Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Maine's own ACORN?

I plan to write frequently and at length about the general subjects of "economic and social justice" as used by the left to build sympathy for transitioning the American experiment to a statist system of wealth redistribution founded on a centrally planned economy.

For the moment, to pique your interest, I herewith forward the stated objective of Maine's Non-Profit Industrial Complex.

Specifically, from the "Maine Association of Independent Neighborhoods," (whatever the hell that means!):

M.A.I.N.'s Statement of Economic Rights

Everyone in Maine has the right to have their basic needs met regardless of their financial capabilities. Society must guarantee that these basic needs will include but are not limited to: work with dignity; food and clothing; secure, affordable, permanent shelter; accessible and affordable health care; quality, accessible and affordable child care; and to a standard of living that is adequate for their economic security and well-being.

To be more specific, they enumerate these "rights" as shown below. Remember, the operative definition of a "right" is that someone else has an obligation to provide it.

Economic Bill of Rights for Maine

The following rights are guaranteed by society:

1) Every individual has a right to human dignity, and to be treated with respect.

2) Every individual has the right to the opportunity to provide the basic needs of his/her family through each person's own best efforts and the shared commitment of everyone in Maine by productive work and quality public services.

3) Every individual has a right to a safe and clean environment that will be sustained economically in a way that protects and preserves the environment for future generations.

4) Every individual has the right to participate in the political decision-making processes that affect all of our lives.

5) Every individual has a right:

  • To productive work with equal pay for equal or comparable work,
  • To seek ones choice of employment,
  • To protections against the ill effects of unemployment, and
  • To freedom from discrimination in obtaining their basic needs.

6) Every individual has a right:

  • To form and join labor unions and other groups which protect their interests,
  • To bargain collectively on issues such as pay and working conditions,
  • To strike without fear of reprisals, and
  • To work in businesses or cooperatives which provide maximum opportunities for economic democracy.

7) Every individual has a right to education or training to obtain the skills that allow her/him to participate in the Maine economy, and at a level that will provide all of their family's needs.

8) Every individual has a right to access financial resources and services, including but not limited to, savings or checking accounts, loans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA).

9) Every individual has a right to access quality legal services regardless of their ability to pay.

Rep. Doug Thomas in the Times Record

Representative Doug Thomas had a response to Douglas Rooks' commentary of last week published in the Times Record today.

A salient paragraph reads as follows:

I have been a critic of the DOT for the last five years, but with good reason: We give them more money year after year and our roads get worse. We’re told MDOT has reduced its number of employees by 25 percent, yet personnel services now consume 46 percent of the budget, up from 40 percent of a much smaller budget 10 years ago. We have one employee in the office who gets a $49,000 benefit package on top of his salary.

On Liberty

I'm too far gone now to change my stripes. As the old cartoon legend says "I are an engineer, and yesterday I couldn't even spell one."

Nuance is not something you learn to appreciate in an engineering education, or in the pursuit of an engineering career. It is, instead, the opposite of what you immerse yourself in. Engineering is all about hard facts, ones and zeros, equations with answers, and various laws of the physical universe. Get out the old slide rule and come up with a result accurate to three significant digits.

So I come late to an understanding of the difference between "freedom" and "liberty," and that makes my appreciation of the difference all the more meaningful and personal.

Freedom, in my engineering mind, is a function of the laws that men (excuse me for this) enact. Liberty, on the other hand, is a profound and unique concept that derives from a higher "natural law," a right recognized in our founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, and The Constitution. It is "unalienable," along with the right to life and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty, in its deepest sense, transcends mere laws.

"We grow to soon old and too late smart" reads a truism whose source I don't recall. No matter; viewing the John Adams series on HBO, and subsequent substantial reading about the founders, has given me an appreciation of the critical difference between liberty and freedom, even though I am unable to articulate it very well.

As a result, I despair that liberty as the founders understood it is being stolen from us day by day, week by week. I intend to write further on this subject in the future. For now, I offer two thought provoking quotes:

First, this from President Reagan, who although he used the word freedom instead of liberty, clearly was talking about the latter:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

And this from President Lincoln, who clearly understood that the concept of liberty is at once a core principle of our nation while at the same time the language of our founding can be dangerous in the hands of those who would abuse it. Need I say more?

We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word many mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny.


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Monday, June 29, 2009


A friend passed this along; I don't know the original source. I remarked that there must be a logical fallacy in it somewhere, but I couldn't find it in a first reading.

If you do, please let us know by comment.

A Stimulus Story

It is the month of August, on the shores of the Black Sea . It is raining, and the little town looks totally deserted. It is tough times, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

Suddenly, a rich tourist comes to town.

He enters the only hotel, lays a 100 Euro note on the reception counter, and goes to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one.

The hotel proprietor takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the butcher.

The Butcher takes the 100 Euro note, and runs to pay his debt to the pig grower.

The pig grower takes the 100 Euro note, and runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel.

The supplier of feed and fuel takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the town's prostitute that in these hard times, gave her "services" on credit.

The hooker runs to the hotel, and pays off her debt with the 100 Euro note to the hotel proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she brought her clients there.

The hotel proprietor then lays the 100 Euro note back on the counter so that the rich tourist will not suspect anything.

At that moment, the rich tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms, and takes his 100 Euro note, after saying that he did not like any of the rooms, and leaves town.

No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now without debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism..

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States Government under President BHO and the State of California under Governor Arnold are doing business today and actually in California for a long time already.

At least the hooker and the hogs made out okay!

The "wisdom" of W. C. Fields

"I note the derogatory rumors concerning my lavish living and use of alcoholic stimulants. It is the penalty of greatness."

"There comes a time in the affairs of man when he's got to take the bull by the tail and face the situation."

Notification of new posts

I'm trying to figure out if blogger supports automatic notification of new posts if you as a reader opt for such notification.

So far I haven't found a way to do it.

As an alternative approach, if you would like to be notified of new content, enter a "comment" on this post. The first thing it will do is result in an email to me, and I will use that address to put you on a list to be notified.

Lemon Meringue Martini

While poppycock prefers the "icy sting" of a proper classic martini, made with a proper London dry gin, and cringes at the awful concoctions being proffered as "martinis" these days, this particular recipe is undeniably tasty and intriguing.

It was introduced to ms. poppycock by our daughter and son-in-law while she was visiting them in Canada, land of "free health care" and very expensive spirits and wine.

Lemon Meringue Martini:

2oz of pineapple juice
1 oz Galliano
1 oz

Mix together in shaker with ice. Serve in martini glass. Serves 1

You will be absolutely amazed at the flavor; I don't know who invented the drink, or how many failed attempts they made before arriving at this simple version, but I personally guarantee you will enjoy it.

If you've forgotten what Galliano is, or never heard of it, it made it's mark in mixology as the floater that turned a Screwdriver into a Harvey Wallbanger. Folks are tempted to say it's an anise liqueur, but it really is more than that. It's a rather bright yellow in color, and comes in a distinctive bottle. It may be difficult to find, but the NH liquor stores have it.

Limoncello is an Italian take on lemon flavored liqueur. Scratch that comment; it is a lemon flavored vodka drink.

If you get a bottle of each, and neither is inexpensive, you will have enough to last you for quite a while.

This is one of those little bonuses you'll find only here if you regularly read this blog. And it may be the only thing worth your time!

Rep. Doug Thomas responds to Rooks TR commentary

I wrote recently about Douglas Rooks' recent commentary in the Times Record, in which he roundly criticized Rep. Doug Thomas of Ripley, who is on the Transportation Committee.

Rep. Thomas submitted this in response:

On Friday June 19, Maine ’s Department of Transportation Commissioner (MDOT) David Cole announced he will cancel 75-percent of all maintenance paving projects because of reduced funding levels in the Highway Budget approved last week by the Maine Legislature.

Wait a minute. The MDOT has plenty of money, from $130 million in federal stimulus money, to $150 million in Garvee Bonds, to the increase in the gas tax (indexing) every year, to the 40-percent increase in the cost to license a car last year. Maine DOT has never had so much money.

This year's Highway Budget includes a new spending line item: $75 million dollars for the TransCap Fund. This fund enables the MDOT to borrow-and-spend hundreds of millions of dollars above what is in the Highway Budget - without voter approval - none of which can be used for maintenance paving. Hundreds of millions of dollars taxpayers have to repay with interest. We can keep our roads in good condition by using just part of that $75 million. Some of us Legislators tried to make changes to the Highway Budget to do just that, but our ideas were rejected.

There were 3 or 4 plans floated to raise the gas tax, but we can’t afford higher taxes, and there's plenty of money for paving if it is managed effectively. If by not paving roads the department is able to get the gas tax increased then every time they want higher taxes all they need to do is not pave roads. Raising taxes will only allow them to waste even more of our hard-earned money, and believe me they know how to waste money.

Paving may be down, but MDOT personnel services are up and take an ever increasing share of the Highway Budget every year. One MDOT employee gets a $49,000 benefit package on top of his regular salary.

Another problem is spending from the Highway Fund to cover General Fund expenses. The Highway Fund now pays 51-percent of State Police costs when an internal study says that, according to the Maine Constitution, it should be about half that amount. That's about $15 million every year that could go to paving. The $8 million covering the Maine Ferry System has always been paid by the General Fund until this Administration moved it to the Highway Fund. Added together this misdirected revenue alone would pave over 500 miles every year.

Maine people can't afford to pay higher taxes in times like these - and there's no need to. We need to demand the money we are currently sending gets used more wisely. Above all, let's not kid Maine people that those potholes they're driving around are there because Mainer's aren't paying enough taxes.

Rep. Doug Thomas


A Blog role model: Behind Blue Lines

Claps, or more appropriately, a standing ovation for David Crocker of Portland and his Blog, Behind Blue Lines, described thusly:

Behind Blue Lines is a political, cultural and historical blog by David Crocker, an Attorney and Solicitor located in Portland, Maine.

I know David, and he is a thoughtful, worldly, and principled man. And he knows blogging inside out.

In other words, he is everything I am not, which for many of you should be a sterling recommendation for visiting his widely read and cited efforts.

And don't you dare allow my recommendation to cause you doubts; you will be well rewarded by your visit.

Teddy Roosevelt on patriotism and the world

I first read this quote in The American Patriot's Almanac, by Bill Bennett and John Cribb. It struck me as incredibly illuminating in today's "global village" atmospherics, and given the current President's penchant for traipsing around the world apologizing for or otherwise diminishing America's place in history.

It is from a lengthy and memorable TR speech, labeled thus:

"The Man In The Arena"
Speech at the Sorbonne
Paris, France
April 23, 1910

The speech is, as the title gives way, the source of the famous "in the arena" quote.

Here is the quote; read it carefully, perhaps again and again, and let it inform your view of where we are today.

I believe that a man must be a good patriot before he can be, and as the only possible way of being, a good citizen of the world. Experience teaches us that the average man who protests that his international feeling swamps his national feeling, that he does not care for his country because he cares so much for mankind, in actual practice proves himself the foe of mankind; that the man who says that he does not care to be a citizen of any one country, because he is the citizen of the world, is in fact usually an exceedingly undesirable citizen of whatever corner of the world he happens at the moment to be in. In the dim future all moral needs and moral standards may change; but at present, if a man can view his own country and all others countries from the same level with tepid indifference, it is wise to distrust him, just as it is wise to distrust the man who can take the same dispassionate view of his wife and mother. However broad and deep a man's sympathies, however intense his activities, he need have no fear that they will be cramped by love of his native land.

Now, this does not mean in the least that a man should not wish to do good outside of his native land. On the contrary, just as I think that the man who loves his family is more apt to be a good neighbor than the man who does not, so I think that the most useful member of the family of nations is normally a strongly patriotic nation.

You can find the entire speech here, and reading it will be well worth your while.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

BNAS: The Field of Dreams series

Those of you who don't get or read the Brunswick Times Record, and you are legion, probably haven't seen the op-eds of mine they've run over the last few months. So here, free of charge, is the series. And this is the only place you can get them, since the archive function at the Times Record has become largely non-archival.

Part I:

Brunswick Naval Air Station: Field of Dreams?

Before explaining this title, I’d like to advance an odd hypothesis: flies cause garbage. If this shocks and perplexes you, let me restate it:

- Vacant schools stimulate local birth rates

- New and larger facilities make newspapers more successful

- Empty office and retail space drives business growth

- Unused industrial space fuels economic expansion

These assertions illustrate a common logical fallacy, one at play in the press releases and media coverage of redevelopment efforts for the Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Readers may recall “Field of Dreams,” starring Kevin Costner, a movie I love. It is based on “if you build it they will come.” This dream is relevant to our local circumstances; let me explain.

We’re frequently presented with rosy forecasts for Brunswick Naval Air Station redevelopment. How many times have we read “the phone is ringing off the hook,” but with no specifics?

We’re given projections of as many as 13,800 jobs, annual wages of $730 million, and property tax revenues of $19 million. Such figures were publicized in the Times Record and elsewhere, and they stem from a report funded by base redevelopment officials.

The specific report containing these figures was written by consultants, who were hired by other consultants, who were hired by an agency, established by the state, which has now been replaced by an authority. Government in operation is a wonder to behold, isn’t it?

I obtained and read the report, and I began to suspect that the figures quoted above were based on nothing more than the “Field of Dreams.” Hoping there was more to it than that, I contacted the head of the MRRA and asked. I was told my suspicion was correct.

These wildly optimistic figures are not based on a detailed assessment of global, national, state, or local economic conditions; they are not founded on local or regional demands for business space; they do not consider Maine’s and Brunswick’s anti-business attitudes and policies; nor do they factor in what has occurred in nearby base closures, like Loring, Pease, or Dow. And it’s safe to say the figures reflect primarily private sector activities, instead of government agencies and non-profits like colleges, homeless shelters, etc.

Instead, and I quote, “the methodology they used is standard build-out analyses for comprehensive planning purposes.”

Let me be very clear what this response from the MRRA means. One computes the square footage of the various facilities that could be reused or built anew, and assumes specific uses for them. The available space is then divided by assumed space per type of employee to arrive at a maximum employment estimate. Those employment counts are multiplied by assumed annual incomes to arrive at maximum annual wage estimates.

To reiterate: the projections of employment, economic impact, and tax revenues are based entirely on square footage that could someday be available, and an array of assumptions derived from it. In other words, the “if you build it they will come” theory.

Which is why I put forth the opening hypothesis and its corollaries. If we are to accept the projections of the consultants’ report, than my theory and its corollaries that follow from their “professional expertise” should have merit.

Put aside the results of recent tests of this theory, such as the Red Mill just across the bridge in Topsham, or the gorgeous building just south of Chilton Furniture in Freeport. Both were finished well before the recession began. They and the empty spaces on Main Streets everywhere must be the exceptions that prove the rule, right?

We don’t know how intensely our Town Council has been following base redevelopment personally or officially, and we don’t know how much the council considers it their obligation to fully understand what is going on. If they have, wonderful. If they haven’t they should dive in now, because the future of this town is at stake in more ways than one. And that future is in their hands.

I didn’t spend more than a few hours digging in to this subject, but that is enough to raise serious concerns about the underlying foundations of the redevelopment effort, and how rigorously we are being informed. And I lament the willing acceptance by the media, including the press, of any MRRA releases, without challenge, when that press should have a healthy skepticism in protecting our interests.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like the economic projections for the future of this town to be based on something more tangible than a tag line from a movie.

Oh…and one more thing. If economic development is this easy, I can build a 20 story office building on my “back forty.” All I’ll need is a full grant from state and local government to cover the costs, and I could bring as many as 2000 new jobs to the Brunswick area. I hope all cognizant officials will give my proposal their full and sincere consideration.

And you can do the same; so what are you waiting for? Remember, “if you build it, they will come.”

Part II:

BNAS: Field of Dreams, Part II

Apparently there’s only one reason that Maine has the most dismal economic outlook of any state in the nation, and is in the grasp of a demographic winter. Some say we are “managing our demise,” and it’s hard to argue we aren’t.

That one reason must be a shortage of free real estate available for development and economic growth. Especially free real estate that has been cleared of vegetation and holds improvements and infrastructure.

Fortunately, we are being told, economic salvation is at hand. The cleared land and improvements becoming available for development as the federal government shuts down the Naval Air Station are, it seems, the “silver bullet” in our economic development arsenal, not to mention the runways and aviation infrastructure that will be left idle.

So what if Maine is 35,000 square miles in area - some 3 to 20 times larger than any other New England state? With a population density that places it in the bottom fourth of all states? Pointing this out only betrays a cynical and pessimistic point of view.

Luckily, Brunswick and the state are working hard to preserve “Land for Maine’s Future” and “Land for Brunswick’s Future” to fend off economic development pressure. Heck, we’ll show those greedy, job-creating capitalists.

No doubt an aerial video mapping of the state would find only a few acres here, a few acres there as yet undeveloped and fit for economic growth. This must be the cause for the jubilation over the pending availability of Naval Air Station property.

What a relief! Finally, in this overdeveloped region, a rare chance to do something constructive!

Given this positively splendid opportunity, please bear with me as I try to clear up some minor confusions.

In a prior column, I cited MRRA projections that property tax revenue could increase as much as $19 million from base redevelopment. That supposes a 2/3 increase in taxable valuations in Brunswick. Or the equivalent of nearly 5000 new homes with tax levies of $4000 each. Must be the tooth fairy is a “silent partner.”

Then, a minor snag. Almost every candidate for base redevelopment falls into the non-profit category, meaning non-tax paying. Or they are government entities. Each of these expects to obtain acreage and the related property improvements at no cost (meaning at the expense of taxpayers.) Let’s look at those we’ve heard about:

- Bowdoin College – an educational institution exempt from property taxes.

- Southern Maine Community College – ditto.

- Southern New Hampshire University – ditto.

- Embry Riddle Aeronautical University – ditto. This organization, in particular, was celebrated as a harbinger of a phenomenal aviation based future for the redeveloped base. I called them a while ago, and asked what their typical enrollment per semester is. Answer – “about 50 students.” Then I asked what percentage of the student body is uniformed Naval personnel. Answer – “about 99.5%.” Math aside, it’s clear they served a military population looking to advance their careers. With the military aviation element gone, where would they find a new and previously undiscovered group of aviation students anxious to enroll?

- Brunswick Park and Gardens – certain to be a non-profit entity exempt from property taxes, and expecting a no-cost gift of real property.

- Assorted town government facilities, recreation sites, etc. All tax exempt and all expecting no-cost property transfer.

- Potential DOD/Coast Guard reserve organizations – all tax exempt.

Oxford Aviation is the one private sector enterprise cited as a splendid anchor for base redevelopment. Great! I’m looking forward to the economic growth they’ll provide for Maine (instead of simply relocating existing activity.) I have a few questions, though.

Reports are their current location at Sanford Airport cannot accommodate the larger aircraft they want to service, while BNAS can. I could be wrong, but didn’t Air Force 1, a 747, regularly land at Sanford Airport during Bush administrations? Does Oxford really have planes bigger than 747s that it wants to bring into Brunswick for paint jobs?

Is Oxford claiming that longer runways and larger apron areas will grow their business base? How many contracts have they declined because they simply didn’t have the room to accommodate the aircraft at Sanford? How many because the planes could not land at Sanford, even though a high security 747 and entourage could?

Is Oxford claiming the business they propose to conduct in Brunswick is in addition to their business in Sanford, or is it, in reality, simply relocation to a larger base? Was any “political” encouragement involved?

Progressive disclosure is in effect on the Oxford case. F. Lee Bailey, noted aviation contractor, is now suggesting that a taxpayer funded expansion to BNAS facilities would be helpful. It’s beginning to look like the Oxford proposal has more to do with generous economic benefits from the taxpayers than it does with business expansion. What do you think?

Unfortunately, most of the above are not economic expansion, but instead, relocations to take advantage of generous taxpayer funded and subsidized land and facilities. Virtually none expect to pay full value for what they will occupy.

Funny how when those in power propose such arrangements, they’re ‘tax incentives’ and ‘public investments.’ When their opposition proposes them, they’re ‘tax breaks’ and ‘corporate welfare.’ Political moral relativism is alive and well!

(note: Jim Horowitz, CEO of Oxford Aviation, responded to this column with a letter to the editor.)

Part III:

Field of Dreams … or Field of Photoshop?

(Originally Published in the Brunswick Times Record Friday, June 19, 2009; See annotations to that version at the end)

In recent commentaries, I’ve addressed redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, invoking the imagery of Field of Dreams. Its “if you build it they will come” tag line seemed to fit. Jim Horowitz, president of Oxford Aviation, thoughtfully responded to the second of the commentaries.

Inspired by Horowitz, I’m moving forward on imagery. It now seems more appropriate to build on an “if you Photoshop it they will spend their money” theme. I will explain.

But before I do, a few comments regarding Horowitz’s letter (“Oxford Aviation responds,” May 12). He says the 3,000-foot runway at Oxford County Regional Airport is “the limiting factor stunting our ability to grow into the larger corporate market.” Why did he fail to mention the 40 percent longer runway (4,200 feet) at his Eastern Slopes facility in the Fryeburg area? And I hope he’s noticed that the current administration is working hard to kill off “the larger corporate market.”

Horowitz implicitly corrected me on Oxford’s relationship with Sanford Airport by ignoring it, and probably for good reason. I was swayed by all the hoopla around Oxford establishing a “Sanford Jet Division” at that operational airport. Published reports, including some on the Maine State Web site; “Sanford Jet Division” photos on Oxford’s Web site; personal appearances by Gov. John Baldacci; and promotional rhetoric from F. Lee Bailey all convinced me it was real. Not to mention public dollars invested, venture financing arranged, and preparatory work begun. Sanford most likely isn’t a welcome subject for Horowitz to revisit.

Celebrated as the Sanford plans were, they followed on the heels of a flirtation with Pease Tradeport in Portsmouth, N.H., a superbly located and equipped airport when compared to Sanford and Brunswick. It has an operating avionics business, suggesting “cluster” or “hub” potential. New Hampshire’s business friendliness and economic and demographic factors are far superior to Maine’s. Yet reports are that Horowitz was making advances on Sanford while courting Pease.

Oxford’s commitment to Sanford proved short lived. Financing with OSO LLC, an investment firm, “fell through,” according to news reports. Reports also said OSO “declined to say why,” and “Horowitz did not return several calls seeking comment.” I tried contacting OSO myself to no avail. Sanford was left holding a sizeable bag for its efforts, although it appears that Horowitz still holds a lease on property there.

Recession specifics aside, one has to wonder why venture capital financing dried up. Did due diligence reveal enough financial and business case problems to sour the idea? If the proposal didn’t make sense then with private financing, why would it make sense now, deeper into recession, with taxpayer financing?

Or was Horowitz not willing to give up control to secure the financing, which is what venture capitalists usually require?

Now Brunswick and the MRRA are being romanced by Horowitz and F. Lee Bailey, and like a wealthy and lonesome spinster, the attention is flattering. The significant opportunity to leverage a vast public property and untold taxpayer funds is clearly appealing. Bailey could teach Vince the Shamwow Guy and Billy Mays a thing or two. Try these: “a tremendous opportunity for Brunswick, far beyond anything I had imagined” (only $19.95!); and “further cement Brunswick as a global leader in the aviation world.”

Don’t you have to start before you can lead?

Such hyperbole is seductive to an anxious and receptive public. While there is only a “letter of intent” to show for Oxford’s commitment to Brunswick, Horowitz is so devoted to us that Oxford’s Web site proudly depicts the huge new $42 million hangar at BNAS fully painted in Oxford regalia as the “Brunswick Jet Division,” opening in 2009, complete with a commercial jetliner heading inside (www.oxfordaviation.com/facilities.html).

That “photo” would lead you to believe they are already established at BNAS, a bit presumptuous and audacious under the circumstances, especially with nothing more than a so-far private letter of intent to show for the commitment on Horowitz’ part and on the taxpayers’ behalf.

As we consider a future with Horowitz, we should not forget the “broken hearts” left behind, and ask if we are vulnerable to similar fickle and politically driven opportunism. Optimism is great, but if anyone should know the deal isn’t done until the deal is done, it’s Oxford and those who have worked on development plans with them, including John Richardson, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development, and other Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority officials.

Final questions

There isn’t enough space to address other salient details, so I’ll close with pertinent questions:

  • How will John Richardson’s current state position and possible aspirations for higher political office influence negotiations and the eventual outcome for the public interest?
  • Why are MRRA lawyers hiding Oxford Aviation’s letter of intent from public view? What parts of it don’t they think we should see? Isn’t MRRA supposed to be serving our interests?
  • Why wouldn’t OSO or Horowitz answer on Sanford? What happened to that agreement, with a lease signed and public funds lined up, and in better economic times than we find ourselves now?
  • Does Oxford have the financial stability, credit record, and backing to deliver on its promises? Has it delivered on those promises in the past? Is its record worthy of committing a $42 million hangar to them, and spending millions more annually to operate the airport for their benefit? What will the return on taxpayer funds be?
  • On what basis does Oxford think it can take business away from well-established commercial jetliner service providers?
  • If you were Jim Horowitz, would you keep both existing sites open after opening a mega-facility at Brunswick? Wouldn’t you consolidate common functions and operations for efficiency and greater competitiveness? If you did, would you still assert that all the jobs at Brunswick would be new, instead of relocated?

In summary, there’s more than enough grounds for healthy skepticism, especially when it’s the public treasury that seems to be taking on all the risk. In a state that is immensely challenged on both the revenue and expenditure accounts, we should demand iron-clad assurances and full disclosure of what is at stake.

The following expands on what was published:

The word “possible” before the term “John Richardson’s…..aspirations for higher office” was added by the Times Record editors. Apparently they are not familiar with Richardson.

In a subsequent review of file data, I came across a Forecaster article published in April of this year (link).

In the article, F. Lee Bailey, or “Lee Bailey,” as John Richardson calls him, had another “Shamwow” moment or two:

"We're looking for a paint booth that will accommodate an aircraft about the size of a (Boeing) 737," Bailey said. "There are only a few companies in the country that can paint an airplane that big."

"We think (a Brunswick operation) would become well-known throughout the world very quickly," he added.

After the meeting, Bailey that reiterated that assessment, adding that a first-class exterior painting operation would make Oxford Aviation "overloaded very quickly."

And then this, which is extremely revealing of how Bailey approaches a case:

"Fortunately for us, the American public has the attention span of a 4-year-old,"

Bailey's work with Oxford is good training for recognizing short attention spans, given their inability to take a deal to completion.

The same article points out that the 6000 ft runway at Sanford is a limiting constraint, even though it is twice as long as the too short runway at Oxford, accommodates Air Force 1, a mammoth 747, and is longer than, for example, the 5700 ft runway at Orange County Airport in Southern California, which is a thriving commercial airport.

"Company officials have since made assurances that the Brunswick expansion is a better opportunity because runways there will allow the company to work on larger aircraft that can't land at Sanford."

I think this is where the term “upselling” comes in handy. 3000 ft at Oxford Airport was the “limiting factor” even though he had a 4200 ft runway at Eastern Slopes. We can be sure he told Sanford that he needed their 6000 ft runway to expand to “larger aircraft.” Then we find out this spring that the 6000 ft at Sanford was a “limiting factor.”

Perhaps he’s looking to bring in the Space Shuttles for a new paint job and interior refurb before the program is retired. Now THAT would make a name for Brunswick! The “Cape Canaveral” of the Northeast! Can’t you just see F. Lee Bailey plugging that one on TV?

Richardson: Take two Protocols and call me in the morning

The Brunswick Town Council held a workshop on Naval Air Station redevelopment on Monday, June 22. Brunswick's own John Richardson, former Speaker of the House, and now State Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, was there, and offered his remarks on the subject.

Steve Mistler of the Forecaster characterized it this way:

"Caught between a need to ease anxiety about the closing of Brunswick Naval Air Station and protecting the identity of prospective tenants at the base, the commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development on Monday called for new communication "protocols" between the base redevelopment authority and the Town Council."
Richardson says he's had discussions with a dozen companies about moving to Brunswick, including one Fortune 500 company. In a variation on the old "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you" secrecy chestnut, Richardson said he wanted to say who they are, but he couldn't, because "confidentiality is king."

Link to the Forecaster article.

I guess the old approach of a business touting its future arrival by putting up a sign saying "future site of XYZ" has gone the way of the non-texting cell phone. Apparently, in this troubled economic era, it's better to hide your plans for expansion. It reminds me of the yellow page ads of some years back with a rug dealer who said that if he advertised in the phone book, "I'd have to answer the phone! And who wants to do that?"

We have no choice, I suppose, but to consider Oxford Aviation the exception that proves Richardson's rule of confidentiality, since they define the polar opposite of such secrecy. They've got F. Lee Bailey, doing his modern day take on Professor Harold Hill: "76 airplanes led the big fly in....with 201 new jobs close behind." All those years doing the "my client is innocent" shtick have prepared him well for his new theatrical role.

Oxford's web-site very unconfidentially pictures their "Brunswick Jet Division," otherwise known as the current in use Hangar 6 on the Naval Air Station. It shouldn't be too long before they take pictures of the prior, now-useless "groundbreaking" at Sanford, with Gov. Baldacci, Richardson, Bailey, and others in attendance, and photo-shop them to show a Brunswick ceremony. But maybe it's too late for that. With their movement onto the base complete, at least in cyberland, showing a ground breaking ceremony might be seen as blatantly misleading.

Link to Oxford's site; be sure to watch the animated promo of the Brunswick Jet Division at the top.

So how are we to reconcile Richardson's confidentiality pronouncements with Oxford's antithetical behavior? I have no idea; at least none that I'm willing to talk about in this polite discourse. I'm sure the more imaginative among you might, though. Feel free to submit them as a comment.

And if thinking about it gives you a headache, take two Protocols before you go to bed, and call Commissioner Richardson in the morning.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rooks "reflections" relegate reality rearward

Douglas Rooks is one of the Times Record's "featured columnists," along with Kurt Wise of the nanny-state non-profit Maine Center for Economic Policy. This means they get a featured spot on the op-ed page every two weeks, and who knows; they may even get paid for their analysis.

Rooks (rhymes with kooks) had a column in the Thursday, June 25 edition titled "Post-session reflections." In it, he talks about activities in the Maine legislature over the past several months, in keeping with the title, and then demonstrates that he knows more about the paving business than does a member of the Transportation Committee, Doug Thomas, whom he skewers at some length.

Opportunistic Republican basher that he is, Rooks manages to segue from this story line to the shame of Gov. Mark Sanford in South Carolina. Sanford will get no defense from me; I am an equal opportunity, non-partisan critic of anyone who behaves as Sanford has. I simply find it telling that Rooks decided to include him in this topic.

Rooks goes even a step further, trying for a three-fer. He makes this statement at the end of the column:

"Is it the job of government to pave roads and employ teachers, or can we really afford to do without them? We’ve been on the smaller government bandwagon for 30 years now, and will soon have to decide whether we want to get off."

I don't know what planet Rooks inhabits, but if he believes that last statement, he is clearly spending his time on the j-axis instead of the real axis.

Recent state budget enactment aside, which stems entirely from the fact that we, the Maine taxpayers, simply aren't doing what is expected of us, anyone who thinks that government has been getting smaller for the last 30 years is unfit to discuss such matters.

And don't throw head count reduction in Maine state government around; the dollars spent have been increasing almost without exception pretty much forever. And the expansion in Maine State shadow government is readily apparent to anyone who drives around with his eyes open. Non-profit social service agencies and the like are all ipso facto wholly owned and operated elements of our benevolent government.

Federal Government? The recent increases in the size and scope of this behemoth cannot be challenged, and Rooks' adored purveyor of "change and hope" has far more in store for us. I could look up the numbers, but my guess is the growth in Federal Government over the last 30 years would leave you gasping for breath if it was revealed.

As to Brunswick's local governance, I have records dating back to FY 87-88. Since that year, school spending has increased from $11.5 million to $33.5 million. Municipal expenses have grown from $6.5 million to $19.3 million over the same period. Hell; our cost per student has increased by 40% over the last 4 years.

You'd think the Times Record would hold their "featured columnists" more accountable to protect their readers; that they would vet such patently unrealistic assertions before allowing them to appear in print. You'd think so, but it looks like you'd be wrong.

It's not that the Times Record doesn't have standards, it's just that they apply them selectively. As someone observed in my former world of complex digital systems, standards are great, until such time as they constrain you from doing what you want to do.

On occasion, the Times Record has turned a submission of mine inside out, scrubbed it down with a wire brush, demanded detailed substantiation, and otherwise exercised editorial skepticism at a very high level. Or claimed that their showcase full of awards somehow immunizes them from public scrutiny. Perish the thought that such rigor could in any way result from the fact that my writing is almost always directly at odds with the clear ideological tilt of the editors. While Douglas Rooks' might best be described as an echo of their ideological tilt, or vice versa; take your pick.

There may be a bandwagon involved here as Rooks claims, but it sure as hell isn't going in the direction he claims it is. And there are fewer and fewer around to propel the "bandwagon," while the band keeps getting bigger and bigger.

So, as Jack Nicholson said in As Good As It Gets, I say to Rooks: "go sell crazy somewhere else; we're all stocked up around here." Or if you prefer something less glitzy, poppycock, Rooks.

And Dougie, if you have hopes of moving up to the New York Times before it disappears, you might want to clean up your act a bit; even they have some standards when it comes to the truth, although they manage to disguise them most of the time.

gleefully posted,

pc poppycock

Thursday, June 25, 2009

LD Cap and Trade and related thoughts....

Something like 2000 or more new bills are submitted by various members of the Maine legislature in each two year session. Virtually every one of them either costs more money, takes away a freedom, and/or panders to some special interest. New legislators are told they need to submit bills if they want to "make a name for themselves.

I have an idea: you want to make a name for yourself? Rob a bank or two. Otherwise, when you go to Augusta, why don't you just concentrate on seeing that all the existing laws and organizations run well and efficiently?

The reality is that 1000+ proposed new laws every year immediately bogs the system down, creates lots of unnecessary workload, and turns being in the legislature into pure drudgery a good deal of the time. Each bill attracts and keeps employed a variety of lobbyists and non-profit organizations, further adding to the scope and pervasiveness of government.

Can anyone look around and say that things are a lot better in Maine than they used to be because we consider 1000 possible new laws every year? I don't think so.

So I have an idea. The term "cap and trade" is popular right now. I propose that we cap the number of bills that can be submitted each two year session at 3 per legislator, meaning less than 600 total for the entire 2 year period. A legislator can trade their allotment away if they wish, or try to acquire someone else's.

What it boils down to is this: if they can't figure out how to limit their offerings to those that really, really matter, they shouldn't be leading us, or "serving" us, as they like to think of it. Best I can tell, the only bills absolutely required every two year session are the budget bills; a spending plan MUST be enacted to fund state operations. Everything else is optional

We've had enough "do something, do anything" bills. This is not a good reason to curtail liberty or spend public resources. And we've had enough "feel good" bills as well. The latter add a new law on top of the tens or hundreds of existing laws that address the subject, since it's ever so much more fun to bask in the public spotlight because of a new law, rathdoes nothier than tend to the enforcement of those already in place, which offers little or no recognition.

The classic case is gun legislation. Something tragic happens, and no one makes an effort to see whether the laws that were already in place have been enforced as required; that draws no reporters, or TV cameras, or lobbyists. Far more politic it is to propose something new, even if superfluous, or worse, unenforceable, and to have your name as the author and/or sponsor. Now THAT you can use back home when the next campaign rolls around. "Look at me... I drafted and sponsored the I'm a champion of the public bill."

The simple truth is that there are no photo ops for enforcing existing bills or filling potholes in roads that have been left to fall apart. But build a new bridge, or a new ramp, or a new something else, and we have ribbon cuttings, ceremonies, etc. All designed to promote the politician, not the "general welfare."

Here's another idea: require any vote in support of a bill or ordnance to include an affidavit that the official has read the document in question. No more "I didn't know it included that." They may not have actually read it...but they won't have the all-purpose dodge any more, will they?

And when it comes to local things like town ordnances that are just "being cleaned up," there should be an "is/was" version to make it clear what the changes are. I've seen to many aimless discussions as town officials try to grasp what is before them, and town staff struggles to explain it to them.


Claps and slaps

This entry provides a "bulletin board" for quick notes ranging from one sentence to one paragraph on notable events of recent days and weeks.

Added June 25, 2009
Claps for Governor Baldacci, who has decided to declare the entire state a "Pine Tree Zone." It isn't easy for me to post this, but you gotta give credit where credit is due, even if this is a concept that has been begging for implementation for a very long time. My skeptical side says there's something out of the ordinary here, but right now, I can't put my finger on it.

Claps for the Brunswick Planning Board, which recently approved Bill Moore's plan to develop his own private property for commercial use. It should be fun watching how long it takes the CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) to demonize Moore and obstruct his efforts with everything in their bag of tricks. We may even hear of some previously unknown subspecies of the fauna and flora kingdoms that are threatened with extinction. Never mind that the species of self-supporting humans is already endangered here in Gaia's little half acre.

Slaps overall for the Town Council, which steadfastly refuses to take the budget bull by the tail and face the situation. They could easily lead and establish upper limits for both sides of the budget early in the year, before budget preparation even begins. But no, they'd rather be backed into a corner and made out the ogres during the crunch of the last few weeks. How many times do you have to suffer such predictable behavior before you realize it's time to do something else?

Claps for Brunswick Town Councilor-at-Large Joanne King, who during the current budget deliberations, had the gumption to speak frankly about the tiresome demagoguery employed by the schools contingent over the slightest change to their requested budget amounts. As if there is not a dollar's worth of wiggle room (or banked amounts) in a $30 million plus budget. Does anyone really believe they don't enter the cycle with a built in amount they are prepared to "leave on the table?" If they don't, perhaps they aren't as bright as we might have hoped.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The truth about "tax reform"

What follows is based on an item submitted to the Coastal Journal some weeks ago, after it ran a column by Rep. Thom Watson of Bath entitled "Broaden sales tax base to effect tax reform." The CJ declined to run my response, which is not surprising, given their editorial inclination in the hard left direction.

Gina Hamilton, who writes most of the editorials, columns, and analysis items (at which she is quite good), clearly sets the tone for the weekly paper. And she makes no secret of her leanings.

Fine, I suppose. Hell, it's her job to make a go of it to keep her publishers happy, and you might as well cater to half the population if you want to succeed.

Watson, whose love of statism is well established, is a classic "trust me, I'm trying to lower your taxes while I increase the size and scope of government" type. I'm sure he does a spectacular job campaigning at local pot lucks and spaghetti feeds, where voting record is irrelevant. And his acting experience in local theater endeavors should come in handy, not to mention his lawyerly skills.
Without further adoo, here's the earlier item:

Rep. Watson's column in a recent edition of the Coastal Journal is full of the tired distractions and deceptions we get from Augusta whenever tax shifting (I mean reform) is served up for public consumption.

The first thing any informed taxpayer needs to recognize is that no-one, and I mean NO-ONE in the ruling majority is going to do anything that would risk even the slightest decrease in state tax revenues. The nature of government, especially of the sort we have, is to do everything it can to increase revenues, regardless of the story it has to tell to do it. That’s the context for Rep. Watson’s propaganda, along with a statehouse spending affliction that mirrors that of the populace, as they try to get the public to take the hook.

Simply stated, you can't return dollars to the pockets of the taxpayers of Maine while being so transparently focused on spending so much more at State and local levels. Any comments about "feeling our pain" and responding to it are DOA. Assertions that the new budget is lower than it's predecessor for the first time ever are comforting, but the fact is that it is only reluctantly so, because the legislators simply couldn't find enough blossoming money trees, and really had no choice. Not a one of them willingly reduced spending; they just didn't have any choice.

The bait in this case is dropping the top state income tax rate from 8.5% to 6.5%. Sounds good, until you look at the details, which qualified authorities have done. Now the switch: with all the other changes in deductions, credits, etc, the effective top rate will only drop to about 8%. For the average Mainer, the savings here will be more than offset by the increases elsewhere. Truth be told, this deception will work on far too many.

The victory for the pols is that the national surveys that monitor such rates will suddenly rate Maine as being in "the middle third" of states, when nothing has changed to lower our real tax burden. This is all show and no go. Remember, no one in the majority will knowingly or willingly do ANYTHING to put revenue and spending at risk. What they will willingly do is enact a shell game feel good law that makes you think they have, while protecting everything they hold near and dear.

To make the point more clearly, they could have lowered the top income tax rate to 4.25%, half of the current top rate, while eliminating nearly all deductions, and oh, by the way, adding a "tax surcharge of 5% of income. Done with appropriate finesse, such a change would have increased your taxes but allowed our so called "public servants" to score points for having "lowered Maine's income tax by half."

The attention in this new "tax reform" legislation is increasing sales tax revenue by broadening the base. Watson feeds us the old story about how our economy has changed, and our sales tax was structured for the economy of 50 years ago. Shoe factories are all gone, yada, yada, yada.

News flash, Thom: the sales tax is a consumption tax! It is not based on where you work, but on what you buy, and your shoe factory example is a distraction, as I expect any court would find.

Besides, we are virtually all addicted to consumption, and of the taxable sort. We take on unmanageable credit card and home equity debt to indulge our lust for things, gizmos, trinkets, toys, and vanity accessories of every sort. We eat out (taxable) far more than ever. We spend beyond our means, just as government does!

For proof, look around your house and compare your taxable possessions to what you had say 20 years ago. How many TV’s, video games, DVDs, computers, cell phones, cordless phones, and other electronic marvels did you have then? Do you have more toys, sporting good, clothes, and shoes than you did then, or less? How often did you eat out 20 years ago compared to now?

If your answer is as I expect, your consumer purchases, and therefore your sales tax “contributions,” have grown by leaps and bounds over that period. How many cars did you have then compared to now? Want an even greater shock? Take a look at your parent’s lives say 40 or 50 years ago or more. My parents had one car and five children. One lousy TV, no microwave, one dial phone, and usually one set of Sunday clothes. And we’re supposed to believe that the sales tax structure has not “kept pace” with life in the 21st century and needs to be redesigned? Excuse me?

Our life styles and the shopping and eating out opportunities that surround us have grown by leaps and bounds over the last several decades. Think about where you could shop and eat out in this area 30 years ago compared to now. Deception, distraction, thy name is Augusta.

Then there’s the tale of woe about cars and building supplies being the largest items in the tax base, and their volatility in economic cycles. They will always be the largest items; they simply cost more than anything else we buy. And all consumer purchases follow economic cycles; just look at your main street and ours, and talk to local business folks.

One last thing…..”people don’t make travel decisions based on lodging tax. If they did, no one would ever go to Disneyworld.” In case you haven’t heard, Thom, there is only one Disneyworld. But there are lots of places with trees and lakes and rivers and insects, and many of them are far more spectacular and accommodating than Maine.

Not to mention that you and I are "tourists" when it comes to taxation all year long, and usually several times a week. Any time you eat out, or stop for a cup of coffee on 95, or do any number of other things "tourists" do, you pay the tax supposedly being exported to them. The Mrs. and I go out for anything from coffee to an actual meal 5 or more times a week. And we've stayed at accommodations in state numerous times. I guess I should have asked the tourist at the next table or in the next room to pay the sales tax I was charged on my behalf. That should make some friends.

In conclusion, Rep.Watson, and your fellow propagandists, go ply your tax reform shell game somewhere else; we’ve got more than enough deception around here to keep us busy for a good long while.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thoreau, Limited Government, and the Times Record

Every once in a while I read an edition of the Brunswick Times Record and believe for a moment that they've published a parody issue. Such a stunt is an old memory from my college days.

I went to Rutgers College in New Jersey, where the student paper, called "The Daily Targum," was published Monday thru Friday. A few times a year, they'd put out a complete parody issue, and unless you were observant enough to notice that the masthead said "The Daily Mugrat," instead of the correct name, you got sucked in by it all, and it was great fun. I mean who looks at the Masthead of any paper to make sure it's what it was the day before?

Well, last week, the editors of the Times Record, in a heartfelt salute to June graduates in our area, reminisced about their own youth. Their editorial cited Henry David Thoreau as an inspiration, and in particular, an essay of his titled "Civil Disobedience." Here's a link:

Bad boy that I am, and a thoroughly non-liberally educated engineer, the title intrigued me. So I looked it up, hoping to broaden my appreciation of the great minds, even at this late juncture in my upbringing.

Well, you could just knock me over with a Frosty's twist or six. It turns out the opening passage of the essay reads as follows:

"I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. "

This is a cherished essay of the Times Record opinion writer?

I don't have the professional credentials to know what cognitive dissonance means in the specific sense, but I'm pretty damn sure in my engineering mind that this is the phenomenon that the term was invented to describe.

The Times Record, whose featured columnists are Amy Goodman, widely recognized leftist radical; Paul Krugman, who believes Obama should have spent a good deal more in borrowed stimulus funds; Nicholas Kristof and Bob Herbert, both confirmed uber-liberals; and Douglas Rooks, a NY Times wannabe; all committed to the belief that "that Government is best which governs most?" And committed to the end of capitalism, free enterprise, and self-reliance as we know them, and their role in creating the greatest opportunity and the highest standard of living the world has ever kown? This Times Record wants me to believe that they revere the seminal Thoreau quote cited above?

The very same Times Record that gave us a Thomas Sowell column or two, and a David Brooks column or ten before 86'ing each, no doubt because a local true believer or two considered Sowell unacceptable because of his logical approach, and Brooks to be too conservative, even though he's about as conservative as Bill Maher is religious.

Is it any wonder so many who think critically have written off the Times Record? It's one thing to dismiss half of your potential readership by ideological adherence to one extreme on the political spectrum; it's quite another to take a position that simply doesn't wash with the established record. Even if the record is only two weeks long.

A memorable scene in "As Good As It Gets," one of my all time favorite movies, comes to mind. If you guess which one it is, reply with a comment. First person with the correct answer wins a cupie doll, autographed by Thoreau.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guidelines and terms of reference for this blog

1) If you don't appreciate wit, humor, irony, sarcasm, parody, satire, laughter, and other forms of coming to grips with the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in, you probably reflect "mainstream" thinking in Brunswick, whether you realize it or not.

2) If that describes you, welcome aboard. We have numerous voices and sources telling us that "Brunswick will continue it's remarkable growth" and other versions of "Brunswick is perfect," even if there is much reason to challenge such claims. Because we hope to get to the truth of our circumstances, we invite your informed commentary. If, on the other hand, you do appreciate those elements, bring it on, Baby! We can all use the laughs!

3) Let me be clear; I intend to publish straightforward criticism and analysis of the status quo and those who sustain it, prolong it, and otherwise refuse to recognize reality. If you want happy sunshine, complacency, and self-absorption blown into your bodily orifices, you should look elsewhere. Here you will find the antidote for such "happy-happy talkin' happy talk." And hopefully, a smirk, a smile, or a laugh.

4) Posting privileges are available to readers. It will be granted at my discretion, and the rules for contributions will be "moderate." I have been known to speak frankly when I deemed it necessary; the general rule will be that if I find your post within the limits of my personal taste, it will be published.

If it goes beyond even those bounds and my personal tastes, than you may be 86'ed without explanation. Don't like it? Start your own blog.

Favorite books, quotes, restaurants, movies, etc


"Born Liberal, Raised Right," by Reb Bradley. A very straightforward treatise on why our nation is in a state of moral decay, and believe it or not, it is not politically driven. It simply employs common sense (why is it so 'uncommon') to explain how the way we raise our children determines our future, and more than you ever realized.

"America Alone" by Mark Steyn. An extremely well researched and documented analysis of world demographics at this point in history, and what they portend for the future. Steyn is a very witty and engaging author, and he has done his homework. I defy you to read this book and not be concerned about globals shifts in ideological influence. And for those of you who love "old" Europe, be advised it is dying faster than your Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers are fading.


Frosty's Donuts: The real deal; one of a kind. Open only Monday thru Friday from 0-dark-hundred, as they say in the military, to 2pm. Their donuts are worlds apart from Tim Horton's, Dunkin' Donuts, or even Krispy Kreme. Fresh made, on site, every day they're open. When they're gone, they're gone. Original ingredients, original atmosphere. No $4 lattes or double vanilla decaf moccachinos. Just the best donuts, bar none, and a cup-o-Wicked Joe.

Big Top Deli: The guy who owns and runs the place is a bit self-effacing, but they still put out the largest variety of sandwiches in town, with the best quality ingredients. Want something that's not on the menu? Just ask; you'll get shouts of praise for expanding upon the approved offerings, and they'll make it for you, even if it's perceived to fall outside "the mainstream." And you'll enjoy it, because the atmosphere is perfect small town, and one of a kind. The loyal happy-workers in the trenches seem to enjoy working for the imposing owner. The coffee is sometimes a bit luke-warm, but they're willing to nuke it or get you a fresh pot. And if you're lucky, you'll get to see the latest trends in flourescent hair coloring and other forms of "body art" amongst the patrons.
For those of you who enjoy being around and thanking our folks in uniform, Big Top Deli is one of the last places to see them, often with family or friends, and thank them for what they do. And tell them how we'll miss them. Buy them lunch if you have a chance.

Scarlet Begonias: Ok, folks, now we're getting serious. Small town atmosphere meets BYOB meets owner on the premises cooking for you. I don't think it gets any better than this. Doug and Colleen's attention to making you happy is world class. As I tell everyone, Doug is a master of flavor. Absolutely everything they offer, but especially the pizzas, are a revelation of what a well trained, instinctively talented chef can do to make your taste buds happy. I've taken a cooking class from him at Now You're Cooking in Bath, and you should too. There's a reason my spouse periodically says 'it's time for a Scarlet's fix.' I'm ready; let's go. I always leave with a "happy mouth."

Back Street Bistro: Same thing. As I understand it, the folks who own this hidden gem have Fore Street and Royal River Grillhouse credentials in their resume. That's great "genes" in my book. While the atmosphere is a bit rustic, yet warm and cozy, there is no question that they are, like Scarlet's, masters of flavor. Every single aspect of your meal will excite your taste buds, at least if they are similar to mine. The salads, especially, are inventive and memorable, using fruits, cheeses, and other surprises to create taste memories. The entrees, whether meat or seafood, are superb quality and cooked in a way that maximizes your enjoyment. And the last for best, because I am Germano, the mashed potatoes that BSB serves are absolutely the best I have ever tasted. (At least in the last week!) This may be backwards, but a Back Street Cosmo or a classic Martini (forget the other trendy ones, if you're serious) will not disappoint either.

Fairgrounds Cafe: Located in the Fairgrounds Mall in Topsham, this cafe is deservedly doing a land office breakfast business, especially on weekends. They seem to know (most of the time) when you need a coffee refill, without you having to ask. That's our first test of a good breakfast place. Second, the staff have names and remember yours....sort of. All in all, the best place in the immediate Brunswick area to go for a dynamite weekend hot breakfast, and the crowds prove it. I plan to work with them to elevate their biscuits and sausage gravy to world class status, if they'll have me. I'll let you know when I've succeeded.