Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Universal Disdain: Edgar Allen Moonbeem Slams the LePage Advisory Team

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the good wishes received from folks in the area for having being appointed to the LePage Transition Advisory Team.  Even those who don’t see eye-to-eye with us on political matters have been gracious, including Jim McCarthy of the Times Record.

Now it’s time for your no-surprise surprise, boys and girls!

Leave it to the most divisive and shrill opinion columnist in our area to spew gallons of bile on the Advisory Team on the editorial pages of The Forecaster, an otherwise fine weekly newspaper.  That would be Edgar Allen Moonbeem, as we usually refer to him in our posts.

Why this man is paid for his efforts is beyond our comprehension.  Only Paul ‘pass the Koolaid’ Krugman can evoke similar visceral reactions, such wonder at how in the hell the writer got to the position he holds, and what imaginary universe he resides in.

Moonbeem has this to say about your faithful correspondent:

My favorite appointee, however, is Pembroke Schaeffer, Brunswick’s inveterate letter writer, testifier and all-around ultraconservative gadfly. Schaeffer, too, was a TABOR II promoter, which makes you wonder why, if he wanted a cranky tax-capper on his team, LePage didn’t just appoint Jack Wibby.

On the face of things, he has characterized us with some accuracy.  It goes without saying, however, that his use of the words ‘favorite appointee’ is not a compliment, but is instead a juvenile and vain attempt at the exceptionally refined sarcasm so often seen on these very pages.

You’d have to read his entire screed to grasp (or should we say ‘appreciate?’) the venom contained therein, but you’ll have to find it on your own.  We’re not in the business of aiding and abetting incivility in modern day public discourse.  As much as we might like to grab Edgar by his little beady-eyed and bearded head and twist it three times to the left, four times to the right, and then dunk it in a cauldron of bubbling toil and trouble.  Because that just wouldn’t be right.

At least we don’t think so, would it?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho, Brunswick!

‘Twas the month before Christmas,

when all through the house,

not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse.


The Springers were nestled all snug on our laps,

happy to warm us for long winter naps.

Mama in her kerchief, and I in my cap,

laid back the recliners, clickety-snap.


Then out on the town,

there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my sleep

to see what was the matter.


And what to my wondering eyes should appear,

but workers and trucks and all sorts of gear.

There on the mall with leaves all around,

the State was a-planting a grand Tannenbaum.


The glow of the newly hung bright colored lights,

would surely be warming our cold winter nights.

When the workers were done I heard them recite,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good light.

Such is Side’s way of honoring the glorious new traffic signal at McKeen and Maine, which we suggest, has most of the attributes of a magnificent municipal Christmas Tree.  As passé and politically incorrect as such a thing might be.  (Read, for example, of Portland’s wimpy PC behavior here.)

Why just look: alternating red and green lights are visible from all directions.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (except in leap year, we suspect.)

And a perfect little red “tree-topper” as well!  Look hard in the photos below, and you’ll see it.  Or check it out when you drive by.

For those offended by the ‘divisiveness’ of this imagined Judeo-Christian display, amber lights alternate as well in a gesture of community inclusiveness.

By now we trust you’re making the connection between Brunswick’s reality and Side’s parallel world.  But in case you aren’t, here’s photographic evidence:

First, the green lights:


Then the red lights:


And last, the secular, multi-cultural amber lights:


Postscript to Yes, it’s true…

Many of you may not have seen the article that appeared in yesterday’s local paper affirming 1) that the story is true, and 2) that there is a shortage of newsworthy excitement in Brunswick, Maine.

Read about it here: Changing Maine

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yes, it’s true…..

Perhaps you’ve heard a rumor that this correspondent has been asked to serve on a Transition Advisory Team to Governor-Elect Paul LePage.

In fact, it isn’t a rumor; it’s true.  We had our first meeting yesterday.  You can find the information release here, and you might find some coverage in area newspapers as well.

Added to the hustle of the holiday season, this will make it even harder to maintain a regular posting routine.  So please bear with us.

Our current understanding is that this is a short term obligation, and we expect to return to posting normalcy after the new year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Your Friday lagniappes…..

(Admin note: as you well know, we have been less than active in posting of late.  Partly because of a trip out of town, and more so, because of a ‘free lance’ assignment we gave ourselves.  And now the holidays are approaching, so brace yourself for a diminished pace of fresh material appearing.)

Item the first:  Last week, I had occasion to attend an event in Portland, at which the well-known pollster Scott Rasmussen was the featured speaker.

Among other things, he gave us this very troubling pair of figures:

  • 67% of the political class in Washington thinks the country is on the right track.
  • 84% of the public thinks the country is on the wrong track.

Can you imagine a more pronounced disconnect between the governed and the governing?  Can you imagine a clearer indication that the ruling class is “tone deaf,” and has completely lost touch with the general public for whom they work (supposedly)?

Items the second:  We love author/commentator Mark Steyn’s wit and gift for artful language use.  He was guest hosting on the radio today, and came up with two gems.

He was discussing the Charlie Rangel debacle, and was riffing on how our entrenched career ruling class continues to see themselves as somehow exempt from the realities the rest of us must face.  He concluded by saying we have evolved to “big government by small men.”  It seemed the perfect characterization.

Then he moved on to the news of proposed cuts to Medicare reimbursements being postponed for a month.  He talked about how the government reduces the cost of medical services by simply denying the reality of those costs.  For example, if an office call demonstrably costs $70, they’ll pay $35 for it.  Voila! – costs lowered.

So it dawned on me, why don’t we use the same approach to lower costs locally?  If the teacher’s contract says they get $60,000 a year, give them $35,000, and tell them it’s part of our cost containment program.  When Crooker and Son bills $200 for a truck-full of blacktop, give them $115, and tell them the same thing.  If the Doctors and hospitals can live with it, why can’t others?  If the town is billed $10,000 a month for electric power, pay $6,000.

What could possibly be wrong with this picture?

And come to think of it, why not discount your federal income tax obligation by 40% or so, in order to keep your costs down.  Makes perfect sense to us, in a ‘government’ sort of way.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Whoopee! Trader Joe’s is open in Portland!

You may recall that in September, I told you about the expected opening of Trader Joe’s in Portland.  The store is on Marginal Way, between Forrest Ave and the Franklin Arterial.

It is now reality; they opened on the weekend before election day, and as we knew would happen, they became an instant and overwhelming success.  We stopped by on the afternoon of election day, and after several trips around the parking lot, with lots of other “lurkers,” unsuccessfully looking for a spot, we gave up and left.

I stopped  by yesterday afternoon about 2:30 or so, and the parking challenge was only slightly less severe.  It took one lap or so to get lucky.

Once inside, I was surprised by the size of the store; it is the largest in their chain, and is very roomy for circulating around.  For example, there are a number of salad dressings in the regular aisles, but also a smaller selection (one of which is Mrs. Poppy’s current favorite) in the refrigerated section.

The staff, as is always the case, is very well trained, very helpful, and a fun group.

You must stop in when you have a chance, and allow some time to take in all their variety, including tempting chocolate based goodies, etc.  I predict you will develop some new addictions.  The cheese selection is also very, very good, and well priced.  I find it a great place to shop for ‘antipasto’ like platters for enjoying with friends.

Some of the fresh daily bakery items like Ciabatta Bread are also excellent and a real bargain, but don’t take mine.  I love it crostada style with melted brie and a number of variations on that basic theme.

If you’re really nice, and say pretty please, I’ll fill you in on some of the possibilities.  And then you’re gonna owe me big time!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Double Trouble: The Ostrich digs a deeper hole

Maine Papers Hit With More Circulation Losses

Let’s briefly recap past items on this subject.  In May of this year, we reported in this post as follows:

The Times Record in Brunswick was no exception to the trend. It went from a daily circulation of 8,673 a year ago to 8,091 now, a loss of 6.7 percent. The weekend edition dipped from 10,366 in 2009 to 9,583 in 2010, down more than 7.5 percent.

Now we come across a recent update (Mon, 11/08/2010) from Al Diamon, noted Maine curmudgeon, on the same subject.

Another round of down: The statistics for the six months ending September 30, 2010, range from poor showings – the Times Record in Brunswick saw daily and weekend circulation both drop by 5.3 percent from a the same period a year ago – to seemingly disastrous ones – the Maine Sunday Telegram was off by 10.8 percent, while the Portland Press Herald suffered a 9.9 percent loss.

It’s no secret that “traditional media,” both print and electronic, are suffering major declines in circulation and viewership.  In Brunswick, the loss of a large population segment (BNAS families) is a contributing factor. 

The fact remains that media dinosaurs are, like defeated Democrat incumbents in the recent election, convinced they have a birthright to a powerful and prosperous position in society, and they are slow to see the writing on the wall.  Especially in the town of Perfect, otherwise known as Brunswick, where Bowdoin students frolic, and retired big city lawyers and bureaucrats parade in their feathered finery at art walks and poetry slams.

We’ve seen some evidence of late that papers like the Lewiston Sun Journal and the Portland Press Herald realize they can’t survive by appealing to a rabid 1/3 of the population while ignoring the rest, and they’re beginning to moderate their editorial policies. 

Expecting The Ostrich to follow suit is folly. They love Krugman and the other Kool-aid gurus from the NY Times, and the house editors are as true blue as they come.  They’ll keep on serving us Doug Rooks and the rest as they plod their way to the dung-heap of failed media.

Unless their tax problems do them in first.  And we have new information to report on this subject,  but before we do, let’s refer to our prior reports.

Ostrich Tax Delinquencies

Here are the links in case you want to refresh your memory, or for new readers, get the goods for the first time:

First, the original report:


Then we updated the story with this item:


It’s really tough to believe those reports are not much more than a month or two old.  How time flies.  Especially when we’re having fun.

To bring you current, we provide these updates, all based on publicly available information.

Brunswick Publishing still owes a portion of their 2009-10 personal property taxes.  That amount is $18,085.40.  The town has placed a lien against their personal property for the 2009-10 tax balance.  They owe all of their 2010-11 personal property taxes.  That amount now stands at $42,243.39.

As for real estate taxes, Brunswick Publishing did not make the October payment of their 2010-11 taxes, which, including interest was $37,230.76.  They will owe an additional $37,081.42 in April 2011. 

These are the amounts billed to Brunswick Publishing. 

There are also taxes assessed to Alliance Press, and they are delinquent for 2009 and 2010 personal property taxes, in amounts with interest of $6,365.71 and $5,550.82 respectively.

Without getting out Side’s calculator, it looks like The Ostrich enterprise owes our beloved town $100,000 plus in taxes.  And that’s without considering upcoming payments that would add further to the total amount in arrears.

But hey, they’re leading advocates for social and economic justice and fair share taxation, so we’re confident they’ll cough up the amounts owed soon,and accompany them with written testimony that confirms their undying commitment to shared responsibility for the common good.

We’ll publish it here when they do.  Lord knows we can all use the inspiration.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Congratulations, Senator Gerzofsky

(Note: Geez, we hope the editors got his name right.  We’re confident it’s spelled as above, but we notice in recent years he pronounces it as if it’s spelled Grezofsky.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Senator?)

Well, no surprise to locals in the know.  Stan Gerzofsky won election for the 11th and 12th consecutive years in his “I am not a career politician” stint in the Maine legislature.  This will make years 3 and 4 as a State Senator, after terming out at 8 years as a Representative. 

If he was Governor, he’d be halfway through his 3rd term, but it’s a stretch, at least in his mind, to see this as a career thing.  The fun part is that while he won re-election, control of both houses of the Legislature, and the Blaine House, flipped from Democrat to Republican.  Which creates a situation that has not existed since the mid-60’s, if you can believe it.

This means Stan will no longer have the committee leadership positions he’s enjoyed in the past, nor will Charlie Priest and the rest of the former majority.  It will be interesting to see whether their devotion to ‘public service’ is as strong when they are in the minority as it was when they were the unchallenged big dogs in Augusta.

Stan won by roughly a 60% to 40% margin over Scott Thomas, a relatively unknown newcomer and late entry candidate from Freeport.  Scott, as we have reported, is a first rate, poised, and highly qualified candidate for public office, and we hope he will decide to run again.

Scott made a very fine showing against an entrenched Democrat machine candidate, and should be proud of his effort.  Be advised that if you saw figures claiming he was outvoted by something like 14,000 to 6,000 that those figures are wrong.  Gerzofsky’s total was 10,000 plus and Scott’s was 6,000 plus.

You may remember that a few weeks back we said Stan was proud of his humility.  He proved us right by making this statement to The Forecaster after the results were in:

Gerzofsky said he consistently heard from voters at the polls Tuesday he is doing a good job representing his district.  “The voters in my district have been very supportive. They appreciate the hard work I have done,” he said.

It almost makes you think Stan might have been electioneering at the polls, rather than just saying hello, per state law.  Naah; he’d never do that.

Now that the campaign is over, Stan should have plenty of time to get back to his interests in the haberdashery and furniture businesses.  Especially since he won’t have committee chair duties to worry about.

PInstripes anyone?  Or perhaps a new windsor chair or two for the dining room?

As for us, we’ll continue to research and report on Stan’s efforts on our behalf.  We find many of his public statements to be extremely interesting, if puzzling, and we often have a hard time confirming them.

Reporting on such curiosities is why we’re here, though.  And we’re mindful of our obligations to our readers.

As Forrest Gump said, “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”

We prefer dark chocolate; how about you?

Time for your Monday Kool-aid shooter, compliments of the Ostrich..

On page 5 of today’s edition, following the time-honored tradition of citing another newspaper’s reporting to justify their own mis-uninformation, The Ostrich carried this little item about Governor John Baldacci and his budget stewardship:

Adjusted for inflation, the fiscal 2010-11 general fund budget of $2.69 billion is less than the budget Baldacci inherited when he became governor in 2003.

True, as far as it goes, which is not nearly far enough.  The general fund budget is less than half of total state spending, as we’ve reported over and over, most recently in this item.

If we told you that we spent far less on new vehicle purchases this year than we did ten years ago, would that convince you that our family spending is less than it was then?  We don’t think so, Tim.

So here we come again, reminding you over and over.  The reporting by “traditional media outlets” is at the best incomplete, and at the worst, intentionally culpable in misleading the public.

Want proof?  Look at the data here.  It’s up to date as of last month, and what is shows is that Maine’s total spending in 2003 was $5.68 billion, and in 2010, it is $7.73 billion.

You can say whatever you want about general fund spending, but there is no denying that Maine government is spending 36% more now than it did seven fiscal years ago.  Trying to suggest otherwise by selective choice of numbers is the worst kind of mis-uninforming.

It’s almost as if we need a government watchdog acting on our behalf to make sure we get the facts we need to understand what is really going on.

Nominees, anyone?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gown to Town: Stuff it, you ungrateful cretins!

We confess that it’s been some time since we gave thanks for the presence of Bowdoin College and its students in our otherwise hapless and hopeless town.  We have not been faithful in conducting a weekly homage to St. Polar Bear in gratitude for the Administration and students’ forbearance toward we the unwashed and unenlightened of Brunswick.

So it is with some humility that we pass along a well deserved wire-brushing from one of our betters in the Bowdoin class of ‘12.  Here are a few tempting tidbits from his (or her) letter in the Bowdoin Orient:

You know what's awesome about Brunswick? Bowdoin College. Without Bowdoin, what is Brunswick?

However, the point is Brunswick thrives on the presence of Bowdoin College, both financially and culturally. 

And definitely don't welcome Brunswick residents into your lives, because they tolerate you less than you could ever imagine.   

Suitably chastised, we realize now that we should be thanking these transient party animals for the influence they exert over our local election outcomes.  And how grateful we should be for the pennies on a dollar the College pays in property taxes compared to the rest of us.

Color us suitably ashamed. We’ll announce a sackcloth and ashes parade through the campus as soon as we get approval from the President’s Office.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Ostrich wins another award….

Dewey defeats Truman – the Maine version.

We have no love lost here on Side for The Ostrich, as regular readers know.  Sometimes we even call it the “NOTWIUN,” suggesting that the editors seem at times to be actively working to keep us in the dark, or even worse, in the wrong room, in the wrong house, on the wrong street.

In this recent post, we went so far as to say this:

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.

The last 24 hours provide a perfect example of just how feckless Ostrich editors can be.  And why “traditional media” is gasping for breath to keep itself alive.  We thank them for making our point.

The proof before us is today’s edition, in which The Ostrich confirms how they lag in the news cycle, rather than lead.

The front page fails to report the news widely known elsewhere that Paul LePage had won the race for Governor, and that Eliot Cutler had conceded.

We got the biggest guffaw, though, from this headline on Page 5:  “Triumphant Berry eyes speakership.”  Becoming speaker, generally speaking, requires being a member of the majority party.

We suppose some readers might be surprised, but Republicans won the majority in both the House and Senate in the Maine legislature yesterday.  Ergo, Berry may be “eyeing a speakership,” but not of the House.  Maybe he’ll be presiding over his kitchen, or barn, or his Kool-Aid distillery.

Here at Side, we knew this at 5:30 am this morning, before we left for an early meeting in the capitol area.  Ostrich editors, if they cared, and were awake, could have known this by the same time, more than enough lead time to correct the Berry headline.

We wish to thank them for continually confirming why our disdain and distrust for them is warranted.  In the process, they render accusations that we are cynical, smarmy, and hapless critics wholly without foundation.

Time to shut down the gloat machine.  We do hope we’ll see you all at Berry’s celebration of his ascendancy to the Speakership, following in the footsteps of such well known legends as John (“Johnny Protocols”) Richardson, Libby Mitchell, and John Martin.

Assuming it isn’t held on the same night as the Dewey celebration. 

We want to provide first hand coverage of both, but we can only stretch our resources so far.  Unless you send lots of shekels our way, in which case we might stretch a bit further.

Good night, Mrs. Calabash.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

More “great publicity” for Maine….

We don’t think very highly of USA Today, but  we ran across a copy of today’s edition when we were out dumpster diving for original news stories.

Lo and behold, the front page referred to a Section A article about Maine, entitled “Population drop-off vexes Maine residents.”  Click on the title link to read the entire article.

Here’s a revealing excerpt or two:

Maine was one of three states whose population declined from 2008 to 2009 (Michigan and Rhode Island were the others). For the first time in 209 years, neighboring New Hampshire has more people than Maine, according to Census estimates.

The drop in Maine stems mostly from young people leaving for school and jobs and the birth rate dropping as those left behind age. Maine's median age (half are younger, half are older) is 42.2 — oldest in the USA.

Nothing but encouragement there, right?  Then this:

Two-thirds of the state's 1.3 million people live in the lower third. The timber and paper mill industries that supported rural northern counties near Canada consolidated, and thousands of jobs disappeared.

"Clearly, the place has been grappling for 25 years with massive restructuring," says Mark Muro, director of policy for the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.  (Oh yeah?  Could you give us 2 or 3 “clear” examples, Mark?)

Two quick comments on the article.  First, we can’t help but wonder what triggered the appearance of this item.  We’re not ready to believe that USA Today sends reporters out turning over rocks to find stories of note.  We believe, instead, that someone in the ruling class made a call or two, or had a PR consultant do it for them, to stimulate interest in the subject and the related reportage, which in all likelihood consists of contrived and pre-approved rhetoric.

Second, the various remedies mentioned by the individuals quoted in the article are the same old tired approaches that have put us here in the first place.  In a nutshell, use consultants, grants, and other government involvement , coupled with vacuous mantras like “the creative culture” as the rosy route to revival.

In so many words,their prescription for success boils down to nuggets like “networking and advertising” in new and better ways. So they sip wine in Camden and talk about such things.

Most who have stared our problems in the eye know there is a higher reality; that the most important priority is to remove our well-known, self-inflicted impediments to a viable, prosperous, and sustainable future for Maine and ALL its residents, from the very youngest to the very oldest.

But as I said before, “you get what you pay for” with consultants and their ilk, and those who spend OPM to employ them.