Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strike up the kazoos!

It just occurred to us that the second anniversary of Other Side escaped our notice, and went by without appropriate fanfare.

According to our records, we made our first post on July 11, 2009, and since then, have published more than 450 items.

So, if you have a kazoo, a raspberry cushion, or other suitable instrument of joyous recognition, please make appropriate sounds in the privacy of your own home.

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BBC&O: The denouement

It’s been some time since we referred to our “local print media” as the NOTWIUN (Newspaper Of The WIllfully UNinformed.)  Recent activity, or lack thereof, to be more precise, in the subject of “BBC&O – made for each other,” brought that sobriquet back to top of mind.  And don’t forget the “afterthought.”

You will recall that your correspondent was shocked, shocked we say, over the agitprop written by Matthew Klingle, a Bowdoin College Professor, and printed in The Ostrich before the recent school budget election.  Or on today’s tangent, the NOTWIUN.

Given the healthy supply of intellectual curiosity we possess, like any good editor should, we went in search of substantiation for Klingle’s Klaims.  So we went straight to the source with this email:

Professor Klingle:

I have just been catching up on my newspaper reading, and came across your letter published in the Times Record this past Friday, June 3rd.

In the spirit of academic inquiry, I would like to ask you about the following passages from that letter:

  • "precarious state of our public schools nationally and in Maine;" on what objective data do you base this assertion?
  • "an impoverished school system;" ditto - on what objective data do you base this assertion?
  • "the importance of well-funded and accountable schools;" please define what you mean by 'well-funded' and 'accountable,' and in particular, what you do to hold our local school system accountable.
  • "at the very moment that we're recruiting prospective employers and investors to come here;" please elaborate on this assertion, and whom you are referring to.
  • You also cite "budget cuts over the past five decades," and how they intensify "spirals of economic and social disruption."

I take explicit exception to your assertion that budgets have been cut over the past five decades.  I have compiled budget data for Brunswick going back to 1988, and the notion of budget cuts over this period is patently absurd.

The school budget has tripled over these years, and total expenditures for the town, including schools, has done the same.  In view of these increases, budget cuts and 'spiraling disruption' is a canard of the worst and least ethical sort.

Unless, however, you can provide evidence proving otherwise.  If challenged on this, I'll do what I can to compile data going back to 1961 to test your hypothesis.

I am confident that a review of state and federal budget history, adjusted for inflation, would show that they have increased monotonically as well.

Now the last question: did the opinion editor of the Times Record ask you to substantiate your claims before accepting your letter for publication?


That message was sent exactly one week ago, and we hate to disappoint you, but there has been not a sliver of a response to it.  No doubt the professor is busy grading papers, even if the school year ended some weeks ago.  Or he’s doing independent research on the issues raised, and will be submitting a lengthy thesis in response.  He might even be brewing up a fresh batch of adult Klingle Kool-Aid.

That last italicized paragraph ties back to “Suspicions confirmed: vetting the vetter.” the all time record setting post on Side.  As we did in that sorry episode, we launched off a letter to the editor regarding the offending claims.  It read as follows:

To the Editor:

No one who follows events in Brunswick would have even a smidgeon of a doubt that the referendum on the School Budget, held last week, would pass with overwhelming numbers. A largely clueless electorate (“there was an election?”), coupled with dependable ‘it’s for the children’ voters virtually guarantee that any number put before the public would be approved, no matter how unwarranted.

Hence, there is absolutely no need for a letter writer, a Bowdoin professor no less, to engage in barefaced agitation and propaganda in support of the budget. Times Record editors have a well-established weakness for the unsubstantiated assertions of tax and spend advocates, but you would think they could discern a glaringly false submission before printing if for unknowing readers.

You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. Matthew Klingle made the following statement in his letter: “Budget cuts over the past five decades have resulted in intensifying spirals of economic and social disruption.” This was after asserting that our school system is ‘impoverished” and our public schools are in a “precarious state.”

Anyone who says budgets have declined over the decades at municipal, state, or federal levels is either grossly incompetent, or a shameless liar. Here in Brunswick, school spending has tripled since the late 80’s. Even adjusted for inflation, it has increased steadily, especially on a per student basis.

Perhaps Patrick Moynihan’s statement - “you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts,” doesn’t apply to Bowdoin College faculty. It might interfere with their ‘academic freedom.’ One wonders what other knowledge, truth, and enlightenment one finds in the classrooms of our local ivory tower. And moral relativism to go with it.

Just last fall, town residents were reminded by a party-hearty Bowdoin student that the town is nothing without the college. Now we’re treated to pre-election falsehoods by a faculty member.

Once again, your editorial lapses give rise to concern that you willfully misinform the public, which is dereliction of your journalistic responsibility and a breach of ethical standards.

After a fashionable delay, the editor replied tersely with this:

“won’t run”

We could respond with a question as to why, but why try to inform the willful un-informers?  In an earlier failed career, we tried teaching pigs to sing, and some lessons were taken from that.

Oh, and for readers who couldn’t find “composity” in the dictionary in the “preaching” post the other day, it’s a combining form of compost + pomposity.  Hope that explains things, and feel free to “make it your own.”

Monday, June 13, 2011

Preaching to the little people, Ostrich style

The Ostrich is, to put it mildly, as incompetent as they come when it has to do with national economic and fiscal issues.  And they make no excuses about letting their ideology inform their editorial positions.

To begin with, they regularly scour the on line universe to find a narrative that aligns with their world, national, state, and local view, and then run it, or cite it, as confirmation of their supposedly carefully thought out position.

Case in point: today.  In a “thumbs down'” item, they jump with all three feet onto the “it’s all Bush’s fault” camel.  In the process, they certify they can’t grasp the fundamental difference between static and dynamic economic analysis.  If you don’t understand it, you need to study up post haste, because the difference is at the core of the demagoguing we hear ever day.

Furthermore, the editors are oblivious to historical facts, even when provided by their beloved and objective government agencies.  They are unwilling, or unable, to grasp the realities inherent in government supplied data such as government receipts, which shows tax revenues increasing markedly in the second Bush term.

But the very worst transgression on the part of The Ostrich is this pompous pronouncement:

What’s needed is an integrated plan to  reform the tax code and bring down our debt — with every taxpayer paying a fair share.

This is the point at which we feel compelled to remind you that the taxable entities that publish The Ostrich, known, we believe, as The Alliance Press, and Brunswick Publishing, are delinquent on their property taxes owed to Brunswick, and have been for some time.

So as far as we’ve concerned, their talking to us about “every taxpayer paying a fair share” is so much bravo sierra, and we take offense at their looking down their nose at the rest of us.

Frankly, it disgusts us.  We’ll leave it at that, and simply say that you have no idea how hard it is for us to do so.

We can only stand so much composity around here, and we’re reaching our limit.  And we’re tired of feeling the stitches on our tongue.

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Gov. LePage coming to Brunswick…

The Brunswick Downtown Association is holding one of their “Business Breakfasts” next week, and Governor Paul LePage will be the guest speaker.

You can find the details here:

The event is Thursday, June 23rd, starting at 7am, in the Bowdoin College Thorne Hall facility.

Should be well worth the price of admission.  Nothing like a good hot breakfast to start your day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Contest entry…..

I know the mail is slow, so that’s probably why the hundreds of suggestions responding to yesterday’s post are not yet in front of me.

Just for the heck of it, though, here’s a sample to get your imagination working:

“buying a Bowdoin College degree for $200,000 is like paying someone to load your brain and every other ‘smart’ device you own with computer malware”

I wonder if Professor Klingle or any of his fellow academic freedom riders will be submitting an entry. 

Probably not.  Which leaves only the question as to whether they would find it below them, or above them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Afterthought on BBC&O…

I meant to wrap up yesterday’s post with a reference to the current street quip that “buying a newspaper is like paying someone to lie to you.”

And then I thought about extending the concept to Bowdoin College, at least as exemplified by the assertions of Professor Klingle.

So we have an opportunity for reader creativity.  Please come up with a witty corollary that captures the essence of “buying a Bowdoin College degree for $200,000 is like paying someone to blah, blah, blah.”

You know those scenes in championship football games where a bunch of mischievous players sneak up behind the coach, and shower him with a cooler full of Gatorade?

I’m beginning to worry that one of these days, when I’m somewhere out on the town, a couple of Brunswick’s finest agitpropists will sneak up and shower me with a cooler full of Kool-Aid, hoping to wash every smidgeon of skepticism from my body.

Good luck with that.  The pranksters can save it for the sheep, who will surely appreciate it in this hot weather.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brunswick, Bowdoin College, and The Ostrich….made for each other

Bowdoin being Bowdoin, and more..

Do you remember Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins?  What a world of animal diversity he showed us to and led us to appreciate!

Here in Brunswick, wildlife diversity is nowhere as great, but we do have more than you might think.  We have several kinds of sheep, we have ostriches, we have strutting red-feathered peacocks (‘I know all the candidates for the supreme court’), we have two-faced chameleons, we have single-winged grackles (almost without exception, left-winged), we have moon-bats, we have gooney birds, we have loons.

Now that I think of it, we have more species than one can list.  We can’t forget jackals or crazy foxes.  Nor the slithering worms, snakes, and slimy snails. 

And let’s not ignore the hood-winking owl, or the ivory tower denizen, it’s close cousin.

So much for our editorial indulgence and amusement.  Tonight we will focus on the ostrich, the sheep, and the ivory tower denizen. They seem to perfectly ‘animate’ the recent budget climate.

So which  is superior in the animal pecking order – the ostrich, the sheep, or the ivory tower denizen?  Is one ‘more equal than the other?’  In a related question, we wonder whether anyone has ever seen an ostrich in sheep's clothing, or vice versa?

Ok, stop distracting me; I want to get to the point.  There is no question in my civilian mind that the voting on the school budget, held yesterday, will show overwhelming approval, and on the basis of less than a 10% voter turnout.

I knew this would be the outcome, no matter what anyone said at any hearing.  Emotions run high in this domain.  Fine; I’m prepared for that.  What I am not prepared for, however, is a complete absence of truth and objectivity, especially when it comes to local residents affiliated with our shining tower of truth, justice, and the American way.  (Ok, forget the American way bit.)

Last Friday, The Ostrich carried a letter by Matthew Klingle, an Associate Professor of History and Environmental Studies (whatever the hell that means!) at Bowdoin College, begging for support of the proposed school budget.

In it, he used phraseology that included this:

  • "precarious state of our public schools nationally and in Maine"
  • "an impoverished school system"
  • "the importance of well-funded and accountable schools"
  • "at the very moment that we're recruiting prospective employers and investors to come here"

The good professor also cited "budget cuts over the past five decades," and how they intensify "spirals of economic and social disruption."

As you should know if you follow us here on a regular basis, we compile data on budgets and spending to back up whatever positions we take and points we make.  And on this last assertion, ‘budget cuts over the past five decades,’ the data shows that the writer is so far off base as to be certifiably deceitful and wrong, or if you prefer, the more polite contemporary term, ‘disingenuous.’

If this be academic freedom, it must mean freedom to make up your own facts.  If this is a highly educated academic’s understanding of what is going on locally, we have to wonder what he teaches to the mushy young minds of teenagers spending $50,000 a  year to purchase a Bowdoin sheepskin.

Maybe getting a PhD (as I almost did), or a faculty appointment at an elite leftwing liberal arts college, requires surrendering your moral compass, so you can follow the yellow brick road wherever your superiors and mentors tell you it leads.

As for us, we sure as hell wish the faculty would keep their unsubstantiated and cockamamie thinking to themselves.  We’ve got more than enough crazy stocked up here all by ourselves; we don’t need any more handed down from on high.

Even if the very long neck of The Ostrich makes that easy to do.