Friday, September 30, 2011

Wishing Upon A Star – a postscript.

It should be patently obvious that Side has lost a few mph on its fast ball over the summer months, and that a rigorous training plan is necessary to get us back in the game.  Ironically, we may remind you of the ‘Sox, but that proves you’re conditioned to accept major disappointment and then rise above it.

Wow….existential philosophizing and psycho-babble all in one paragraph.  We may have lost something off our fast ball, but our screwball is still working!

We realized post-posting that we should have embellished our essay with appropriate audio-visual content, and we hope you’ll excuse our tardiness in doing so.  Though late, the sentiments expressed in this clip are so germane to local attitudes and machinations that they still hit the target, whatever it might be.

There it is: Fantasyland on the Androscoggin.  (That IS the Androscoggin, isn’t it????)

The real point of this follow-up, however, is to bring up the issue of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions as they relate to bringing the train to Brunswick.  Brunswick and the surrounding area are privileged to be the home of many who would gladly give up their homes, their children, and their jobs if only it would result in one less milligram of CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere. 

It’s our version of “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Given local quasi-religious commitment to mitigating global ‘climate change,’ shouldn’t the comparison between huge diesel locomotives pulling railroad cars and conventional diesel powered buses (rubber tired, to be clear) be at the core of this planning, even though it’s a fait accompli because of overriding electro-political factors?

Here’s some info on the Concord Coach buses currently running between Brunswick and Portland:

Our bus model is a Prevost x345 which has 375 horsepower. We encourage you to go to the American Bus Association’s website ( as they have emissions research and reports information.  They also have under the For Travelers tab on the right, The Green Choice which you may find as equally interesting.

Ride a Motorcoach -- The Greenest Approach


Motorcoaches currently provide 206.6 passenger miles per gallon (MPG), more than double the second most fuel-efficient sector, commuter rail at 92.4 passenger MPG.

Transit buses achieve 31.4 passenger MPG, domestic air carriers achieve 44 passenger MPG, and single passenger automobiles achieve 27.2 passenger MPG. Each motorcoach has the potential of removing 55 autos from the highway. That's millions of cars not driven, saving fuel, cutting emissions and reducing congestion.

Click here to read a report from The Union of Concerned Scientists, which finds that travel by motorcoach is the greenest way to go.

Is there anyone out there who seriously wants to argue that running trains between Brunswick and Portland is more ‘earth-friendly’ and ‘climate-friendly’ than running buses?  We’re not sure exactly which engine model will be used in the trains coming to town, but as you can see here, they all are in the 3000hp to 4000hp range. 

We may be many years from our college engineering studies, but we’re pretty sure engines with thousands of horsepower burn a lot more fuel (and generate a lot more dreaded greenhouse gases) than engines with hundreds of horsepower.  While we drank a lot of refreshing liquids in our college days, we assure you it wasn’t kool-aid.

None of this matters, though, when you’re a train-zealot committed to arguing that laws of economics and physics don’t matter when it comes to OUR town.  The Brunswick Exception to said laws makes it all OK.

There’s a reason, or more accurately, multiple reasons that passenger trains have long since gone the way of the buggy whip, except in rare cases where public support justifies deep deficit operation.  And even that is usually on extremely busy operating corridors.

Portland to Brunswick?  Given the existence of bus service and all the other economic parameters, Side concludes that Amtrak service between the two points is the consequence of archetypical municipal-political-egomania.

This is a pervasive symptom of a plague infecting our nation, the most prevalent consequence of which is severe depletion of economic health.  There are a number of ways to catch this plague, but it’s most easily contracted when you consume pork, no matter the recipe.

On a related note, we are convinced that a buggy-whip mill could reinvigorate the local economy, and we’d like to refurbish Fort Andross to start one.  Does anyone have a connection that could get us a loan for $500 million or so to do so?  We’ll even put solar panels on top of the building!

Like we’ve said before, you can trust us on this; we’re not like the others.  And you know who they are.

At least you should.

By the way, if you don’t see any penguins strolling around town, you know who to blame.  It won’t be the polar bears, so don’t try selling us that crazy.  Polar bears haven’t been seen in Brunswick for years, ever since the icebergs in Coffin Pond melted.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Other Side News Alert: Fair Share Legal Theory pioneers in Brunswick, Maine

Dateline Washington, D.C. and Brunswick, Maine:

Public discourse in the United States has been dominated in recent weeks by rhetoric insisting that ‘the wealthy need to pay their fair share,’ whatever the hell that might be.  This political mandate has been embraced by those who believe that confiscating all earned income will go a long way towards reducing the annual federal deficit.

Responding to this imperative, various American billionaires, most prominently among them Warren Buffet, have gone public saying ‘Master, I have sinned. So let me pay more, more, more.’ Buffet has apparently been unable to find a way to pay more than the minimum his attorneys and accountants have determined he owes. 

His pleading rings hollow, however, given reports that he is in arrears by a mere billion or so in prior tax obligations.  No matter; we should all be shamed by his sincerity, humility, and integrity in taxation policy.

As anyone who studied advanced micro-economics in the third grade knows, the secret to financial success in our economically unjust society is to ‘find a need and fill it.’

For decades, thousands of tax attorneys have made billions minimizing tax exposure for their wealthy clients, ensuring that the nation accrues catastrophic deficits year after year.  Only recently has guilt such as that expressed by Buffet and others of his ilk been so publicly proclaimed.

Buffet, worth something like $30 billion, is reportedly an honorable and forthright businessman.  We are confident, though, that during his lengthy career as a wildly successful capitalist, Warren has spent millions and millions on lawyers charged with minimizing tax exposure for his business dealings.

If we are to believe his recent public posturing, Buffet and his humble compadres are sorely ashamed, and awash in guilt for selfish pre-occupation with their bottom line, even if they have been law abiding.  According to their lawyers, that is.

On a similar more personal note, we have witnessed numerous civic minded individuals testifying they ‘would gladly pay higher property taxes’ to avoid ‘cutting the school budget.’  We can’t name any, however, because every time we heard someone say that, we could never get them to give their name and contact info for follow up by town officials.

Then there’s the Ostrich, which has lectured us ad nauseum on paying more taxes, the cost of democracy, et cetera, et cetera, et chunkus hurlium.

In view of the foregoing, the miserable state of our economy, and our loss of the Naval Air Station and Brunswick Park & Gardens, we are pleased to make a bold step forward in turning things around.

Other Side enterprises proudly announces the creation of a new legal enterprise: ‘’

While not a law firm, will provide affordable and reliable legal advice to capitalists, wealthy individuals and the otherwise more fortunate who are verklempt over their puny tax obligations.

Our mission is to become the ‘center of excellence’ for paying more, for paying what’s right, for paying your ‘fair share.’  And we intend to do it right here in Brunswick, where fair share is a way of life. 

Reflecting our commitment, we promise 72 hour turnaround in revising your tax returns (as far back as 10 years) to assuage your guilt, and to give you the satisfaction you deserve for paying more than the law requires.  Should we fail to meet this promise, we’ll gladly increase your obligation at no extra charge.

While overpaying is fraught with complexities, our expertise provides the confidence you seek in paying your fair share, or more if at all possible.  Your peace of mind is paramount in what we do, and we will strive to exceed your expectations in every regard.

At the moment, we’re looking for well known public figures to be our spokespersons on radio, TV, and internet ads.  We expect the talent pool to be overwhelming both in size and fervor. 

We also need qualified calculator operators; experience in multiplying, adding, and dividing is a plus, but is not required.  Candidates accepted for these challenging jobs can expect to find lucrative careers as cashiers and toll collectors in future years.

To kick off our practice with a bang, is offering the following introductory fees for our services:

  • For Brunswick residents: 5% of your additional tax obligation.
  • For non-Brunswick Maine residents, like Chellie Pingree, Donald Sussman, etc, 10% of your additional tax obligation.
  • For non-Maine/non-Brunswick citizens, 15% of your added obligation, on which we will pay full income tax rates, unless we can find a tax attorney to get us off with less.

You can’t imagine how excited we are about this breakthrough in applied psycho-legal therapeutics, and how proud we are to put Brunswick on the map in this regard.

It’s the least we could do to see that you do the most you could do.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

When you wish upon a star….

(Note: this post has been updated to correct the horribly miscalculated numbers for BP&G.  Apologies.)

Side doesn’t know how many of you remember the opening of the original Sunday Night Walt Disney Show, in which the singing of this theme set the stage for all things to follow, most notably the Disney belief in a purely magical existence.  We can remember watching it raptly, and especially with our kids.

It occurred to us that the modern day equivalent of Uncle Walt’s optimism, at least as it relates to matters of governance, is finding consultants who have inside connections to the stars.  We tried really hard to come up with some sort of rhyme that would make the case, but fell flat on our tuchus.  And so we are reduced to dry and meaningless narrative to make our case.

Which is one hell of a segue into what follows.  ‘Tortured’ comes to mind; but you’ve got to cut us some slack after months of absence.  Let’s see if we can make the connection.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to regular readers that this correspondent and Herschel Sternlieb are on completely different ends of the ideological spectrum.

So it may surprise you that we think of Herschel as a kind, honorable, and most decent member of our community.  With one rare exception several years ago, Herschel is the only person who ever took the time to send us a personal note of thanks for something we wrote or said.  He is, to put it simply, a prince of a man.

Which is why we are confident that forsaking his dream of creating ‘Brunswick Park and Gardens’ on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station property is more difficult than you might think.  Herschel and his friends believed fervently that the concept was noble, workable, and economically viable.

One aspect of their fervor caught our attention, because it exemplifies the methodology (or should we say pathology?) for swaying public opinion, and more importantly, freeing up access to the public treasury.

The BP&G group claimed their development would draw 1 million visitors a year to Brunswick.  That number can be difficult to grasp, just as the notion of borrowing $1.5 trillion a year at the federal level can be.

So let’s see what we can do to make it meaningful.  Averaged over a year, 1 million visitors would amount to about 2,750 a day, every day of the year.  Which translates to about 114 per hour, 24/7/365.

in other words, if you stood outside the gates of the proposed gardens, you would see a car nearly every minute of every hour of every day all year long bringing two people to visit the site.  We’ll leave you to calculate how many visitors per hour would be necessary if they didn’t come 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 12 months a year to get to 1 million.  (Here’s a clue: if it were 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, 8 months a year, it would be 625 per hour, or more than 10 per minute.  Yikes times ten!)

There’s another way to appreciate what this number means.  We happened to watch a special recently that focused on the state of Virginia.  It talked about Colonial Williamsburg, a long established and very successful major public attraction.

They stated this destination draws ‘1 million visitors a year.’  Think for a moment about the historic relevance of Colonial Williamsburg as compared to what Brunswick Park and Gardens might be. 

Consider the location of, and concentrated east coast metropolitan population that Williamsburg draws upon compared to what Brunswick would have access to.

Given these specifics, we have no choice but to conclude that BP&G advocates were either living in a fantasy world (the Disney connection!), or more likely, had employed a consultant who knows that you make your money by telling people what they want to hear.

This phenomenon is all too pervasive in public discourse in the modern era.  We are convinced there is a ‘consultant industrial complex’ that exists to rationalize and lubricate the transfer of taxpayer funds to all manner of ‘investments’ and ‘public-private partnerships’ in the name of economic development, no matter how non-sensical they might be.

Here’s a couple of examples, in addition to the BP&G case. 

Remember several months ago when the MRRA publicized the possible sale of the ‘hotel property’ on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station?  As we recall, this property has something like 270 rooms. 

The MRRA, in a brief publicity flourish, claimed that a number of commercial entities were interested in operating the facility, and that ‘studies had shown’ that the property would generate  ‘50,000 room nights a year.’ 

That equates to booking nearly 140 rooms every night of the year.  Which would mean there is a huge unfulfilled demand for hotel rooms in the area.  Tell that to those operating established inns and motels in the region; tell them that demand exceeds supply by 140 rooms a night.

And then ask who paid for the consultants who came up with these numbers, and why the entire scenario evaporated in a matter of weeks.

Then there’s the Portland to Brunswick Amtrak extension.  “Studies predict” that the result will be 36,000 new visitors to Brunswick per  year.  Or 100 per day.

No matter that the bus that runs between the train station in Portland and Brunswick averages about 10 passengers per day.  And that the bus service can conveniently take you to Logan Airport to catch domestic and international flights, while the train can’t.

It must be the ‘romance of the rails’ that will attract customers to take a more expensive option with less flexibility.   There’s a model to build an economic expansion on!  And on which state and federal officials could justify, above and beyond that, a new ‘rubber tired bus service’ between Portland and Brunswick to pick up the slack.

Are you kidding?  Is there any wonder we’re going broke in public sector finances?

Now we read that Amtrak extension funding is at risk.  If you ask us, it should never have been authorized in the first place. 

Related reports talk of six trains per day.  We’ll assume that means three coming from Portland, and three going to Portland.  if you believe the predictions of 36,000 passengers per year coming to Brunswick, that means an average of 33 passengers per train.

Or less than one bus can hold.  How many cars will be on that train, and how many Amtrak employees, compared to the driver of one bus?  A bus service that already exists, by the way.

Hopefully, someone wiser than us will soon explain what it is about the passenger train that makes more sense than a bus that provides better service and better convenience for air travel connections.

And it better not be ‘romance,’ because if that’s the best they’ve got, they can kiss our tuchus.

Romantic as that sounds, it doesn’t count for squat in the grand scheme of things.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ho-hum; quiet little Brunswick

Things tend to be kind of quiet here in Brunswick, especially when certain esteemed media outlets are not publishing actively at the pace to which readers have become accustomed.

Fortunately, there are others who work hard to make sure that Brunswick isn’t too quiet!

Here’s a lovely and uplifting example; perhaps you’ll recognize someone you know, whether you want to admit it or not.  You might even submit a comment citing them for their activism.

Or, on the other hand, we might have nothing more than, in the historic words of Rev. Al Sharpton, a bunch of ‘white interlopers.’

Should you see someone walking into a bank behind you with a video camera in hand, you might want to turn around and head for the exit. 

Or another town, if that’s what it takes to avoid being profiled as an interloper by unprincipled media pundits.

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