from Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA.

Here’s a sample:

But Quinn at the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority says passenger rail's real advantage is as an economic development tool, prompting real estate developments and attracting businesses while reducing road congestion.

Since then, it helped prompt … a $30 million hotel complex in Brunswick.

"It's helped revitalize communities, create more jobs and improve the quality of life, and it's also the most environmentally friendly form of transportation. It's an economic engine for the region."

As we walked our dogs, we pondered these pronouncements and became angrier and angrier.

Anyone who believes this hype should also accept that passenger rail caused the failure of The Daniel Stone Inn, and the loss of the private investment that brought it back to life. Not to mention the failure of Back Street Bistro and Lilee’s Public Ale House, among other local enterprises.

The truth is that free taxpayer money at the federal level ‘prompted’ the investment of free taxpayer money at the local level.  Yes sir, yes sir, three bowls full comes to mind.

We’ll deal with ‘reducing road congestion;’ improving ‘quality of life;’ and ‘environmentally friendly form of transportation’ in future posts.

For now, we should call for backing up a truck to haul the load away.  No, wait – a series of freight cars would be more appropriate.

We’re tempted to repeat our time-worn bromide about ‘all politicians being son-of-a-bitches, except our guy, who is OUR son-of-a-bitch.’

But in this case, it seems like ‘wizzing away free taxpayer money from the federal government leads to wizzing away free taxpayer money from local government’ is more appropriate, and that’s a terrible thing.

Unless we’re wizzing it away for OUR benefit.

In closing, remember this: flies cause garbage.

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In case you didn’t know; the first step in your training

We’re pretty well aware that many in our readership sphere of influence think we’re a few bricks short of a full deck.  Or worse. 

So it might seem a bit presumptuous of us to suggest that we know  something that you don’t.  You can judge us on that when you finish reading this.

If you already knew what we’re about to disclose, please forgive us for under-estimating you.  But if you did, why the hell didn’t you tell us so we could avoid making an ass of ourselves in this public forum?

That’s what they sometimes call a question that answers itself.

              Home

Today’s lesson is about NNEPRA, an acronym for an entity that is at the center of all the passenger train activity here in Brunswick, and specifically the hubbub over the location of a mammoth layover facility on the tracks adjacent to Bouchard Drive.  You can visit their web page here: http://www.nnepra.com/.

NNEPRA stands for Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.  Naive as we are, we took from the name that this was a multi-state endeavor of unclear pedigree, at least to us.  We had no real reason to research things, so we labored under this illusion.

Recently we came to learn that we were off the mark.  In this particular case, Northern New England equates to Maine.  And NNEPRA offices are nearby in Portland.  We have no way of knowing whether this name was chosen willy-nilly, or it was an intentional move to create an image and brand of a scale beyond reality.  Perhaps some ‘Mad-Men’ types influenced the decision.

We discovered this when we located the Maine Statute that created NNEPRA.  It turns out that NNEPRA is of a kind with the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA); the Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA); and the Midcoast Region Redevelopment Authority (MRRA); all of which have cloaked themselves in various degrees of controversy in recent years.  As you may know, the former head of the MTA is on an extended stay at the Graybar Hotel, and the former head of MSHA decided to ‘pursue other interests’ before she risked similar accommodations.

When we say “of a kind,” we mean they all fit under the rubric of quasi-governmental agencies.  They are created by Maine Statute (law); employees have the advantages of careers with Maine State Government, including near-bullet proof job security, benefits far better than you get in the private sector, and as has become clear, higher average pay than citizens in the private domain.

Accountability, performance reviews, and other trappings of the workaday private sector are virtually non-existent, because even though they are a creation of State Government, their quasi-governmental aspect virtually eliminates any form of Executive and/or Legislative oversight.  At least until a shake things up type Governor comes along, and decides that enough is enough, and has appointment availability that allows for a change of culture.

If this isn’t making any sense to you, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger; it isn’t intended to make any sense as best we can tell.

So let’s get right to the source material.  You can read about the creation of NNEPRA here and in the paragraphs following.  The opening reads as follows:

§8111. Purpose

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, as established by Title 5, section 12004-F, subsection 16, is a body both corporate and politic in the State established for the general purpose of promoting passenger rail service as set forth in subchapter 1. It is declared that the purposes of this chapter are public and that the authority must be regarded as performing a governmental function in carrying out this chapter.

The Statutes creating and defining NNEPRA date back to 1995, which means we have Angus King and his administration to thank for it, along with the legislators then in power.  So the next time you see the junior Senator from Maine, you can thank him on behalf of all of us, and especially those folks on Bouchard Drive who are expected to just ‘suck it up’ on behalf of the common good.  (And ask him to talk to his friends at Bowdoin about joining the ‘suck it up’ movement by welcoming the idling incinerator to their lovely little neighborhood.)

As fate would have it, the lead article on page 1 of today’s Portland Newspaper is about passenger train service.  You can read it here:

http://www.pressherald.com/news/expansion-of-passenger-trains-in-maine-takes-slow-track_2013-02-04.html

We suggest that when you do, you make sure your Bravo-Sierra light is lit, and you have your propaganda goggles firmly in place.  We may not be experts in the subject area, but our alarm went off more than once when we read the story.  The current head of NNEPRA had a career path in marketing, and it shows.  Having come from business development, a related field, our circuits are a good deal more sensitive than others might be.  And we don’t take kindly to disrespect for the profession.

But as we admitted yesterday, we haven’t been trained right.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The "sound of silence," or good taxpayer money burning....


It's enough to recall the words of Austrian satirist Karl Kraus, who said, "The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience, so they believe they are as clever as he."
We’re not sure why we chose to open with this line from an article we read several years ago, except we just want to.  It may become clearer in the ‘fullness of time,’ and from what we're seeing, time is getting pretty full.


http://i.imgur.com/K1MSE.jpg

Observe the photo above, which symbolizes a blatant disregard for cash money.  For purposes of this post, this means other peoples’ money, often abbreviated ‘OPM,’ pronounced like ‘o-pi-um.’  Some readers may consider the gentleman is suggestive of a certain Johnny Protocols with another ten years or so on his bones, but we have no comment.

Continuing the random walk through the arcade that is our mind, we wonder if you remember the classic Simon and Garfunkel number from the late 60’s.  We bought the album about the same time we purchased our first house, and before long, we were wearing double-knit bell bottoms; buckle-strapped loafers; and floral patterned shirts with 6” collar points.

You’re probably having a hard time taking that all in, but trust us, it’s at least as hard for us to accept we actually lived through those years and dressed that way.  You may think we altered our mind with undocumented pharmaceuticals during that age, but we didn’t.  Unless Coors fits that bill.
In case you’ve forgotten, here are some of the lyrics:
"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence.
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence.
The photo at the top of this post is characteristic of a ‘money grows on trees’ attitude.  The consequence of doing so, as many in our region and culture do, is that you tend to think of money as a ‘renewable and sustainable’ resource, more or less the equivalent of firewood.  Especially free money from governments.
We find that good intentions, most often those of the anointed ruling class, lead to the burning of public money in large amounts.  In particularly egregious cases, one thinks of incineration, as suggested in this visual:

 

Incineration requires an incinerator, that much reviled icon of the modern-day consumerist society, in which the concept of psychic waste finds fulfillment.  But allow us to suggest that we are now being visited by a new type of incinerator – a mobile one that can do its work at whatever location best suits the zeitgeist of the moment.

Imagine if this incinerator had redeeming value that endeared it to certain elements of the community.  And that it was a form of ‘audible art.’

Imagine no more, Brunswick, because this incinerator is upon us.  If you have no idea what incinerating money sounds like, you are about to find out.

That’s what we do; we give you the story you won’t get anywhere else.  We provide here a video of the mobile incinerator in action.  As we understand it, this incinerator is in use 24 hours a day, whether moving or not, and carrying passengers or not.  Seven days a week.  The dollars it’s actually burning up in fuel are only part of the story, as you can well imagine. 

This video is shot from the northeast corner of Bouchard Drive, and as you watch it, imagine that this is your plight.  As the camera pans to the left, you see the backyard fence in the house closest to the ‘action.’  Most critical is that you have your sound on and turned up so you can hear the marvelously silent sound of good money burning.  (Or should we say good borrowed money?)

video

To many at NNEPRA and in local officialdom, this is “the sound of silence.”  And the Amtrak train to Brunswick is a fine stand-in for ‘the neon god they made.’

We might suggest, however, that the incinerator be moved to another nearby location.  We hear tell that Bowdoin College considers itself the owner of the ‘intellectual corridor’ from Maine to Boston, now that train service has begun.  Apparently, trains can transport intellects, but busses can’t.  Anyway, in respect of Bowdoin’s ‘ownership,’ se suggest the incinerator be moved east just beyond Maine Street and The Mall.

We’re thinking that locating the incinerator just a skosh beyond the Federal Street track underpass would make it ever so much more ‘accessible’ to the Bowdoin community, including the President’s House.

In a related thought, perhaps our local creative culturati can make some professional recordings to turn this into a symphony of sorts for train buffs, or for transcription into digital form for sound effects in today’s incredible model trains.  Or feature it as an element in the great summer Music Festival.

Here at Side, we much prefer the clickety-clack rhythm of Johnny Cash in ‘The Orange Blossom Special.'  And we prefer our trains to pass by, not park and plague. 

But that’s just us.  We haven’t been properly trained.


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