Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kool-Aid by any other name is, well, still Kool-Aid

Informed readers know that ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has been forced to change its name as a result of all the troubling reports arising from its role in the election of President Obama. The operative theory is that the general public, as F. Lee Bailey says, has an attention span of something like 4 hours, and won’t have a clue what the newly named organization is. Bailey should make a suggestion for processors of cod liver oil: rename it “Essence of the Fair Seas” and sales should go through the roof. “But wait! --- Order in the next 30 minutes and get one free!”

For the past few years, a free bimonthly publication called The Maine Democrat has been distributed around the state. Typically running 24 pages, with modest use of color, the tag line is “The Maine Democrat - Inclusive and Progressive.” In a gesture of bipartisanship, I usually picked up a copy at the Big Top Deli, but I’ve seen it in several other locations around town.

The Maine Democrat was published by Ramona du Houx of Solon, the mother of Alex Cornell du Houx, one time candidate for the Brunswick City Council, and now a state representative from Brunswick. Alex withdrew from the Council race because of military obligations. The state office he now holds was formerly owned by John Richardson, the current Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, so we can expect Alex to rise to the “Mr. Speaker” post in a few short years under Richardson's tutelage.

According to Ms. du Houx, 23,000 copies were distributed around the state, and the copies were printed by “union labor.” It claimed to be a “volunteer publication.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, The Maine Democrat was a shameless propaganda tool for the Maine Democrat Party, even though the masthead disavowed any official connection with the party or any political campaigns. Such disavowal, frankly, never passed TOSOB’s smell test. From front cover to rear cover, every single item was a paean to Baldacci and the governing majorities in the Maine house and senate. With every issue, I made a point of counting the pictures in which Baldacci appeared, and almost without exception, Baldacci pictures outnumbered the number of pages.

Virtually every picture was credited to Ms. du Houx, and literally every article was written by her as well. She seemed to be a Tinkerbell living in Baldacci’s blazer pocket, ready to snap a picture and dictate a story whenever and wherever he might appear. Revenue generating advertising was minimal, and about half of the ads were placed by Democrat candidates or Democrat office holders, and I presume they were given special rates for such ads. It never carried enough business advertising to remotely suggest that printing and distribution costs could be covered, let alone editorial costs.

I was convinced that something was not right about the undertaking, and that various campaign rules and laws were being skirted ever so carefully. But I’m not a lawyer; though I know many of you would wish that fate on me. I am an engineer, and that can be just as arduous, except you don’t have to defend the indefensible. And the pay reflects it. I suppose I could ask “Lee Bailey” to look into it, but for some reason, he won't return my calls lately.

Yesterday, as is our habit, the Poppycock’s had lunch at the Big Top Deli on a glorious and all too rare sunny day. And I picked up a copy of what appeared to be a new publication called Maine Insight.

Well, surprise surprise, a quick examination revealed that it is, in fact, The Maine Democrat with a new campaign hat. Ms. du Houx is still the publisher, taking credit for nearly every article, photo, and artwork. It is, however, down to 16 pages. And I only counted 12 of the 16 pages as having pictures containing Baldacci. Maybe Tinkerbell has had to find other work.

By my count, non-political advertising in this issue would net around $1500 at published rates, not allowing for multi-insertion or other “negotiated” discounts. Not nearly enough, as I see it, to cover even the most basic of costs. Go figure.

If you visit the website linked in the second paragraph, you’ll see that it carries the content of both the old and the new. Questions arise as to what drove the change; could it be Alex’s presence in the Legislature, or could warnings have issued from others concerned about pushing boundaries? If you do visit, you’ll find such comforting pictures as this, reminding us to don’t worry, be happy, about the closing of BNAS.

The really good news, though, is that while The Maine Democrat was a slobbering and transparent house organ for
Maine’s Democrat governing class, Maine Insights, in contrast, is a slobbering and transparent house organ for Maine’s governing Democrats. (Thanks to Bernie Goldberg, a fellow Rutgers grad, for not complaining about my use of “slobbering.”)

And so we are left to contemplate, loyal readers, just what new name F. Lee Bailey will come up with for Oxford Aviation. I predict, for the record, that it will fail TOSOB’s smell test, just like his prior orations on the subject.

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