Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New News from Lake Basebegone

It’s been a quiet several weeks in Lake Basebegone. Summer corn is finally here, and what there is of local tomatoes are in as well. The kids are heading back to school, and the night air is reminding us that fall is pushing summer out of the way. But there is news to report.

Oxford Aviation’s “Brunswick Jet Division” Update

In late spring of this year, The Times Record printed a series of commentaries by this reporter on the Oxford Aviation plan to set up a Division in the mammoth new hangar at the Naval Air Station. Oxford was so confident that they photoshopped a hangar picture to make it look like they were already there, and used it on their web site. I posted the series on this blog in the ‘early days.’

Updates were posted from time to time, triggered mostly by F. Lee Bailey sorties into the local area.

The columns were prompted by a sense that something didn’t seem quite right. This reporter is an uneducated and untrained slacker in matters of journalism. What the situation needed was attention from someone who knew how to dig into a story.
Fortunately for us, Steve Mistler of the Forecaster applied his considerable investigative and writing skills to the challenge, and his product was posted today on the Forecaster web site.

We are most fortunate that he did, and I implore you to read and ponder the entire effort. It throws more fuel on the fires of doubt by going well beyond anything in the earlier commentaries. I found a few lines in Steve’s column particularly memorable.

MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque worried last week that "negative press" could kill the deal for Oxford to lease a 166,000-square-foot hangar built in 2005.

‘Negative press?’ What is that supposed to mean? Does Lévesque equate inconvenient facts with ‘negative press?’ Is he afraid that facts and past experience will “kill” the only deal currently on the table?

This comment alone should raise our level of vigilance much higher, in spite of John Richardson’s “protocols” request. If the Oxford deal will die from a little sunlight exposure, what does that tell us?

If that one doesn’t get you, maybe this one will:
Tenenbaum felt Horowitz wasn't someone he wanted to do business with.

That’s a comment I heard more than once as I rooted around before writing my columns.

Similarly, I find this statement by Horowitz fascinating:

"I haven't met anyone in public office, whether it be commissioners, governors or federal agencies," he said, "that hasn't felt good about the projects we've done."

To suggest otherwise, of course, would be to suggest that “commissioners, governors” and other officials would admit they were misled or otherwise didn’t deliver on promises. Not to mention that this claim by Horowitz is impossible to confirm.

I don’t know how many “governors” come in to play here, but the only one I know about is John Baldaccci, the current captain of our sinking ship of state. Perhaps Steve Mistler can find time to contact the governor to see if he feels good ‘about the projects we’ve done.’

Reading the article in light of what I found earlier convinces me that there are at least two solid bets if this deal goes forward. First, very large sums of taxpayer money will be at the heart of the deal, and Horowitz, Bailey and company will minimize the skin they have in the game. Second, the glowing promises and possibilities showered upon us will turn out to be wildly exaggerated. But so what; it should be fun to watch each newly painted jet fly out of town with a box full of local and state taxpayer money. You don’t mind, do you?

You know, all those commercial jets that just can't find a decent paint shop somewhere else in the world. Who wouldn't want to fly to a remote corner in our country, winter weather and all?

This seems like the right time to talk about language abuse in such circumstances. On the one hand, we have terms like “speculation,” “corporate welfare,” “loopholes,” and “tax breaks for the wealthy.” You’ve heard them many times; demagogues use them to demonize greedy capitalists working against the common good, and those advocating for them.

On the other hand, there are terms like “public investment,” “Pine Tree Zone tax-incentive program,” "public grants and loans,” “public assistance,” and “Community Development Block Grant.” In some indecipherable word game, these are terms used by those advocating for suddenly non-greedy capitalists working for the common good.

I defy you to explain the difference in terms the common taxpayer can grasp. And when you do, please post your explanation here for all to see.

Droning on About Drones

Turns out the Navy had the unmitigated gall to fly a Global Hawk UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) into our local Naval Air Station recently. It’s "flown" remotely from hundreds of miles away. Generically called “drones,” the presence of the aircraft, nay, its very existence, brought out drones of a different stripe.

The local peace at any price crowd went into high dudgeon, since to them, military systems, personnel, hardware, ships, aircraft, weapons, and anything else related to national defense, exist only to cause or start wars and kill humans by the thousands. These are the folks who convinced me that a goodly portion of the local population is giddy over base closure, figuratively if not literally carrying “Good Riddance, Navy” signs on their shoulders.

Always tempered in their remarks, they were quoted in the local paper thusly on the drone situation:

This war mentality is not sustainable.

…..concern about the implications (of drones) for our community and how we’d be right smack in the middle of aggressive warmaking.

Similar thought patterns would suggest that law enforcement causes crime.

These good folks would like to see Bath Iron Works forced out of the shipbuilding business so that their “swords” can be beat into wind turbine blades. They’d like to see BNAS redeveloped into a wind turbine campus. I suspect they’d like to see the old Grand City and Bookland converted into wind turbine facilities too, just to make sure private enterprise and the defense sector doesn’t sneak back into our presence “like thieves in the night.”

If you’re big on wind turbines as our economic knight in shining armor, you might want to do a little reading before you jump on his horse with him. You’ll be surprised by what you read here. From what I’ve heard, certain local elites stand to make a windfall, if you’ll excuse the slip, from promoting the concept and lining up public funds to "invest" in the technology. At least one said individual showed much promise in another pursuit on the public behalf not too long ago, and demonstrated a fascinating proficiency at spending taxpayer resources. In so doing, he set the stage for the fiscal crisis the state now faces.

You know what they say: the only reason socialism hasn’t worked elsewhere is because the wrong people were running it. The same thought comes to mind here – wind power has not delivered elsewhere only because the wrong people were in charge, and we won’t let that happen here. And you can trust our benefactors on that; they’re not like all the others.

As for our peaceful friends, I continue to wonder just how much freedom they’re willing to trade for what they see as “peace.” There are multiple views of what peace “is,” and not all are appealing, or for that matter, “sustainable,” to use a fashionable concept in such matters.

Understanding the difference is vital, history reminds us, but I don’t see that sort of circumspection very often.

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