Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reflections.....on yesterday.

"Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble."

"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

Macbeth, Act IV

Sometimes, in the bubbling cauldron of my mind, things cook quickly, I serve them up, and just like that, what to cook next grabs my attention.

Other times, things bubble and cook slowly, ingredients meld, flavors take on new complexity, and a surprising new dish results.

Yup; it's me being silly again. But not THAT silly. I told you yesterday that the two posts occurred to me separately, but as I composed the second one, something more came to mind.

After a day of casual reflection, I am convinced that there may well be more to the story than a first reading revealed.

Let's review the circumstances. The Forecaster report on the MRRA board meeting in Bath earlier this week described the discussions related to Oxford Aviation's proposal to occupy the massive new hangar at BNAS, specifically mentioning comments by F. Lee Bailey, Commissioner John Richardson, and Steve Levesque, the MRRA head. And how approving the lease agreement between Oxford and MRRA was a top priority, and would be voted on at the October meeting. That's right; the deal could be sealed in a month, before anyone locally knows what hit them.

The Times Record report on the same meeting didn't mention Oxford, Bailey, or Richardson at all. Instead, it focused on no-cost transfers, Blue Angel visits, and more space for MRRA, so it could accommodate a "clean energy" manager. Or should we say clean energy czar? (Note to MRRA: a national expert in such matters recently became available, and has impeccable Washington czar-level experience.)

How could our local paper completely miss the Oxford/Bailey/Richardson nexus?

THIS is how the slow cooking in the cauldron of my mind came to pass.

I tried to remember what coverage the local paper had provided over the last year on the Oxford initiative, and the pickings were pretty slim. I remembered the three commentaries I submitted on base redevelopment, the second of which raised some concerns about Oxford claims and comments.

This second column elicited a letter in response from Jim Horowitz, CEO of Oxford. The letter showed little rigor in vetting by the editors, if any at all, since Horowitz refuted an assertion I had not made. This was curious to say the least.

His letter in turn caused me to delve more deeply into Oxford's past, and the result was a third commentary. Only after repeated probing did the editors retreat from their "still considering it" excuse making and demand that I substantiate everything in the column. Detailed 'exchanges' ensued, following which a slightly modified version was printed. This episode led reluctantly to the creation of this blog.

The only other published item I can recall on this subject is a commentary authored by a well known "pillar of the community," who argued that MRRA was doing a swell job and that they should be cut some slack because of the tough challenges they face. I took it as a back door dismissal of my last commentary on the subject.

Since then, I cannot recall a single news report or editorial piece on the Oxford initiative, the consequences for the town, the corporate welfare issues, and the very obvious political implications of the negotiations.

Flash back to the 2000 Brill's Content article. It turns out that the author of the "cut MRRA some slack" commentary, who I characterized as a pillar of the community, was prominently mentioned in the article. And in a troubling and unflattering way, specifically related to who decides what our "free press" covers and how.

Which is what led to the "slow cooking" analogy. New and complex "flavors" came to the fore, along with curiosity about how things really work in our little town of "Perfect."

I'd link to all the relevant items, but as I noted yesterday, the Brill's article is not available on the web. And the local newspaper's web based archive spans all of the last two weeks, which is to say it isn't really an archive. This eliminates the possibility of compiling a meaningful history of their coverage on just about anything.

Side has no other option, then, but to pose the following questions for Chris, Robert, and Jim over at the Times Record, and just for the heck of it, for Doug the Director as well:

1) Who actually runs the paper?

2) How is it decided, and by whom, what gets reported on and what doesn't, and what approach the reporting takes?

3) What does it take to make the cut on what is relevant to the local region, its residents, and its future?

Jeez, Louise, if Oxford, Bailey, and Richardson don't make the cut, what would?? Those concerned have my offer of unlimited column inches here to answer.

It's enough to make some wonder whether the sale of the "old" Times Record building to the town doesn't warrant concern in retrospect.

There's more than one "elephant in the room" these days; but this "white" one is looking more and more un-adoptable. If you know anyone who could provide a foster home for it, give the town office a call.


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