Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are you kidding me?

Who was it that said “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts?”  I believe it may have been Senator Patrick Moynihan of New York many years ago.

Our policy here at Side has been to refrain from making this a shamelessly partisan site.  We’ve mentioned candidates here and there, but have generally not used our platform as a megaphone to advocate for one candidate or another.  We prefer instead to make readers aware of facts that bear on the choices on their ballots.

Sometimes we come across something elsewhere that cannot go without comment, and this happened the other day.  You may not have seen the subject letter to the editor in The Ostrich,  but we simply cannot let it pass without comment.  This passage is the one that got our knapsacks all wrapped around our bicycle cranks:

You can be sure that on Election Day, members of the tea party will be out in full force for their candidate, Paul LePage. A vote for Libby Mitchell will ensure that Maine will continue to grow and maintain its quality of life.

Let’s set aside the fact that the writer couldn’t identify “the tea party” if she tried, because it’s not an organization; it’s an attitude.  Instead, let’s look at these points of hers;

1) “ensure that Maine will continue to grow:”  What has the writer been smoking?

We have businesses closing, school enrollment down nearly 20%, and declining by 3% a year as far as the eye can see.  Youth are leaving, and those remaining are aging.  Signs of “growth” are missing in action, unless she is referring to enrollment in public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid, in which Maine leads the nation.

2) “maintain its quality of life.”  Does the writer know what ‘maintain’ means?  As in steady as she goes…maintain your speed, etc.

What is it she wants to maintain?  Is it our aging?  Our highest electricity rates in the nation? Our high tax burden?  Our needlessly high health insurance rates?

Or would it be our business vacancy rates?  And our very low average incomes?  How about our last place business outlook?

Or the growth in dependency among our population?  The highest % on food stamps and Medicaid in the nation?

Maybe it’s the departure of our youth for other opportunities she wants to ‘maintain.’

Does the writer really believe that Libby’s 32 years as a leader in the majority monopoly has had nothing to do with this?  Does she really believe that Mitchell plans to reverse everything she enacted over the last three decades?

And now a question for you, dear reader.  Is there any doubt why Maine is in a hole, and keeps digging it deeper?

More Damned Cows: A victory for the Base!!!

Drum roll please, maestro, to introduce the next offering in the now infamous Side series on cows.

Gerzofsky Cows

You don’t have any cows, but you do keep four noisy hogs.  You become concerned when you notice the rising popularity of cows, but aren’t about to give up your hogs.

You decide to take advantage of the growing interest in the cow business.  You don a big Stetson and some western boots, call a press conference at the Augusta Airport, and announce that four and twenty cows have “signed on the dotted line” to do their business on the Brunswick Naval Air Station.  You cite your 25 years as a cow owner and manager in Vermont as crucial to the deal, pointing out that you still keep your hand on the business.  “I know how cows think, and I convinced them that refusing this offer would be an udder mistake.”

You report their milk will be turned into composites for aviation, and their poop burned for “clean energy.”  You propose to capture their methane and convert it to LMG (liquid methane gas) for fueling barbecue grills while reducing carbon hoofprint.  “Downwind Energy has signed on the dotted line to establish a new company that could employ hundreds of unemployed cows if permits and financing can be worked out,” you assert.

You declare this a groundbreaking achievement in a new high tech lacto-manure cluster to be headquartered on the base.  You note the public clamor for jobs, and submit a bill to milk the public for $10 million in ‘vital investment’ funding.

You fall asleep counting cows, and dream of making a fortune selling “Stan and Johny’s” ice cream some day. 

Repeated attempts to gain confirmation of the cow’s signing from the MRRA result in dead silence, and not a single moo is heard from Elsie, head of the Maine Association of Milk Cows, when contacted in Augusta.  Downwind Energy could not be located, and MRRA declined to provide any information, citing advice from attorneys.

Soon, area residents become concerned about the lack of cow sightings on the base, but note the pungent smell of manure hanging over the region in a heavy fog.  Charges of “big hat, no cows” are levied against you.  Bumper Stickers saying “Bravo Sierra in Brunswick” pop up on the cars of retired Naval personnel in the area.

Rumors spread that noted attorney F. Lee Bailey will be coming on board to rescue the operation, demanding that strict protocols be observed in any future discussions.  Town councilors are strangely silent on the news.

In a related story, Governor Baldacci and Democrat leadership appeared before TV cameras in the Hall of Flags this morning to announce that MisFortune magazine has just ranked Maine 1st among the 50 states in the production of un-composted manure.  The editors cited Maine’s consistent manure surplus over the past 35 years as the primary contributor to the high ranking.

Details at 11.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Milking the Oldies but Goodies files….

Remember those old yarns that begin with “you have two cows, and….?”

Yesterday we ran across some versions of the story we wrote in 2003, so you’ll pardon their “age” if it shows a bit. They still brought a chuckle to staff here at Side offices, so we decided to pass them along as fodder for the current election discourse.

Bowdoin College Cows

Four cows are seen wandering in Brunswick.  They start to cross Maine Street on their way to the Bowdoin Campus.  Two survive, but two become crow cuisine at the road kill cafe when they're hit by an '83 Volvo with a "Free Mumia" bumper sticker.

The two dead cows inspire an activist movement that holds daily peace walks on the very spot the two were killed.  Two of the activists take a digital picture of the dead cows to the Town Clerk, who registers the two cows with a "D" since they are clearly residents of Maine Street.  The activists propose a national "U day", and write a play called the "Udder Monologues" to dramatize the pervasive abuse of cows in our society.

Of the two survivors who make it to the other side, the first is declared a member of an under-represented species on campus by the administration, and is appointed Chair/and first enrollee in a new Bovine Studies program. The other survivor is immediately appointed Special Director of Outreach for Bovine Studies Fund Raising.

The administration announces they are searching for candidates for a new position: "Special Assistant to the President for Zoological Diversity.”

Baldacci Cows

You ran for governor successfully.  You campaigned by going to county fairs and serving free spaghetti and meatballs.  Two cows, one young and one old, broke free from their stalls and stopped by for a free lunch. 

You promised the cows free hay, free bedding, and free veterinary care if they'd just follow you home.  You told them they won't have to give any more milk than they've given in the past.

One year after your inauguration, the younger cow bolts after being milked 24 hours a day.  She joins the cow stampede to New Hampshire, and is replaced by two out of state cows suffering from chronic udder collapse.

The older cow, after contracting severe udder chafe from being over-milked, dies while waiting for an appointment to see the state vet.  You continue to milk her for another 6 months, until her teats plug up when her teeth are sucked into her udder by the vacuum.

While planning for your re-election, you notice there don't seem to be enough young, healthy cows around anymore to run a dairy. 

Ralph Nader Cows

You're out in the wilds campaigning, and you come across a pasture where two cows are debating politics.  You ask to join the debate, but the cows deny you. 

Angered, you tell the cows they're too big for the pasture, and they're consuming an unfair share of the available food supply.  You call the situation unsustainable.

The cows, well-meaning but not particularly bright, agree with you, and agree to live on a combination of half the grass they had been consuming and half their own manure.  You declare this sustainable dairy eco-culture and write a book on the subject. 

A tall college professor and a drunken radio announcer hear about this, declare you brilliant, and join your movement.

Six months later, the cows are suffering from hardening of their teats because you practiced rotating single teat milking, eschewing "clear-milking" practices.  The dairy business collapses, and the state is plagued with huge stockpiles of manure. 

You blame the failure on corporate accounting practices and decide to use the manure to fertilize your hemp fields.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Ostrich: Willfully Uninforming Again….

It’s Friday night, more or less wind down time at Side editorial offices, but before we shut down, we’re going to indulge our penchant for pettiness for a moment or two.  Be petty with us, if you have the time.

Readers who have been with us from our inception know that The Ostrich, or as we sometimes call it, the Newspaper of the Willfully Uninformed (NOTWIUN), bears most of the responsibility for the birth of this “blog.”  Blessing or curse, take your pick.  It doesn’t change the circumstances that drove us to the extreme act of establishing our own “voice.”

Specifically, about 18 months ago, Ostrich editors challenged the validity of the information we presented on the Oxford Aviation proposal for BNAS occupancy.  We responded with copious documentation and references for our assertions, and the editors relented and published our submissions.

But the damage had been done, and whatever trust existed was gone.  We had spent years reading clearly erroneous and deceptive items on Ostrich op-ed pages, yet the powers to be decided that our submissions needed to be held to a higher standard.  We tired of the duplicitous editorial policy, and established this nationally recognized outlet in response.

Last night’s edition of The Ostrich provided two perfect examples of the double standard they apply to editorial submissions.  If your views comply with the inclinations of the editors, no problem.  If not, why should they give you public airing?

Example first: a reader letter asserting that welfare spending in Maine “amounts to approximately 1 percent of the general fund budget.”  In the current budget year, that latter figure is about $2.9 billion, so she wants us to believe that welfare spending in Maine is less than $30 million per year.  That’s right, less than THIRTY million per year.

And yet no one on The Ostrich staff thought this clearly bizarre claim worthy of challenge?  Are they serious?  How many times have we heard Stan Gerzofsky and the other boosters of the status quo nanny state claim that 85% of the general fund budget goes to education and human services?

Allowing this patently false discourse to run on their pages suggests either that the Editors will print anything, no matter how totally wrong it may be, or that they will print anything that comports with their ideology.

Moving along, let’s look at the latest silliness from Doug Rooks (rhymes with kooks), a “featured columnist” of The Ostrich.

Dougy argues that welfare isn’t welfare.  And as evidence, he cites the following:

MaineCare pays doctors and hospitals. No one receives cash, and it doesn’t even supplement personal buying power, as food stamps do. It makes as much sense to call Medicaid “public assistance” — with the implication of handouts — as for Medicare, which covers nearly as many people. Is it “public assistance” if you’re poor, but not if you’re old?

This position is so misinformed and so idiotic on so many levels that we don’t know where to begin, except to say that the zealots of the welfare state want us to believe that the tooth fairy is real and that money grows on trees.

The most egregious transgression here is to equate Medicaid with Medicare.

Medicaid, in case you didn’t know, is state provided health care, with the assistance of federal funds, and it doesn’t require that you contribute ahead of time or buy a product.  It is specifically designed for those whose incomes fall below certain qualifying levels.  You are a family of so many, with income below a set figure, and you get free health care.

Medicare, created in the 1960’s, is a contributory program very similar to Social Security.  You are legally compelled to contribute to the program as a tax on your earnings. 

You and your employer, at the point of a gun, must submit a mandated amount of your earnings to the Government to fund the program.  This is not a means based entitlement program.  It is a mandatory participation program.

The effect of its enactment in our world was for our employer, who previously provided health care coverage to retirees for life, to end that coverage at age 65, because you became eligible for government provided Medicare at that age.

In other words, you have no choice but to participate in the program (unless you were a government employee, exempted from the program), and the privately provided coverage programs immediately changed their structure because of the federal program.

Medicare’s structural definition couldn’t be more different that that of Medicaid.  Those who believe that because both start with the letter M and are government programs, they are equivalent, as Rooks argues, make it clear that we are about to go bankrupt as a society and a nation because the concept of critical thinking has gone extinct. 

Especially on the opinion pages of the so-called government watchdog media outlets.  Let us be blunt: Rooks is an idiot.

Sad to say, as we see it here in the offices, we’d be better off without ‘watchdogs’ like The Ostrich.  We need information, not mis-information.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Facts, State Spending, and Campaigning

An article in today’s Ostrich, front page, above the fold, includes this passage from a story covering last night’s debate:

Democrat Libby Mitchell countered continuing criticism by Republican Paul LePage that state government has grown fat and bloated. Mitchell, the state Senate president, said spending is at 2004 levels, and several agencies have been consolidated. 

(Read more:

What was that quote we posted the other day???….oh yeah…this one:

As scarce as truth is, the supply always seems to exceed the demand.

Let’s take a look at the facts pertaining to this claim.  We refer you to this item, which summarizes state spending from fiscal year 1996 to the current FY 2010.

Print it out, stare at it, and keep it handy.  Look at it over and over.  Especially the right hand column labeled “total expenditures.”  You’ll note that total state spending (expenditures) has increased EVERY year.  They were $6.15 billion in 2004, and have risen to $7.7 billion in the past fiscal year.

Mitchell’s assertion is indicative of the propaganda game that has been played in Augusta for years.  We will be writing more about this in the coming days.

The strategy to hide spending growth includes two fundamental concepts:

1) Talk only about “general fund” spending, which amounts to less than half of total state spending.

2) Use inflated projections for future spending levels, so that when budget deliberations begin, the news is always that severe cuts are being made, when in fact, in almost every case, what is happening is a lowering of the increases in spending.

If you look at the general fund numbers in the last two years, yes, there have been actual reductions, for the first time in recent memory.  Why?  Precipitous decline in general fund revenues because of the 50th ranked business environment in the nation, and a constitutional obligation to balance the budget.

In other words, the entrenched ruling class, even with their overwhelming majority, really didn’t have much choice.

But you’ll also notice that the figures waved around in recent months of “$800 million in very painful cuts”  followed by the need for “another disastrous $400 million in cuts to vital services” don’t seem to be supported by the spending totals posted by the State’s own accounting office.

Simply put, we are fooled, deceived, and willfully uninformed by those who claim to be our public servants, and the watchdogs who claim they act on our behalf.  Instead, they put their energies and influence into protecting the status quo.

To repeat, we will be writing about this more in the coming days.  For tonight, we end by recycling a relevant item published a bit more than 5 years ago.  It illustrates the case made in the foregoing, and we hope you grasp the fundamentals. 

Sadly, nothing has changed since we first wrote it; in fact, it may be even more relevant than it was in 2005.

Herewith, the Gully Bull Story:


To the editor:

We just returned from Complacency, a one horse town in Maine’s nowhere. Complacency prides itself on its “what, me worry?” community spirit.

To get there, you have to go to Ignorance first, because you can’t get to Complacency from here. We traveled there to see our old friend Gulliver Bull, known to everybody in town as “Gully.” He and his wife Amiyah were doing well, and before long, they suggested we go out for a bite.

So we headed to Chubby Girl, a classic drive-in with wicked good hamburgers, frappes, and fries.

As we pulled into a front row slot, we noticed signs proclaiming “new lower prices!” I asked Gully to explain, and his response was a bit confusing. He said the Chubby burger was $2.25 last year, but that now it costs $2.75.

“What?” I asked. “How can they claim ‘new lower prices’?” Gully replied that before Chubby Girl opened in March, they ran an ad saying the Chubby burger would be $3.00 this year. They got so much sass from anxious locals, that they rolled back the increase to $2.75, and ran another ad talking up their “new lower prices.” “That settled folks down, and life got back to normal in Complacency,” Amiyah added.

“You mean nobody took them to task for raising their prices higher than last year, and then claiming they were lower,” I asked? Gully said, “well, our state representative, Howie Cheatham, went down to chat with Chubby Girl’s owner. She told Howie she’d stop claiming new lower prices when he stops claiming the state reduces spending when the budget increases.”

“That was all it took for Rep. Cheatham to leave without a whimper, and we haven’t seen much of Howie since.”

So the “new lower prices” signs are still up. And folks in Complacency, grateful for the lower prices, are chowing down on Chubby burgers at a record pace.

I wish we could have spent more time with Gully Bull and the worry-free folks of Complacency. But as Amiyah Bull reminded us, sometimes visiting Complacency too long can be bad for you.

Post Script on School Enrollment

A few days ago Side posted an update on Brunswick’s School Enrollment in this item:

Appropos of the subject, this quote appeared in last night’s Ostrich:

Occupancy rates at the complexes differ, Schott said Friday, “with some very high and some very low,” but he said that is by design. Minus the 56 Topsham units that will be demolished, just fewer than 40 percent of the remaining 646 rentable units are occupied, he said, “which is pretty good.”

This reporter travels by the McKeen Street Navy Housing complex on a regular basis.  There are about 230 units in this development.

While a few more places are starting to look occupied, the general impression is that people have not been flooding into the available housing.

When we posted the other day, the assumption in the back of our mind was that we are 200 students below the consultants’ bottom number for this school year, at least in part, because the Navy housing was not being occupied by new families moving in.

But that assumption is apparently way off base; 40% of the rentable units are occupied! 

From where we sit, that makes the 200 student shortfall even more worrisome, because the enrollment total already includes the students in a goodly portion of the “rentable units.”

Our guess here, based on this, is that the numbers will continue to come in far below the worst case estimates of the consultants in their 2007 report.

Once again, we’re not charging for this analysis, but as we said the other day, “you get what you pay for” with consultants.

How’s that for clear ambiguity?  We’re actually pretty proud of it, in a humble sort of way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thoughts for the day….

An easy out, to give you something to think on.

As scarce as truth is, the supply always seems to exceed the demand.


Winston Churchill complained, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Strange, Strange Case of Senator Stan Gerzofsky

He’s a helluva guy to figure out, track down, and keep up with, but Side will keep trying.

Brunswick’s own Stan Gerzofsky is the incumbent Senator in State District 10, and now finishing his tenth consecutive year in Maine’s Legislature. He is gregarious, full of surprises, and known as a man of some humility, integrity, and sincerity.

Stan’s proud of his humility; we remember him telling us how much more he knows than we do.  And he’s sincere, whether he means it or not; more than once he’s told us how highly he thinks of us.

Stan’s major accomplishments and varied life experiences go far beyond what lesser men could accomplish in his modest years.  As we’ve studied his resume, it almost seems like there’d have to be two of him to squeeze in all these achievements!

Let’s take a look.  To begin with, Stan is just a few months short of 66, a young man by today’s standards, and was born in New York City (  So now we know where that irresistible feisty streak of his comes from!

He first ran for the legislature 10 years ago, at age 55, and we recall reading that he was a “retired furniture manufacturer” then.

Stan notes that he “made a good living” as a furniture maker for 38 years (  So he began in that business at the early age of 17, or roughly 1961.  At the Chamber debate held in September, Stan said he “managed or owned the company for 25 of the 38 years.'”  Very impressive, you must admit.

We’ve asked Stan more than once where the furniture company is/was located, and what its name is/was.  Busy campaigning, he’s yet to respond.  There is, however, a report from a candidates’ event in Freeport this week, that Stan said the furniture business was in a small town in Vermont.

On the basis of that information, we deduce that Stan lived in Vermont from age 17 to 55, returning to Maine just in time for his first run for the house.  That would make him a Vermont resident from 1961 to 1999, give or take a few months either way.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Maine wins the race…..

                  ….to the bottom, that is!

Gerzofsky reads rankings upside down; lauds entrenched majority role in achieving sole possession of last place.

“Utah tops our annual ranking this year, knocking longtime leader Virginia from the top spot.”


A report released by Forbes Magazine on October 13th, just two days ago, ranks our home state, Maine, last out of the 50 states in their scoring of “Best States for Business and Careers.”  Last year, Maine was 41st out of 50, so in one year, we have dropped nine places to dead last.

You can read the Forbes rankings here.

The rankings are based on 6 factors.  Maine ranks 28th in labor supply, which given our high unemployment and reputation for a great work ethic, seems pretty miserable compared to those states with whom we compete.  But we are 16th in quality of life, which most likely has to do with our physical beauty and recreational assets, something government policy has no bearing on, and our low population, something government policy has a lot to do with.

Here’s how we rate on the other factors:

  • 47th in business costs
  • 48th in regulatory environment
  • 45th in economic climate
  • 44th in growth prospects

Overall, these component scores place us dead last out of the 50 states.

Did you get that?  In case you haven’t realized it before, states compete against each other.  People and businesses are free, generally speaking, to locate where their self-interests are best served.  That includes those seeking the most generous welfare benefits, those seeking the best opportunities, and those businesses looking for the best use of their financial capital along with a flourishing supply of human capital.

I repeat: states compete against each other, and those evaluating where to locate read evaluations like Forbes’.

Anyone who responds to these results by blaming things on “the previous administration” is full of Bravo Sierra, to use a military expression.  This is a comparative ranking of the 50 states, all of whom have had to deal with the nationwide recession.

In spite of that recession, 22 states improved their ranking in the last year, 4 had their position stay the same, and 24 fell in the rankings.

Only one state fell by 9 positions to dead last: Maine.

Can anyone plausibly argue that the single party Democrat rule of the last 35 years is not wholly responsible for this abysmal showing?  Can Libby Mitchell, now running for Governor. say with a straight face that she and her caucus have nothing to do with this, and are the best choice to turn things around, after having run the shop since decades ago in the last century?

Can Stan Gerzofsky, an aspiring member of the lifetime legislator club, plausibly distance himself from culpability, and expect us to believe his claims that he can fix things?

(Pardon this aside: c’mon Libby, c’mon Stan.  Just how stupid do you think we are?)

Based on public statements, apparently Stan, at least, thinks we’re very stupid.

In a recent candidate forum held in Freeport, and taped for broadcast on community access TV, incumbent Senator Stan Gerzofsky claimed that “in Maine, we’re racing to the top.”  Stan is many things, but we didn’t know he was a star in the Theater of the Absurd.

This followed his assertion that “if we race to the bottom. all you get is to be on the bottom.”

The Forbes report shows that we’ve already won the race to the bottom, compliments of Senator Gerzofsky, Libby Mitchell, John Martin, and the rest of his friends in the Democrat ruling majority of the past 35 years. 

The good news is that when you’re dead last, there’s nowhere to go but up.  The bad news is that when you’re dead last, you can’t go any lower, no matter how destructive your policies may be.

Stan and friends want to dig the hole we’re in even deeper.  They really don’t know what else to do; they’ve spent their careers at it.  If you’re in the deep end of the pool, over your head, it really doesn’t matter much whether your head is one foot under, or three foot under.  Either way, you can’t breathe.

After 35 years, it’s time to get our heads back above water.

Now.  Before we run out of breath.  And run out of people.

Quick Update: Brunswick school enrollment

Punch line: Current figures well below consultant projections.

Yesterday, Brunswick’s School Superintendent provided Side with the latest enrollment figure for our schools.  This figure gets reported to the State DOE twice a year, in April and October.

The current enrollment is 2,564, down from the 2,655 figure reported in April, for a drop of 91 or about 3.5 percent.

The figures in our files show that we peaked in the 05-06 school year with 3,355 students.  So in five years, enrollment has declined by 791, or more than 23%.

Most of the drop is clearly from the departure of our Navy population, but there is, as well, a persistent enrollment decline statewide of about 3%  a year due to general demographic factors.  We are a very old state, and our young, few as we have, are moving elsewhere.  The ones who stay have fewer children than in the past.

The enrollment studies done twice in recent years by consultants, spurred by the new school construction plan, showed a military student population of 660.  And there is the loss of Durham tuition students to account for.

We just pulled out the report completed by Planning Decisions in April, 2007.  On page 26 of that report, 3 projection models are shown, each predicting the exact same enrollment in school year 16-17, a total of 2,927, which in itself is extremely curious.  The report asserted that vacated Navy housing would be occupied by young families who would cause our enrollment to rebound and stabilize. That notion is folly in and of itself, given the never-aging nature of a military population.

More to the situation today, the current enrollment of 2,564 is over 100 less than the most pessimistic year in any of the three models.  Even more alarming, the current figure is over 200 less than any of the models showed for the 10-11 school year.

This report is only slightly more than 3 years old, yet we are already 200 students below what these costly expert consultants said our enrollment would be for this school year.

That gives me great pause, as it should you.  And to refresh your memory, the Portsmouth area has never rebounded in school enrollment and population since the closure of Pease AFB, even though the redevelopment into a business and transport center has been successful.

Those who stood up and said “Brunswick will continue to grow,” and that young families will flock to vacated Navy housing, are free to submit comments here, either to challenge this commentary, or to provide countermanding signs of optimism.

(Full Disclosure: this correspondent, with 80+ fellow Brunswick citizens, filed a civil suit against the State Department of Education, challenging it’s decision to fund the new elementary school in town.  The suit claimed that the decision to fund was made before it was known that the base would close, and was therefore defective.  The case was dismissed on technicalities raised by the Attorney General’s office, and never received a hearing.)

So, petty self-interest aside, we once again call forth a favorite closer here: breath holding is not recommended.

(Oh…and this bit of expert consultation is provided to concerned and faithful readers on a pro bono basis.  As they say, you get what you pay for.  Talk about a double entendre!  That could be PDI’s corporate motto.)

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brunswick – is it bailing out the USPS?

Just a quickie, a piece of ‘junk mail’ of the blog sort, so to speak.

How many times have you read about the great expense of special elections, and other assaults upon our democratic traditions.  We could be wrong, but didn’t we just read that the cost of a special election related to the purchase of the in-town property for a new police station could cost us $5400?  Or something like 30 cents per registered voter.

Well, today, we received a mailing addressed to “Voters at:” our street address.  It’s from the Brunswick Town Clerk, and has first class postage of $0.44 (that’s 44 cents) stamped on it.

The purpose of the mailing is to tell us about the new voting place arrangement for the town.  All voters vote at the Brunswick Junior High School.  It also mentioned that “absentee ballots are available to any Brunswick Voter.”

Fair enough, I suppose, though we have to wonder about the total cost of this mailer, and how it compares to the cost of a “special election” spurred by a citizen effort that comports with Town Charter provisions.

Most curious to this reporter, however, is that the mailing wasn’t  made under USPS bulk mailing rates.  That’s the rate applied to various commercial and other bulk mailings for which handling is minimal.

In this case, the letter wasn’t even addressed to us by name; only by property address.  If that isn’t enough to be considered bulk mailing, what is?

How many such addresses does the town have in their voter list?  I could be way off, but I’m going to guess in the range of 5000 to 6000.  Shaving 20 cents or so off the postage rate would seem to be an obvious way to save a few shekels.

Unless you want to prop up the failing US Postal Service, I suppose.

Or, even worse, if the federal government entity won’t grant “professional courtesy” to town government. 

Wouldn’t that be a hoot.

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Maine Watchdog; it’s about time!


For years, The Ostrich and its sister award winning newspapers have fancied themselves “government watchdogs,” digging, investigating, tracking, analyzing, and reporting to keep us safe from the over-reach of government.  And supposedly ensuring that malfeasance, dereliction of duty, dishonesty, corruption, cronyism, waste, and self-glorification are minimized; and that unbridled ambition is exposed. 

Surprisingly, we’ve yet to encounter a trench-coat clad, fedora wearing, cigarette smoking reporter from The Ostrich, or any other paper, for that matter, hanging around in all the right places, and lots of the wrong ones, seeking out “the rest of the story.”

A perfect example of The Ostrich’s utter failure to live up to their legendary self-view is how they seemed to be out to lunch for the entire Oxford Aviation/MRRA episode. Until such time, that is, as they turned into a lapdog for F. Lee Bailey, when he provided them a copy of his letter bailing out on his attempt to apply lipstick to the Oxford Oinker.  This spawned the “willfully uninformed” editorial, which in turn led to us creating their nickname.

Rampant speculation on motives and connections invites itself to this discussion, but it won’t get a seat at our table today.

Instead, we have great news!  Maine Watchdog, which can be found at, is now on the beat, and not a moment too soon, given Maine’s target-rich environment.

Stephan Burklin, who heads the operation, describes the service as follows:

Maine Watchdog is a news website dedicated to in-depth and investigative journalism. 

Its mission is two-fold: 1) to uncover waste and abuse at the local and state level and 2) to promote government transparency so as to hold government officials and institutions accountable.

Wow!  Great ideas; you’d think somebody would already have been doing this, wouldn’t you.

A perfect example of MaineWatchdog’s breakthrough efforts is the Chellie Pingree private jet story they broke a few weeks ago.  If you haven’t seen the clip that began it all, here it is, and don’t miss the red carpet:

The revelation has sparked quite a to-do for our incumbent Congresswoman, who suddenly remembered that she has been engaged to the wealthy “owner” of the plane for some years now.  The story has real legs, as they say in media.

You can see the entire MaineWatchdog story here.

In closing, you can sign up on their web site for email updates, and I hope you will.

And from now on, watch out whose airplane you jet-set around in.  Unless you can arrange for Poppy to come along for an “in-air interview.”

PS: Here’s just one example of those “legs” I was talking about, which now reach as far south as Massachusetts:

Rival blasts Barney Frank’s swanky free jet ride

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scott Thomas, Senate District 10: Video files

Scott Thomas, as previously posted, is running against incumbent Stan Gerzofsky for the State Senate seat that covers Brunswick, Freeport, Harpswell, and Pownal.

Here’s the link to his web site:

Scott has taken the trouble to break down the video from the debate held two weeks ago, and segment it into answers to specific subject areas.  Each one will give you the response by both Scott and Gerzofsky, and you will be able to compare their way of addressing issues before us.

This link: will take you to his video tab, where you’ll see the clips listed.  It makes them really easy to watch, and you can watch some now, and some later.  So it’s very user friendly.

By the way, I’ve yet to receive an answer from Gerzofsky to the questions I sent him regarding his debate answers, particularly as they relate to the MRRA and Base redevelopment.

I also submitted the latter to the MRRA, and have yet to hear back from them either.  I suppose they’re busy working with their attorney to come up with yet another reason or 4 why they can’t provide the requested information.

We’ll keep you posted, but as we often say here on Side, breath holding is not advised.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or is it the home, or the school?

After reading yesterday’s paper, I began to wonder whether architectural structures are fecund; that is, capable of producing offspring.

One section led with a feature on a starkly modern home, the overall features of which are eerily reminiscent of the Stowe Elementary School now in the latter stages of construction.  Witness this photo of the home:

The harsh angularity of the design, and it’s utter disregard for “a traditional New England look,” called out to us in no uncertain terms as having a common ancestry with the Colossus of Spring and McKeen.

Look at this:


The common link to McDonald’s classic store design is obvious, even to the point where the home uses Golden Arches exterior colors.

Could it be that the primary architect of our ‘traditional’ look school is also the designer/builder/owner of the house featured in the Sunday paper?  And wants to sell it because he can no longer bear its lack of human scale and warmth?

Or he’s tired of having passers-by drive up to his house to order four Happy Meals?

I suppose we’ll never know.

For now, we’d like to ask our more culturally astute and creative readers to explain to us the significance and merit of the specially designed windows in the school pictured here:


We don’t quibble with the need to teach our children about trapezoids, but must we do it with what are surely non-standard, ultra-expensive windows?

Can we get real here, people?  It’s one thing to thumb your nose at the community look and traditional design; it’s quite another to allow architects to make personal statements, statements that make no obvious sense, with taxpayer dollars.

Is there any doubt that the E/F wing of the future is taking shape before our very eyes?  How long will it be before the cries for its demolition begin?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oldies but Goodies? Or are they “newies?”

From time to time, your correspondent is embarrassed for not providing a steady supply of up to the minute, provocative, and informative essays.

It’s not that we don’t have copious subject matter to contemplate, it’s just that life has a habit of getting in the way.  And that can be in a very good way, as it did today, on an absolutely spectacular fall day, on which I did many things, including some campaign work.  But no matter.

Part of the reason Other Side came to be is that the local media outlet (that would be The Ostrich) would not provide sufficient capacity for our musings.

As it turns out, we have a sizable archive of thought pieces well beyond what they would publish, and we’re just now going back through them to see whether they are dated, or instead, might have relevance even today.

On first look, we are pleasantly surprised.  We found an item just now that reads as if we had written it yesterday, in the context of current events.

So, today we launch a category labeled Oldies but Goodies.  Frank Sinatra, known as Old Blue Eyes, had a unique genius for interpreting the classic American song book. 

Here and now, Old Poppy will do what he can to interpret the classic American thought book.

We open with this number; please let us know what you think of it, and we’re always open to requests!

A Tale of Two Republics

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Once upon a time there was a land far, far away, and for those who lived in the land, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

And in this land, there were two republics: Taxhikistan, and Taxcutistan. The citizens of both were working hard to prosper and enjoy their lives. But they went about it in different ways, because the leaders they chose had very different ideas about how to make things better for the people.

In Taxhikistan, there was a small business bringing in about $100,000 a year. At first, the small business was paying $10,000 a year in taxes to his government. As time went on, the taxes were increased, until they were $20,000 a year. The business owner complained year after year about the impact of the taxes, but the leaders were unresponsive. Finally, after much prodding, the leaders came up with a plan to help the business owner.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scott Thomas, Senate District 10: A new beginning for Maine

This is a shopworn old line, but we’re going to use it anyway:  there has not been an election in recent memory that is more consequential than this one.

In this election, we get to decide whether the policies and regulations of the entrenched majority for the past 35 years are still worthy of our support, in the belief that more of the same will somehow lift us out of the hole these very policies and regulations have dug us into.

Or that instead, the time has come to cast aside the destructive, Government-centric view of the Democrat ruling class that got us where we are today - at the brink of our economic and demographic demise.

Scott Thomas is a poised, accomplished, and hard-working business owner in Freeport, and is running for the State Senate in District 10.  He’s challenging incumbent Stan Gerzofsky, who in seeking his 11th and 12th consecutive years in the Legislature, aspires to the career politician stature of John Martin and Libby Mitchell.

Scott is eminently qualified for this Senate seat, as demonstrated in a recent candidate debate sponsored by the Midcoast Chamber of Commerce.  This video clip from that debate, addressing the redevelopment of Brunswick Naval Air Station, is a great example of Scott’s readiness to hold office, and lead the state to a new era of prosperity.


In the clip, Stan makes claims about businesses that “have signed on the dotted line.”  We could not find any confirmation of these claims, but are trying to verify them through the MRRA.  They have a habit of declining to provide information, but we’ll keep you informed as to what results from our request.

Update: Ostrich property taxes…..

Word around town is that the parent company of The Ostrich, Brunswick Publishing, has paid their delinquent real estate property taxes.

We’re glad to hear that, of course, because the self-anointed “watchdog of government” and frequent advocate for big and righteous government ought to be, one would think, at the front of the line for paying their “fair share.”  If not more, which anyone can easily do.

Now there’s that pesky deadline next week for the current year tax payment.  We’re hoping the new bill didn’t get lost in the office clutter.

We’re gonna pay Side’s today, so the Ostrich-keepers can take a break for a few days while rounding up the shekels for their next “price they pay for democracy.”

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “watchdog is as watchdog does.”

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Postscript on tax delinquencies at The Ostrich

Subtitle: Accountability, and the lack thereof in public affairs.

The other day, we posted this little item passing along a news report that Brunswick Publishing, owner of The Ostrich (known to some as the Times Record), or as we have called it from time to time, the NOTWIUN, has been delinquent on its property tax payments to our fair town.  The report was found here.

As often happens, one realizes in retrospect that there is more to the story than first met the eye.  We refer, in the case before the court of public opinion, to this little nugget:

Three years ago, BP received financial assistance when the state provided it with access to $7 million in funding from the tax-free bond market through the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). That move became controversial when, in 2008, Brunswick Publishing’s new owner, Sample News Group, laid off ten employees.

A Sample official had previously told FAME the bond money would be used to, among other things, “maintain current headcount and payroll” at the paper.

Failure to be held accountable is a constant complaint about our elected officials at all levels, and we bow to none when it comes to chagrin motivated by this failure.  In this example, we have a second order version of this phenomenon: the failure of elected officials to hold accountable those to whom they doled out public resources conditioned on commitments which end up being broken, sometimes almost immediately.

If you look at the linked item in the quote above, you’ll discover that the recently referred to Senator Stan Gerzofsky and former Commissioner John “Protocols” Richardson are (duhhhh!) tied to the story. 

So why wasn’t Brunswick Publishing held accountable?  You can make your own guesses.  You can ask, of course, what form such accountability might take.  And you can ask whether that form was specified in writing before the public was saddled with the obligations involved.

I can just hear the answers to an imagined question: “What could we do?  We can’t shut them down, and if we could, then more jobs would be lost.”

I think what we have here could be called a “one-sided corporate welfare” deal.  For the more worldly, we might call it a “quid non pro quo,” or loosely translated, something for nothing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Whither goest Johnny Protocols?

Loyal followers of Other Side, a sketchy media enterprise that is up to date on its property tax payments (not that this matters in elite circles), should recall our reporting of last year on the public pronouncements of John Richardson, Brunswick’s one-time political muckety-muck in matters of state government and Naval Air Station redevelopment.

We nicknamed him “Johnny Protocols” following a cryptic statement he made to the Brunswick Town Council in June of 2009.

Side was reminded of his once prominent role in the future of our area as we listened to the words of Senator Stan Gerzofsky at the debate sponsored by the local Chamber a few days ago.

Richardson, a four term member of the Maine Legislature who rose to the Speakership, and a recently disqualified candidate in the race for Governor, is considered by many to be an ambitious and adroit participant in political circles.  He even convinced Brunswick’s Town Council Chair, Joanne King, to be his treasurer in the recent campaign.

We are convinced that his political expertise is exceeded only by his ambition.  And hence our puzzlement over why we haven't heard from him since his forced withdrawal from the gubernatorial race.  Seems like years ago, doesn’t it?

You may have seen the report about a month ago that formal charges are being filed against a number of workers on Johnny’s campaign, Bill Moore among them.  Bill stated that he was going to get a lawyer to help him fight the charges against him, which he believes are unwarranted.

All we could think of as we read this report is that Richardson is a lawyer, and that Moore should at the very least be entitled to pro bono services from Johnny as a quid pro quo for his help in the campaign run up.  But wouldn’t you just know it; after that initial news story, there has been virtually no further reporting on the specifics of the situation.  Along with the lack of reporting on the Ostrich’s tax delinquency.

To the heart of the issue, do any among you believe that Johnny is simply going to fade away, rather than reinvent himself for future pursuits?  Do any of you believe that F. Lee Bailey moving from Massachusetts to Yarmouth, Maine will have no bearing on this situation?  If so,  we clearly don’t think alike.  But that’s what adds the spice to our daily discourse.

And another thing. If we are to believe in Johnny’s commitment to our well being, and that of Maine, we should expect his diligence in securing our prosperity.  Going back through our notes, we came across the record of his statements to the Brunswick Town Council at that joint session with the MRRA in June of last year.  He stated that he had been in personal discussions with “no less than a dozen” Fortune 500 CEO’s and COO’s regarding occupancy at the base, but that confidentiality was king in these matters.

Surely, as a dedicated ‘public servant’ of the people in this region, and given his commitment to our well-being, he would not simply have allowed those discussions to wither away with his change of roles. 

Surely, he would not have deprived us of the benefit of his personal contributions to these discussions, and the influence he brought to them.  Surely he would do everything in his power to see that those high level negotiations would continue apace, and that our future would be secured, even if he would not get the credit.  This is the mark of a true leader.

Leaders, of course, understand that looking good is critical to doing good, and Johnny is fortunate to have the sartorial expertise of a local legend readily at hand.  In the photo below, we see him consulting with his personal haberdasher, Senator Stan Gerzofsky, former owner of a chain of men’s clothing stores.

While we could not hear the details of the conversation, we believe that Stan was telling Johnny that pinstripes look far more sincere than nubby-weave sport coats, and that facial hair adds to the aura of authority.

So from now on, expect to see us around town suitably striped, and with a full display of salt and pepper head-wear.

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“Calming” Maine Street

“Calming” traffic flow is one of the buzz-words in the high priced consultant class these days.  The “back-in parking” at Maine Street Station was sold as a “traffic calming” measure. 

We’ve posted a few pictures in recent weeks of how well this works, and you may well have had your own observations of public acceptance of this new approach to putting a vehicle at rest.  Let’s just call the results ‘mixed.’  And the concept less than ‘intuitive.’

As a frequent visitor to Maine Street and its businesses, we’ve been frustrated by two particularly ‘un-calming’ and dangerous behaviors. 

The first is the frequent tendency of northbound drivers crossing the double yellow line to take a diagonal parking space on the southbound side of the street, matched equally by the frequency with which southbound drivers cross the double yellow line to take a diagonal spot on the northbound side of the street.

It’s one thing to watch a driver come down the street and ‘cop a uey’ to get a parking spot on the other side of the street.  But I’ve even seen drivers back out of a diagonal parking spot, and make a U-turn across the double yellow line to head in the opposite direction.

Either way, the drivers are executing U-turns, which are illegal, at least in the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law.

The second behavior that magnifies the danger on Maine Street is the tendency to ignore the clearly marked crosswalks, and simply dash across 3 or 4 lanes of traffic when it looks like you might make it, no matter where you are with respect said crosswalk.

Recent suggestions have included the idea of putting an island down the center of Maine Street and reducing traffic flow to one lane in each direction.  We haven’t seen much support for this idea.

So Side would like to offer another approach.  Have you seen the flexible pylons used to direct traffic flow on 295 as the construction work took place recently in the Portland area?

These pylons were placed something like 20 feet apart; enough to stop you from changing lanes in the gap.  But they were flexible, so that if any contact was made, vehicles would not be damaged, and in all likelihood, the pylons would not be damaged either.

So, a suggestion.  If Maine Street must be “calmed,” and there is good reason to believe it should, have Public Works install these flexible pylons in the three and four lane sections of the road.  Then install that orange plastic snow fence material between the pylons.

This barrier would prevent vehicles from crossing lanes to take parking spots on the other side of the street, and from exiting a parking spot and making a U-turn (other than at a clearly defined intersection.)  And it would prevent pedestrians from dashing across traffic lanes at locations between marked crosswalks.

The flexible nature of the barrier would allow emergency vehicles to drive over them when the situation required, yet prevent vehicle damage in almost all circumstances.

And in winter, when snowfall accumulates, the barrier could be removed and stored, and a residual center barrier of snow left to serve the same purpose.

We should probably charge $1000 an hour for this professional advice, but as you know by now, we’re bigger than all the rest.

So we’re only looking for a payment of $500.  And when we get it, we’ll buy coffee for all at the new Wild Oats.

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