Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brunswick & MRRA announce purchase of Brooklyn Bridge

In what they described as an unanticipated miracle, Brunswick and the Miscast Redevelopment Regional Agency today announced that an understanding had been reached with F. Lee Bailey Properties to purchase the Brooklyn Bridge.

Speaking through Poppycock Strategies, their consultant hired to obfuscate, articulate, pontificate, and bloviate in such matters, the purchasers said that the bridge was a perfect fit, and since it fits, they must act on it.

“We were intrigued by Bailey’s presentation of what the base could look like after the bridge is shipped to Brunswick, repainted, and installed,” said local dignitaries.  Shown in the photo below, Bailey’s firm projected how the bridge would connect the fully developed base on the right to US 1, which would be rerouted to the other side of the Androscoggin to accommodate the bridge’s span, and make room for the expected economic boom.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is Brunswick heading for a fiscal "train wreck?”

What with Maine Street Station taking up so much of the local “oxygen,” and the recent news about funding to bring Amtrak north, I sure as hell hope I’m wrong about the possibility.

But on the way to breakfast this morning, we heard Frank Sinatra singing “A Pocketful of Miracles,” and like just about everything does, it got me to thinking.

Brunswick’s history in maintaining capital assets and managing capital improvements isn’t exactly cloaked with glory.
  • The tearing down of the old Town Hall building on Maine Street still pains many long time residents, especially when viewed in the light of the “undistinguished” replacement on Federal Street.
  • The care of the old High School on McKeen Street could be seen as a travesty, although some say there was a method to the madness.
  • Not very long ago, a $6 million central fire station project was proposed that grew to a total of $13 million in a matter of months, before voters rejected the plan by a landslide.
  • The Cooks Corner Substation began as a $1.6 million undertaking and finished at $2.6 million, a growth of more than 60%.
  • The old Times Record building was purchased for around $1.5 million, only to discover AFTER it was bought that it needed $5 million plus in repairs and renovation to be useful.  As if that couldn’t have been determined BEFORE buying it.
  • Recent thoughts about using that same building as a new Police Station drew a renovation estimate of $3.6 million, considered too much to pursue.

Score 1 for Oxford Aviation

This reporter has worked hard to build a reputation for being rare and unbalanced, and I don’t intend to destroy it any time soon.  It is in this spirit that Other Side passes along this item.

The news is reported in the Lewiston Sun Journal, and it’s titled “County to pay $250K to settle Oxford Aviation lawsuit.”

Presumably, interested students will read the whole story.  Here’s the nutshell paragraph:
The settlement relieves the county from liability in a lawsuit and removes maintenance obligations from a lease with the aircraft refurbishing company based at the county-owned Oxford Regional Airport. In exchange for the lease modification, the company will cease paying a monthly rent to the county.
The story “is what it is,” using a popular phrase of the moment.  We’ll make the assumption that Oxford County didn’t do a very good job establishing their arrangement with Oxford Aviation and in overseeing it to protect the interests of the taxpayer.  Perish the though that the participation of noted barrister F. Lee Bailey could have influenced the settlement.  No self-respecting official in backwoods Maine would be blinded by his glittering countenance. 

Would they?

"Oh, Brother Stan, Where Art Thou?"

Someone cue the banjo music; it's just the right background for gandy-dancers and others "workin' on the railroad."  But something about the scene doesn't look quite right.

There's much whoopin' and hollerin' in Brunswick the last few days over the announcement that $35 million in taxpayer money will be spent to recondition the rail lines from Portland up to Brunswick and perhaps beyond.  That's around $200 per foot; such a deal!

Just yesterday, I read two lengthy articles on the announcement in the local media outlets, and fully expected Senator Stan (Our Man) Gerzofsky would be prominent in each, and featured in photo coverage of the other dignitaries.  A report on Wednesday said that he would "have his ear to the tracks during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address" in anticipation of just such good news on the subject.

But nowhere is Senator Stan mentioned in these reports.  I just did a search of the media to confirm this.  How could this be, after his prominent role and related coverage on the rail issue in recent months?  This should have been his chance to dance the happy dance in public.

Not much gets by Other Side, but this one finds us stumped.  Stan...would you ask your people to get in touch with our people and let us know what's going on?  I hope you're OK.

Thanks, buddy.

+++++++++++Other Side News Alert+++++++++++++++++

Oops!  You’ll have to give old Poppy a mulligan; I wasn’t even halfway through my first Coffee Royale when I first sent this post to the printing room.  A bit more “due diligence” turned up this photo in yesterday’s paper from further south.  In it, we see our friend two paces to the rear and one to the left of Congresswoman Pingree, dutifully adhering to the protocols of rank.  We can also see why he might not have been quoted in any of the articles.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Bits and Pieces: Friday 29 January

J&J (no, not the Cleaners!)

A friend ran into this reporter whilst we were out on the beat today, covering the action at Big Top Deli, where the elite meet to greet and eat.  Occasionally, that is.

As we discussed the item posted yesterday about Joanne King, Town Council Chair, joining John Richardson’s campaign for the state’s highest office, the friend astutely recalled that we had just recently been lectured by a certain well-known local dignitary on the dangers of intermingling town and state politics. 

Hmmmm, I said, as I wiped the thousand island soaked sauerkraut from my tie and reporter’s notebook; good point!  I expressed confidence that the “lecturer,” a master of nuance in such situations, could explain things, but calls to his people have not been returned at press time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tutorial: Commenting & Viewing Comments

Other Side was conceived on the basis that it would be open to and encourage comments from readers.  Our belief is that the more readers that join in, the more enjoyable and illuminating the blog will be.  Although, frankly, it’s hard to imagine it being much better than it already is.

Here at the offices, we’ve become aware that the process of commenting and/or reading comments posted by others may be a bit confusing.  So consider this an invitation to join in, and the basics for doing so are as follows.

To comment on a post: At the bottom of each post is an “administrative” window, the first line of which says “Posted by P. C. Poppycock” with a time stamp.  Just to the right of the time stamp is a tag that says “X comments,” where X is a number ranging from 0 on up.  If you click on this tag, a form will open that allows you to comment on the post.

If you have never done this before, you will be asked to register, which involves entering your email address and a “user name.”  Do not be afraid to do so.  I guarantee that registering in this way will not result in any traffic to your inbox, or any other spam or annoyances.  And you and your email address will be anonymous to me, unless you want me to know who you are.  So your identity will not be revealed to me, or to blog readers.

To read other’s comments: If the number in the comments tag is other than 0, clicking on it will display the comments that have already been posted.  You can read them without registering or commenting yourself, so there is no identity risk of any sort.

That’s it!  It’s really easy!  If you have a problem, contact me directly at the email provided on the blog for help.






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Brunswick Council Chair: John Richardson's Campaign Treasurer

While we haven't noticed any reports in the local media, Other Side has learned that Joanne King, the Chair of the Brunswick Town Council, is the Treasurer for John Richardson's Gubernatorial Campaign.  And we have confirmation from an unimpeachable source.

Since our offices are in the relative "boonies" of Brunswick, we're probably the last to know.  City folk just seem to find out early.  As dedicated journalists, we feel an obligation to our similarly disconnected readers to pass along the news.

This reporter reacted to the report with a soupcon of disbelief and a modicum of surprise.  Over the years, we've been told that town council duties represent a considerable work load, and we imagine that being Chair only adds to that.  We've also known folks involved in the campaign treasurer role, and to use the common man's view of things, they characterize it as "a real pain in the ass."  Hence the surprise that King would take it on, especially now.

But that's a personal consideration.  Other aspects of this decision are not.  While we are not authorities in conflicts of interest in this area, it seems a bit unseemly for an elected town official to take on a major role in such a high profile campaign.  And while council elections have always been "non-partisan," wink, wink, the Richardson campaign is anything but.

Richardson may be a Brunswick guy, but that doesn't change a thing as we see it.  As Brunswick heads into the great unknowns of a future as Lake Basebegone, it seems like an inopportune time for those leading the town to take sides in a major election.

But you know us here at Side; we're babes in the cabbage patch when it comes to such things.  Protocols, especially in the political arena, are not our strong suit.

Which reminds me; maybe I should just take two and I'll feel better in the morning.

And I'll call you if I don't.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

“Other Side” goes National!

The atmosphere here at Other Side editorial offices is positively giddy over the publishing of this reporter’s letter to the editor in a major national media outlet.

I could tell you that based on Other Side’s growing circulation and reputation, the Wall Street Journal sought us out as a contributor in a transparent attempt to boost their own circulation and prestige.

I could tell you that, but it would be, to turn a phrase, Pure Poppycock.

The truth (at least in the classic sense we adhere to it  here at the offices) is, stimulated by Daniel Henninger’s column, Side dashed out a letter last weekend and sent it in, never expecting that anything would come of it.  Well, something did.

You’ll recall that you were given a homework assignment to read Henninger’s piece.  Now, interested students have a follow-up assignment, and that is to read the letter here.  This will take you to all of today’s (27 January) letters.

Since the contents of that page will likely change by tomorrow morning, a more enduring link is this one.

Or for the linkalogically challenged, the letter is posted below.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

“Maine Schools – Making the Grade?”

Last week I attended a Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) luncheon in Portland.  The featured presentation was titled the same as this blog post, and it was an eye-opening brief given by Steve Bowen,  Director of MHPC’s Center for Education Excellence.

You can find a copy of the presentation here, and I highly recommend that you link to and read it.

If you pay attention to the annual school budget process, and follow what goes on in the related “negotiation” of teachers contracts every two to three years, you know that the school professionals relentlessly cite the need for additional spending and smaller class sizes “for the children.”  And there’s always a well-trained chorus of ‘schoolies’ to back up their demands.

The good news from the presentation is that spending more and more on education turns out to be very effective.  The bad news is that it’s not effective at what you might wish for.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is healthcare a “right?”

While the terms of the congressional goat rope surrounding proposed health care “reform'” have changed after the special election this week, there’s no denying that proponents of the idea have grounded their arguments on the premise that health care is a “right.” In the words of a friend of mine, “there is no more fundamental human right than health care.”

Claiming something is a “right” is one of the great intimidators; one of the icy conversation stoppers used to disable and demonize opponents. “You mean you’re against basic human rights?”  “How could you!!”

I come from the point of view that there is no more fundamental  human right than liberty, and that it is the foundation of all the blessings we enjoy in this marvelous American “experiment.” 

Lincoln warned us that there is more than one view of “liberty:”

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.

Rather than blather further on my own, I’m going to get to the point of this post, which is to refer you to a very insightful dissertation on the title of this post.  Surprisingly, it dates to 1993, close to 20 years ago!, when the Clinton health plan was the big news.

You can find it here.  It is, for me, a discussion of great clarity on the matter, and I commend it to you highly.

I’ll give you just a bit of a sample:

You are entitled to something, the politicians say, simply because it exists and you want or need it -- period. You are entitled to be given it by the government. Where does the government get it from? What does the government have to do to private citizens -- to their individual rights -- to their real rights -- in order to carry out the promise of showering free services on the people?


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Public sector unions & budget crises...a homework assignment

Your faithful, if undisciplined reporter was busy today addressing a variety of petty personal interests, including a gala luncheon at a well known Old Port establishment that floats.  If you need more than one guess as to which place I'm talking about, you probably don't know where Portland is.

Before I left for my "errands," I read a column on "Opinion Journal" from the Wall Street Journal on line presence.  In it, Daniel Henninger details the origins of public sector employee union dominance in government as we know it in this era.  It's entitled "The Fall of the House of Kennedy."

The surprising point to me was this:

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy planted the seeds that grew the modern Democratic Party. That year, JFK signed executive order 10988 allowing the unionization of the federal work force. This changed everything in the American political system. Kennedy's order swung open the door for the inexorable rise of a unionized public work force in many states and cities.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

News from Lake Basebegone, January 19, 2010

Well., it's been a quiet few months in Lake Basebegone, where all the politicians are apolitical; all the growth possibilities are non-profit; corporate welfare isn't; everyone is older than average; and all the veggies are organic, or wish they were.

It seems like months ago that the MRRA, in postponing their expected vote on leasing Hangar 6 to Oxford Aviation, assured us that they were continuing with dedication their "due diligence."  Here at Other Side, we're thinking that the results of that due diligence are due, or more to the point, overdue.  It must be all those other opportunities that have caused the team to lose their focus and not follow through with a report to the local citizenry.  Surely we'll be hearing from them regarding Oxford in 'due time.'  If they can find their way around those pesky protocols, that is.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A sacerdotal question on LD 1365 single payer health care...

Say, Brother Charlie, before you go much further on this bill, would you please send me a copy of the health insurance policy I'd end up with?  I get all the details from insurers before I select my Medicare Advantage/Supplement plan so I can make an informed choice.  The same is true for homeowner's and car insurance if I ask.  In fact, there's probably all sorts of disclosure laws enacted by caring public servants to protect me and make sure I know what I'm getting into before I make my decision.  You know what crooks those insurers can be; without your protection, who knows what we'd get.

When you send it along, I'll publish it here for all to see.

Oh, wait.  I just realized something.  I won't be making any decision or choice, will I?

You'll be making it for me, so the details are, in a manner of speaking, irrelevant to my former personal freedom in such matters.

Thanks for handling things for me; it sure clears up all those nagging doubts.  And we feel so much better knowing that the government is watching over us.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Special interest lobbyists, spending your money, and keeping secrets from you!!

Oh the horror!  We all know how despicable "special interests" are, and how unctuous (or slimy, if you prefer), the lobbyists who represent them are.

Well here's a case that tops them all!  The MMA is a special interest lobbying group in Augusta that gets every  bit of its money from you - the taxpayer.  So you might think they're representing your interests and lobbying on your behalf. 

You might think so, but you'd be dead wrong.

Because the MMA is the Maine Municipal Association, a wholly owned subsidiary (as this reporter sees it) of town and city governments in Maine.  They exist first and foremost to lobby for the "special interests" of municipal government in the halls of Augusta.  And they finance their activities with money from we taxpayers.  They get that money in the form of dues paid by the member governments, which includes all but a very few in the state, and from the profits (geez, I hate that word!!!) they make selling insurance to those very same governments!

Wow!  From what I've been hearing lately, insurance companies are a bunch of crooks, the profits they make on the backs of "working families" are unconscionable, and they should be punished for their wicked ways.

But maybe that's only if the "evil profits" aren't used to make government even bigger.  Maybe profits are good when they can be used to help towns spend and tax more.  I can see the logic in that, can't you?

Now here's the really fun part.  The MMA has a lovely new building in Augusta, and they frequently let opponents to citizen tax reduction initiatives headquarter themselves on their premises.  And they have a wonderful web site, full of feel-good information on the benevolence of municipal government.

They also have an array of password protected information accessible only to members and associates of the organization, which does not include those of us who are not employed by municipal government or its elected officials.

It would seem that even though you and I pay for every bit of their efforts, and pay all their salaries and expenses via our taxes, we are not worthy to see and know what really goes on inside the inner sanctum of the MMA.

I don't know about you, but I think that is wrong, very wrong.  What are they trying to hide from us?  What is it they don't want us to know?

And what about that transparency thing all our officials like to tout these days?

Why don't you give your elected representative a call and ask him or her to explain what it is they should see, but we shouldn't?  I plan to, and I'll be sure to pass along any response I get.

Here's hoping they can see their way clear to show me what the MMA is hiding.

A postscript on that sacerdotal thing....

While we're at it, pushing for that pilot single payer program to be tested out on state and municipal government employees,  let's emphasize one point.

Charlie and the rest, make sure, if you would, that the first thing you do is institute the 7.5% tax on earnings for the guinea pigs in this experiment, and do it by withholding, to ease the pain.

And while you're at it, take a hint from your mentors working on federal health care legislation.  Start collecting the tax well before you provide any benefits via the program, just to make your constituents even happier.

There's no need to thank me for the suggestion; I'm offering it as a "public service."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A sacerdotal suggestion on single payer health care (LD 1365)

Here are some words of wisdom I've read or heard over the years:

"Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten, like 'look both ways before you cross the street.'"

"If you want to be a trapeze acrobat in the circus, the first thing you need to remember is to not let your one hand release the trapeze you're already swinging on until you have your other hand firmly gripping the one coming at you, or you're gonna learn more about gravity than you wanted to know."

I love the imagery of both. 

I worked in a world where these words made perfect sense - the complex command and control systems that go aboard Naval combatants like those built at BIW over the decades, and in particular, the AEGIS Weapon System known to many of you in the area.

And it strikes me that the principles in all of these cases are incredibly relevant to the consideration of single payer health care as previously addressed in this post about legislation submitted by our caring public servants in the Maine legislature.

A one day, free web-cast class on the Constitution

I just got word of another class entitled "Reviving the Constitution."  It is being put on by Hillsdale College, a marvelous institution, as many of you know.

You can find the details here:

You'll need to register to get access to the broadcast.

Here's the "blurb," as they say:

"Reviving the Constitution"

An Online Town Hall

January 30, 2010
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

The Kirby Center cordially invites you to participate in a Constitution Town Hall on Saturday, January 30, 2010.

There are two ways to participate in this event--in person or by viewing a live video stream ("webcast"). Advance registration is required for both forms of participation.

Please spread the word to friends and family about this day-long town hall, which will feature presentations and interactive Q&A sessions led by Kirby Center faculty and Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry P. Arnn. The event will run from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, and will be broadcast from the offices of in Chantilly, VA.

Participation via live webcast is free of charge; persons who wish to participate online will receive a link to the webcast upon registering.

In-person participation costs $10, and payment will be collected at the door (checks, cash, and major credit cards will be accepted). Lunch will be provided to those who register to be part of the studio audience. is located at 4206 F Technology Ct. in Chantilly, VA, 20151. Although space is limited, groups are welcome.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A free, web-based Constitutional Law Course

Given the plentiful questions at the moment about the relevance and sanctity of the U. S. Constitution, it seems like a fine time to bone up on the subject.

And for those like me whose education and career paths swept a wide path around such subjects, it becomes even more relevant.

So here you are; a chance to get grounded in the basics from a bona fide law professor of some repute.

You can go here to get the full details on the course.  But  let me give you the short and pithy version:


The recorded course—ten two-hour lectures each week for ten consecutive weeks—will be available via (1) my website ( and (2) my blog page (, from each of which the entire course can be downloaded free of charge.

It will available on those sites in the middle of the weeks beginning January 17, 24, 31; February 7, 14, 21, 28; and March 7, 14, 21 and will remain there indefinitely.

There is no cost to access this course in its recorded/downloaded form. (However, because listeners will be hearing a recording, they will not be able to ask questions.)

Cost To Participate In Live Course

The prerequisite to posting and maintaining the course on my website and blog at no cost is that the ten lectures first be recorded.

To do that, I will utilize the worldwide facilities of, an interactive computer-based communication system.

Using Skype, it will be possible for no more than 23 individuals to hear the course live, and ask questions, by downloading free software from Skype and using an inexpensive, off-the-shelf headset/microphone.

I will record by delivering the lectures live on Sunday evenings, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM Eastern Time on January 17, 24, 31; February 7, 14, 21, 28, March 7, 14, 21, 2010.

(To defray Skype, recording, posting, etc. expenses, I am charging $250 for this interactive participation. Persons interested in being among the 23 who listen to my lectures live should contact me here for full details).

Essential reading

There is no “homework” for this course. However, to benefit fully from it I recommend that prior to hearing the first lecture you obtain a hard copy of, and read, the Constitution of the United States of America. Also, the Supreme Court opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut, which can be found without cost at

You will find it helpful to have both available during the course.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

MRRA Retains Poppycock Strategies as Consultants

MRRA, the Midcoast Redevelopment Regional Agency, today announced that it had entered into a long term contractual relationship with Poppycock Strategies, Inc, a relatively little known consulting firm, at least until now.

In a prepared announcement, Artur D. Mayo, V, MRRA board chair (known to his close associates as Cinco), said the arrangement is a "win-win" proposition for the MRRA and the Poppycock organization.  Mayo said the new relationship would "keep Poppycock out of our hair, and give us full access to his capacity to obfuscate, articulate, pontificate, and bloviate."  Mayo added that these are skills "sorely needed" by the MRRA.

Clearly excited when contacted personally, Mayo said "Poppycock gives us access to the Ponzi 500 companies we've been unable to reach."  Affluential is a perfect term to describe him, he added.

MRRA Executive Steve Lebeck said "we've been looking to enhance the diversity of our board, so we've been searching for a clean, articulate, pasty skinned conservative who speaks without a Maine dialect." "As you can imagine, conservatives are virtually impossible to find in the region, and those who clean up good for public appearances are as rare as Frosty's Donuts being open two weeks in a row."

Reports in various financial sector media indicate that Poppycock Associates 'is in discussions' with Price and Waterbed; Detroite and Touche'; OD and B; DB and O; OB and D; BO and D; Soprano and Associates; and other respected waste management concerns. Their collective influence spreads to Dubai, Dubonnet, and other exotic locations.  Airbus, Groundplane, and others are reported to be expressing new interest in locating at BNAS now that Poppycock has a hand in the gears of the operation.

Reached for comment, Poppycock, who was lazing on a lovely new 70 ft luxury yacht in DiMillo's marinara, said he had resisted months and months of lobbying to join the MRRA to 'protect his journalistic objectivity.'  "But you know how it is," he told this reporter, "everyone has a price."

"It's just a matter of finding out what it is; like playing 'The Price Is Right,' if you get my drift.  Let's just say Senator Ben Nelson is a hero of mine."

In a late breaking development, the MRRA reportedly contacted Other Side, and demanded that this report be taken down immediately, claiming it "misrepresents the MRRA's actual position."

Contacted for a response, Poppycock responded that Oxford Aviation has been misrepresenting the MRRA's actual position for nearly a year, yet no action has been taken to get them to cease and desist.  He cited this web page as proof.  "It shows Oxford occupying the entirety of the new Hangar 6 on the base since 2009," he said, "and I can't understand why the MRRA hasn't demanded that this egregious lie perpetrated upon the international aviation community hasn't been terminated immediately."

Poppycock added, as he sipped his Margareeta on the heated flying bridge of his craft, "when they do, I'll be happy to reciprocate."

Liar's poker, anyone?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bowdoin College: The Magical Job Machine

Bowdoin College plays an exalted role in the life of Brunswick in seen and unseen ways.  The College's financial stature is pretty obvious, not to mention the aggregate wealth of the student families and the exceptionally well to do alumni base.

Which makes it a bit preposterous that the college needs a grant of $400,000 from taxpayers to "fund replacement of a 46 year-old oil-fired steam boiler with a new boiler and steam turbine generator, to create both heat and electric power for the college's central utility plant."  According to published reports, the grant is funded via the Federal Recovery Act and RGGI funds, yada, yada, yada.

Other Side's new "front page" formatting..

Readers know that posts on Other Side are often quite long, and make it a bit unwieldy to quickly "scan" recent offerings.

Accordingly, the editor has decided to try out a new formatting approach, already piloted on two recent posts.

On the home page, longer posts will be introduced with a "teaser" paragraph or 3 or 4 that give you a glimpse into the subject matter.  The full post can be read by clicking on the "read more" link just below and to the left of the teaser material.  Sometimes the teaser will be the opening paragraph(s) of the post itself, and sometimes it won't; it'll be from the body of the post.  One way or another, it will be repeated when you open the full length post page.

We'd be interested in your feedback on this formatting change.  Our hope is that it makes Other Side even more user friendly than it already is.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Special interests?" Or influence peddlers? Political abuse of plain English.

What got me stimulated to address the subject was a recent message from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, dated 29 December 2009, in which she pleads for contributions from supporters.  In the message, Pingree expresses her support for taking away "the power of the corporate special interests in our political system."

That got me to thinking - just what is a "special interest?"  It's like "bipartisanship," clearly, an overused and always popular term to reflect badly on your opposition.

"Special interest," on the lips of a politician, virtually always means "my opposition's base."

(This is an excerpt from the post; to read the item,  click on the "read more" link just below.)

Central Planning and Health Care "Reform"

The current rush to nationalize heath care is lubricated with the rhetoric of "basic human rights" and other attempts to use moral superiority as a way to stifle the opposition.  But such simplistic appeals to "fairness" and "social justice" completely miss the larger issue, and distract from the larger issue at hand, which is the fundamental founding concept of individual liberty under limited government vs. centralized planning of individual lives under unlimited government.

(This is an excerpt from the post; to read the rest of it, click on the 'read more' link just below.)

Green technology fizzle?

Here's an interesting little brief from the business page in a major national paper the other day; it cites Todd Chaffee, a general partner (and venture capitalist) at Institutional Venture Partners.

After years of breathless excitement about green technology, many venture capitalists have grown skeptical. “That one has been overhyped,” Mr. Chaffee said.

Venture capitalists invested just $1.6 billion in clean tech companies in the first nine months of 2009, compared with $3.1 billion in the same period in 2008, according to the National Venture Capital Association.
Many still think that saving the earth could be profitable, but on a smaller scale. Foundation Capital is interested in applications that use the smart electric grid to monitor, distribute and conserve energy. Battery Ventures is looking at companies that make devices like computers more energy efficient.
You can find the entire article here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

From a Priest in the Most High Cathedral of Perpetual Dependency

Well, wouldn't you just know it. Here in the state of Maine, the creators and supporters of Dirigo Health Care are busy as ever telling all who will listen that its astonishing failure is actually a mis-characterization of brilliant success. And in Washington we're witnessing the incredibly discouraging nationalization of our health care, complete with the ugliest vote buying, selling out, and legislative abuses in recent history. Even though the majority of the public wants no part of it. And promises that things would be different now.

Seems like a perfect time for a true believer in Government benevolent despotism to come up with an even more destructive Health Care "reform" proposal here in the economic backwater that is Maine. Enter a Priest from the Most High Cathedral of Perpetual Dependency. You know the's that imposing domed structure on State Street in Augusta, just below the Blaine House.

The Priest, to be specific, is Brunswick's own Charlie Priest, a Representative in the State Legislature.

Priest has submitted HP 955/LD 1365, "An Act to Establish a Single-payer Health Care System." Several others have jumped on board as co-sponsors, including our own Senator Stan Gerzofsky, and Rep. John Martin, notably.

I haven't seen any publicity on the proposal at this point, so most of you are probably unaware of the Priest's initiative. This may be by design, but who knows, given the inability of our local media to do much in the way of informing on anything much beyond fender benders.

I'll get to the details in a moment. But before I do, I came across some interesting prior work of mine as I was going through some papers. It was a column I wrote after the celebrated passage of "LD1, An Act to Increase the State Share of Education Costs, Reduce Property Taxes and Reduce Government Spending at All Levels." Local elites were profuse in their praise, calling the bill meaningful, historic, and comprehensive tax relief. How's that tax relief working out for you, bubby?

The name of the Act is, in and of itself, a blatant falsehood willingly perpetrated upon a gullible and uninformed public. Added to that is the best passage from the reporting following passage: Senator Beth Edmonds, the bill cosponsor, told Professor Chris Potholm of Bowdoin College that "people don't care about the particulars, they just want action."

Think about that assertion for a moment; how's that for clarifying how our elected officials approach what they see as a problem? How's that for looking out for our best interests and making sure that unintended consequences are avoided or at least minimized? How's that for weighing long term effects before acting? How's that for ethical stewardship of public resources? How's that for respecting the voters?

Frankly, in today's climate, the statement disgusts me ten times more than it did just a few years back. Is it any wonder no one bothers to read bills before voting on them? It's clear - the standard is to do something, do anything! Consequences be damned; someone else years from now will have to deal with the aftermath; what we need now is something to brag about to "the people."

Phooey on them all, I say. How can you respect people who call themselves "public servants" and keepers of the public trust who make such telling and asinine statements?

Now back to the Priest's proposal. What follows is the bill summary direct from the state's web site, and I've highlighted the passages I find most "notable," if you'll allow me a bit of editorial license.


This bill establishes a universal access health care system that offers a choice of coverage through organized delivery systems or through a managed care system operated by the Maine Health Care Agency and channels all health care dollars through a dedicated trust fund.

1. Part A of the bill does the following.

It establishes the Maine Health Care Plan to provide security through high-quality, affordable health care for the people of the State. The plan becomes effective when 2 other New England states enact substantially similar legislation. All residents and nonresidents who maintain significant contact with the State are eligible for covered health care services through the Maine Health Care Plan. The plan is funded by the Maine Health Care Trust Fund, a dedicated fund receiving payments from payroll taxes and payments from the General Fund or any other sources. The Maine Health Care Plan provides a range of benefits, including hospital services, health care services from participating providers, laboratory and imaging procedures, home health services, rehabilitative services, prescription drugs and devices, mental health services, substance abuse treatment services, dental services, vision appliances, medical supplies and equipment and hospice care. Health care services under the Maine Health Care Plan are provided by participating providers in organized delivery systems and through the open plan, which is available to all providers. The plan is supplemental to other health care programs that may be available to plan members, such as MaineCare, Medicare, the Dirigo Health Program, the federal Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services, the federal Indian Health Care Improvement Act and workers' compensation.

It establishes the Maine Health Care Agency to administer and oversee the Maine Health Care Plan, to act under the direction of the Maine Health Care Council and to administer and oversee the Maine Health Care Trust Fund. The Maine Health Care Council is the decision-making and directing council for the agency and is composed of 3 full-time appointees.

It directs the Maine Health Care Agency to establish programs to ensure quality, affordability, efficiency of care and health planning. The agency health planning program includes the establishment of global budgets for health care expenditures for the State and for institutions and hospitals. The health planning program also encompasses the certificate of need responsibilities of the agency pursuant to the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 22, chapter 103-A and the health planning responsibilities pursuant to Title 2, chapter 5. The agency is also required to contract with a 3rd-party administrator for claims processing and data collection services.

It requires the State Controller to advance $400,000 to the Maine Health Care Trust Fund on the effective date of the Part, July 1, 2010. This amount must be repaid by the Maine Health Care Agency by June 30, 2012.

2. Part B of the bill establishes the Maine Health Care Plan Transition Advisory Committee. Composed of 20 members, appointed and subject to confirmation, the committee is charged with holding public hearings, soliciting public comments and advising the Maine Health Care Council on the transition from the current health care system to the Maine Health Care Plan. Members of the committee serve without compensation but may be reimbursed for their expenses. The committee is directed to report to the Governor and to the Legislature every 6 months beginning July 1, 2010. The committee completes its work when the Maine Health Care Plan becomes effective.

3. Part C of the bill establishes the salaries of the members of the Maine Health Care Council and the executive director of the Maine Health Care Agency.

4. Part D of the bill prohibits the sale on the commercial market of health insurance policies and contracts that duplicate the coverage provided by the Maine Health Care Plan. It allows the sale of health insurance policies and contracts that do not duplicate and are supplemental to the coverage of the Maine Health Care Plan.

5. Part E of the bill directs the Maine Health Care Agency to ensure employment retraining for administrative workers employed by insurers and providers who are displaced by the transition to the Maine Health Care Plan. It directs the Maine Health Care Agency to study the delivery and financing of long-term care services to plan members. Consultation is required with the Maine Health Care Plan Transition Advisory Committee, representatives of consumers and potential consumers of long-term care services and representatives of providers of long-term care services, employers, employees and the public. A report by the agency to the Legislature is due January 1, 2012.

The Maine Health Care Agency is directed to study the provision of health care services under the MaineCare and Medicare programs, waivers, coordination of benefit delivery and compensation, reorganization of State Government necessary to accomplish the objectives of the Maine Health Care Agency and legislation needed to carry out the purposes of the bill. The agency is directed to apply for all waivers required to coordinate the benefits of the Maine Health Care Plan and the MaineCare and Medicare programs. A report by the agency is due to the Legislature by March 1, 2011.

6. Part F of the bill clarifies that, throughout the Maine Revised Statutes, the words "payer" and "payor" may be used interchangeably and have the same meaning.

7. Part G of the bill establishes a 7.5% payroll tax on wages and earnings, including self-employed earnings, and dedicates that tax revenue to the Maine Health Care Trust Fund.

If this doesn't get your tank top all knotty, then you and I don't have too much in common when it comes to studying the performance of government and the elected officials who oversee it.

There is so much to comment on here that I could go on well beyond your margin of attention. Out of frustration, I'm going to simply list a series of bullet points in response.

  • A "dedicated trust fund?"  Are you kidding?  You mean like the Highway Fund that is regularly raided to fund General Fund shortfalls?  Or are you gonna use a "lockbox" this time?  This provision has all the credibility of a free lunch.
  • Non-residents who maintain "significant contact" with the state are eligible for coverage?  Are you bonkers?  You're an attorney, Charlie.  I'd like to think you're bright enough to know such language and provisions are idiotic.  On the other hand, maybe you see the language as guaranteed full employment once you term out, representing clients who demand coverage because they sent a post card to you once a year to maintain "significant contact."
  • "The plan is funded by the Maine Health Care Trust Fund, a dedicated fund receiving payments from payroll taxes and payments from the General Fund or any other sources."  Pretty open-ended, don't you think, Charlie?  Are we supposed to have confidence in such loosey-goosey plans for funding?  Would this be a good time to move all our assets to off-shore accounts?  You know, the same kind Congressmen and others similarly unaccountable make use of.
  • Global budgets for health-care expenditures?  Can you say rationing, boys and girls?  Do you establish an annual "global budget" for your health and dental care, Charlie?   How about you, Stan; do you too?
  • Study the delivery and financing of long term care services to plan members?  Maybe my age is showing, but if nothing else, this sounds like it opens the door to rationing of care for the elderly.
  • Last but not least, a 7.5% tax on "wages and earnings," including self-employed earnings.  How about a more specific definition of earnings, Charlie?  Would that include payouts from 401k's, IRAs, and similar instruments?  How about pensions for state and local government employees?
That new tax ought to be a real boon to Maine's economic competitiveness and overall outlook for a bright future.  And I got to hand it to you Charlie.  You've been able to determine that it will take a 7.5% tax on wages and earnings to pay for this grandiose plan.  Not 7.1%; not 8.2%; exactly 7.5%!  Damn, you've really got a grasp of all the complexities.

Thousands or private and public sector "experts" have been grappling unsuccessfully with this probem since the last century, and here you've managed to come up with the exact answer in the context of one little old proposed state law.  But I do have a question.  What happens when Maine's total wages and earnings decline?  Will the tax go up, or will health care be rationed even more to fit within the revenue total?  And in the unlikely case that total wages and earnings increase, will the excess be refunded to taxpayers, or the rationing screws loosened up, or will the excess be used for General Fund pet rocks?

Aw, hell.  Look at me asking annoying questions about the details of your benevolent offering to a supportive and obedient constituency.  I should know better.

Actually, I do know better, and that is exactly why I'm asking these questions.  I hope you'll get back to me soon with the answers.  I'll be sure to relay them on to my hoardes of attentive and curious readers.

Oh, and one more thing, Charlie; wouldn't your time be better spent figuring out how to pay off the roughly half a billion dollars owed to instate hospitals and medical providers so that they have at least a snowball's chance in hell of surviving to tend to Maine's remaining population?  And just how much does it take to learn a lesson from the abject failure that is Dirigo?

As a friend remarked today, the bill has many far-reaching goals.  The only one guaranteed to be achieved is the 7.5% tax increase on earnings.  Perhaps that's the true purpose of the bill - to provide plausible cover for a broad based tax increase, more than doubling the tax on income.  That alone should have an enormous effect on the health of each and every one of us.

Good grief, Charlie Priest.  Time for you to spend a few nickels talking to Lucy; she might be the only one who can talk some sense into you.  Tell Lucy she can send me the bill; it can't amount to much more than peanuts.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where are they now...the Tom Allen episode

Am I the only one who wonders what became of 6 term congressman Tom Allen?

Tom comes as close to being a certified beautiful person and charter member of the permanent ruling aristocracy as you can be in Maine. His resume is impeccable: a staff job for Ed Muskie; Bowdoin College, Rhodes Scholar, and Harvard Law credentials; big Portland law firm experience (all the right power and money connections); and Portland bona fides - years on the council, and a stint as Mayor.

Allen, of course, was thoroughly trounced by incumbent Susan Collins when he attempted to elevate himself to the U. S. Senate.

Silly me, I thought he'd brush away his tears, and return to Maine and take his rightful place as our next governor. It seemed to be his due, just as Baldacci did nearly 8 years ago.

Stop and think about it. Allen mastered the tall, benevolent look, and the "he's such a nice young man" persona so endearing to the AARP demographic. The record surely shows that he was a supporter of "working families" and the usual populist themes, and a staunch opponent of "special interests, big money, and unprincipled lobbyists."

No doubt he's an inspiration for his successor, one Chellie Pingree, who railed against "corporate special interests" in a recent press release. (I'll have more to say about that in a few days.)

Growing in nuance and sophistication, Allen learned to ride both sides of the fence, renouncing his position on the House Armed Services Committee, but hustling over to BIW for a giant "I support shipbuilders" rally for his senate campaign.

Apparently, though, Tom wasn't raised washing dishes and making meatballs, and his sights were not set on the same meager target as Baldacci.

All the above said, who'd have guessed I would run across an editorial item in yesterday's New York Times titled "Really Big Money Politics?" You can find it here.

It begins with these words:

The nation’s hard times are proving to be boom times for the lobbying industry in Washington. Lobbyists are expected to easily break their record of $3.3 billion in annual business, raising an inevitable question: How much more in special-interest donations will be bagged by lawmakers as they are furiously lobbied on everything from health care reform to economic regulation?

No one confesses to explicit quid pro quo crudity. But the power of lobbyists as they channel money and urge favor for rich clients is a gripping, and so far immutable, fact of political life. It needs to change.

And so we come full circle, and address the opening question: what became of Tom Allen?

Well, dad gummit, he's become what he couldn't abide, which seems to be the easy out for elected officials once they've tasted the forbidden fruits of Washington.

Our champion of working people, our enemy of entrenched big money, corporate special interests, and evil lobbyists has found a new calling.

He is, dear readers, the successor to one very memorable congresswoman from Colorado, the tearful Patricia Schroeder. Tom has succeeded Pat as the President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, located, as you might have guessed, in Washington.

This organization is about a $10 million a year operation, and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that it advocates for the "special interests" of publishing "corporations," or what you might call "lobbying." I'll go further out on the same limb and suggest that Allen was hired because of his "connections," and that his priority is ensuring that his organization's money is used to influence policy outcomes.

So much for populism, cleaning up "the system," and looking out for "the little guy."

I'm tempted to award Allen the Other Side's Senator Ben Nelson Trophy for Unshakable Conviction and Principle here and now, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the competition for the award has only just begun.

You're looking good Tom, but you better watch your six. Bowdoin and Harvard are churning out new talent faster than you might imagine, and they're ready to chew you up and spit you out as soon as "public service" calls.

A few loose ends....

Postscript to "A pause, and then a 'pause.'"

The mental cobwebs were still a bit in the way when I drafted the referenced post, and I forgot a few tidbits.

First, adding to the 'circle of life' mood that prompted writing the post was watching the movie "Julie and Julia," which is an amusing diversion on the life of Julia Child, the great culinary icon, and the inspiration she had on a young lady who decided to follow more or less in her footsteps. Not particularly deep, but enjoyable, especially if you like to cook and eat like this reporter does. And Meryl Streep is wonderful as the always unique Julia. The movie ends up being a "carrying the torch" sort of story, which seemed to fit the 'circle of life' thought process.

Second, for those of you who are convinced that this reporter is a closed-minded, hyper-ideological introvert who can't stand to be within 10 ft of someone who disagrees with him, you would be wrong.

That "renewed friendship" I referred to is with a big city liberal! Can you believe it????? And the big city in this case is THE big city - New York! And to make things even more interesting, she's a Jewish grandmother! Oy gevalt!

And we're having a great time discussing Chocolate Babka and other important subjects. So go figure. And don't go all verklempt on me.

(I know, Chocolate Babka is not "one word." You were supposed to laugh at that, bubby. Get it?)

"Good riddance" comeuppance

About 3 weeks ago, I posted on a letter writer to the local paper who wished good riddance to departing Navy personnel here.

I thought it was one of the worst and most vitriolic letters I'd seen in all my born days in this area. Thankfully, so did a number of other local residents, who responded in print with letters.

First among them was Judy Gorby, always at the head of the list for supporting the troops in any and all possible ways. There were others as well, including one who even scolded the editors for publishing the critical letter.

Good for them all. I've long been disappointed at the lack of response from those who I'm sure take issue with much of what is published in the local paper. This time, they were pushed to the limit, and acted appropriately.

I'm actually shocked that the editor published the letter that took him to task. I've learned over the years that the paper readily publishes any item critical of those right of center, but repeatedly rejects letters criticizing the paper itself, or even worse, the favored left of center politicians, who are uniformly seen as saintly and incapable of misjudgment.

So credit where credit is due; the paper recognized the seriousness of the issue to the local populace. Not a bad idea for a business that is down 20% in two years; it just might be that thumbing your nose at readers is not career enhancing.

Not that it matters to today's "journalists."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A pause, and then a "pause."

Well; Other Side has been a bad boy. There's no disputing that.

After disappearing about a month ago, and then posting "He's back," your reporter went off into a ditch once more. I've thought about telling you that I was out in some remote woods observing a 15 day pagan ritual that requires complete silence at a change of decades, but that would be, as the British might say, "poppycock."

No such lofty excuse is at hand for my poor performance. Instead, it's like I simply hit the "pause" button on the blog remote, and in the interim, life happened. That would be the holidays, of course; the presence of family for two weeks, with all the attendant distractions of grandchildren; surgery on Sweety Bitch's ear; several occasions requiring "blowing" of the snow off the driveway; a power outage on New Year's Day caused by a doofus taking out a local telephone pole; and all the other typical personal problems. Not that any are legitimate explanations for ignoring you.

On the other hand, there were memorable meals and other fine moments. I made one of my best biscuits with sausage gravy breakfasts, and the dry aged and slow roasted beef tenderloin roast on the day after Christmas was a big success.

So, there you have it. Life. Events - planned, and unplanned. I'll assume that the same happened to you, and that you managed to make it through the period with numerous memories. Some good, some not so good, but memories none the less.

That's pause one.

There is another "pause" that applies at this juncture, and that is a pause to reflect. It's appropriate anytime, but especially at the holidays, a new year, and a new decade.

This will seem trite, but your correspondent is not good with words. I choose to invoke the term "circle of life" at this reflective moment. I used the term a few months back as I reported on my 50th high school reunion. As the weeks have passed, I have come to appreciate the reunion, and the concept, even more.

I see the reunion and the friends greeted there as my own personal history. I love the fact that I have renewed a friendship from so long ago. I see a new richness in personal experiences that had escaped me in the hum-drum of everyday life.

Children and grandchildren are the ultimate expression of the 'circle of life,' but there are many others, and they are intensely personal. We took trips for other reunions of sorts, reminding us of how blessed our lives have been. Family, coworkers, friends, and more.

We are in our 7th decade, which increases the frequency of reflection. This year, a close friend of several decades passed suddenly. And we learned just before Christmas that another friend of years and years is gravely ill. Such news is distressing, but unavoidable. It is the stuff of humanity, and of our mortality.

At the same time, dear friends this year joined the ranks of grandparents, and twice in the same year! We rejoice in their happiness, and have enjoyed sharing the experience with them.

So where does this take me, and where does this leave "us?"

At the moment, I don't really have an answer, but I expect that I will deal with the reality further as the months go by.

For now, please accept my explanation and good wishes, and I ask that you reflect as well on your 'circle of life.'

I have a stack of stuff to comment on, and I hope I can regain your interest as I start to work my way through a never-ending list of conundrums, curiosities, and outright puzzlements.

Thanks for waiting for my return, and the best to you in the new decade!

Oh...and if I must leave you with one word, let it be "Chocolate Babka."