Thursday, October 18, 2012

<p> Angus King proposes solar-driven wind-power generation, with fail-safe backup just in case..

We’ve overheard many in town whispering that we aren’t exactly the sharpest bulb in the drawer, and that we might even be a few watts short of a full load.

Still, we think it’s fair to say that our credentials in serious matters of power generation and distribution are a matter of record. At least in some places. Don’t believe us? Maybe you need to brush up a bit, and you can begin by reading this prior epic.

If you read our post of October 7th, and read the related Maine Wire column, you know the latter suggested that Alan Caron and Angus King are political animals of the chameleon type.  (Don’t forget the latest Maine Wire item, found here.)


We believe, from what we know and read, that Angus has recently taken inspiration from solar wind, shown in the graphic just below. And why wouldn’t he? The concept is lofty enough to give Maine’s loonies the vapors, while being so amorphous as to defy confirmation.  Which makes it a shoo-in for government subsidies.


The heliospheric current sheet results from the influence of the Sun's rotating magnetic field on the plasma in the solar wind.

This may be why we’ve noticed Angus supporters sporting the latest in political chapeaux, hyping the ‘renewable energy’ aura surrounding his campaign.  Unless, that is, the beanies are personal transporters for carrying wearers back to the mother ship that brought them to our planet.

                         Adult Propeller Beanie Hat Made in the USA

Regardless, the six colors go nicely with the chameleon theme, don’t you think?

King’s history in the wind business is, as they say, complicated.  First, there is Independence Wind.  Nice touch that, given his professed lack of firm governing principles.  Apparently, Independence Wind spawned the Record Hill project, which led to a new company, Record Hill Wind.

This project received huge federal loan guarantees, and was the source of some embarrassment for King as he announced his run for Olympia Snowe’s Senate seat.  Not as much is known about Highland Wind, another project in which King and his partners were involved.

KIng’s son Angus III is a Vice President at First Wind, which operates wind energy projects in New England, and wouldn’t you know, serves as an advisor, like his father, to Alan Caron’s Envision Maine ‘non-profit.’

Now the big news.  We’ve heard that Angus is drawing up plans for a new enterprise called Second Wind.  Borrowing from the aforementioned solar wind theory, Angus’ latest inspiration is intended to overcome wind power’s biggest problem – that wind blows when it wants to, and doesn’t when it doesn’t want to, making it unreliable as a foundational, primary power source. 

Wind turbines also suffer from public opposition for a number of reasons, including their size, required destruction of natural settings, their blight on the viewscape, their thrumming noise and irritating shadow patterns, and their efficiency as a Vitamix blender for birds who stray into their air space.


Couple this with the fact that generators are simply electric motors running in reverse, and vice versa. and you have the seeds of a brilliant solution. 

Second Wind will, with the help of hundreds of millions in federal subsidies and loan guarantees, develop solar powered wind machines.  These will look much like the wind turbines we’ve all become familiar with, but with acres of solar panels mounted atop their towers.  These panels will drive electric motors that spin huge blades to generate wind, which will be aimed at nearby wind turbines.

Here’s the really great part of this plan.  The motors in the solar powered wind machines will turn in the opposite direction of the existing wind turbines.  Just like noise cancelling headphones, this will cause the thrumming noise and annoying shadow pattern of the wind turbines to be zeroed out.  The air space between the two will be a neutral, calm, bird repelling zone, so wildlife will no longer be minced into a fine dice by the wind turbines that now function as giant bird chippers. 

Best of all, harmonic light wave variations will create a holographic phenomenon that makes both the existing and new towers disappear from view.  No towers, no dead birds, no noise, no shadows, just free, renewable power.  As long as the sun shines or the wind blows.  With more well deserved largesse for Angus and his friends.  Next thing you know, he could be making $500,000 a year in reportable income!

The most exciting part of this plan is that when the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow, Second Wind has a backup plan.  They are developing ‘blinding light’ towers, flexibly fueled by natural gas, oil, or coal, that will generate sufficient photons to activate the solar panels on the nearby wind machines to generate enough wind to propel the wind powered electric power generators.  And when all else fails, the grid connections can reverse current flow and drive the wind generators electrically.

Ain’t sustainable, renewable energy generation magical?

Breaking News: 

A reliable source leaked to us that Angus is also developing plans for an enterprise called Break Wind.  This renewable power scheme is based on a biochemical energy source, obtained by fitting individuals with PMCD’s (personal methane capture devices.)  PMCD’s would serve dual purposes: improving air and sound quality for visitors to the wearer’s ‘personal space,’ while providing a natural and organic fuel base for heating, cooking, and lighting, and perhaps someday, powering vehicles and generators.  The marketing tag is expected to be “Finally, natural gas accessible to everyone, everywhere, all the time!”  No matter where you go, you’ll have your renewable energy source up close and personal.

Clearly, this is the kind of innovation you can only expect when visionaries like Angus and friends set their minds to Envisioning and Reinventing Maine.

One More Surprise:

Did you know that if you drive your Prius backwards, you can power your house with it?  This is because, as we told you earlier, generators are simply electric motors running backwards and vice versa.

This is why, should Angus lose, he has more exciting plans for ventures in the energy business.  Now that one of his sons, the more sedate and news-worthy one, is entrenched in First Wind, Angus plans to leverage the cash flow from that enterprise in a new effort code named Mariah.

This will be a challenging R&D venture, targeted at residential users.  The breakthrough required is to find a way to park a Prius like vehicle and run it backwards while sitting on rollers, so it can power your house and charge the batteries in your i-devices.

Once the technology is perfected, Angus and his partners plan to produce the Sugna Suirp, a fancifully named auto “hybrid” reminiscent of Studebakers of yore.  That company failed because it was ahead of its time, before anyone realized a vehicle that looked the same going backwards or forwards could revolutionize energy distribution.

Feast your eyes on that classic just below.  If you happen to have one tucked away in a barn somewhere, Angus can probably arrange for a federally guaranteed load to take it off your hands.

            1950 Studebaker Starlight Car Picture

It’s always popular to finish such theatrics on a musical note, so here you are:

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind
Like the circles
That you find
In the windmills of your mind!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Family pocket book issues…huh?

We’ve scrupulously avoided getting into partisan commentary on the upcoming election.  Not that anyone wonders which grassy knoll this reporter views things from.  However comma we picked up on something last night in the debate coverage that simply must be addressed and stamped with our sticker.

Birth Control Pills

As we understand it, the President asserted that ‘contraception is a family pocket book issue,’ and thus we (you, me, everyone who pays income taxes) should pay for other people’s birth control expenses.

As one participant on a forum said, try comparing the cost of contraceptives to the cost of raising a child!  Not to mention that we understand pills run in the range of $10 a month.

Our point here is to ask if being ‘a family pocket book issue’ is the threshold for what we should expect the government to pay for.  For those who think it is, ponder the consequences of such a stand.

Here in our cozy little family, we have no shortage of ‘family pocketbook issues.’  Try food, clothing, property taxes, pay per bag trash bags, phone, internet, electricity, gasoline, house and car insurance, fuel oil, paper products, dog food, donuts, etc.  Then there’s vitamins, aspirin, ibuprofen, adult beverages, and other remedies to reconcile us with our fates.

Others may find that beer, cigarettes, and laxatives are ‘family pocket book issues.’  What about 5 hour energy shots and other elixirs of our age?  And lottery tickets and scratch cards?

So when should we expect the rest of you to chip in for our necessities?  And while we’re at it, we’d like to know where our 18 tax cuts are. 

We can’t remember a single one.  But we’ve got a pretty good fix on a significant tax increase that we’re facing in a matter of months.

It’s probably necessary so the government can pay for all those things we listed above.  We just need to know whether we’ll be placing our orders on a new government web site a la Amazon, or instead have to file claims for everything we buy so we can get reimbursed.

Either way, it looks like employment will be increasing in SOME sectors.

Maine Wire: A Chameleon Sequel


Like the turning leaves of autumn, so are the turning colors of Maine’s political animals.

A sample passage:

As I wrote the column, I didn’t recognize just how well varying one’s colors would describe Caron’s conduct in today’s changing political landscape. I made the following observation, but it barely hinted at reality:

“In his first column, Caron appeared in the magic Technicolor Dreamcoat of ‘independence,’ which positions him fluidly on the spectrum of political life styles: liberal, GOP, bi-political and trans-political (LGBT).”

Subsequent study shows that Caron has fully embraced the chameleon’s legerdemain in his published political posturing.

Read the entire item here:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Ostrich: 3rd place, no matter which way you look at it.

We noticed today that The Ostrich is trumpeting its award for “third place among all Maine daily newspapers in the General Excellence category — in Maine Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest.”

As we understand it, the ‘daily newspapers’ list in Maine consists of the following seven:

Bangor Daily News
Journal Tribune
Kennebec Journal
Morning Sentinel
Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram
Sun Journal
The Times Record

In our view, the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel, and the Press Herald are effectively one daily, since they all belong to the Sussman-Pingree media empire.  So editorially speaking, the list really has five entries.  Add to that the content sharing arrangement the Sun Journal has with the Bangor Daily News, and The Times Record to some degree, and you could argue there are really more like four editorially distinct dailies in Maine.

That assertion means The Ostrich came in third in a four or five horse race for the general excellence title.

Which means they came in second for least general excellence amongst their daily peers if you turn the rankings upside down.

Or, if it makes you feel better, third least excellent.

They can take some solace, we suppose, that these awards are in the “Better Newspaper Contest,” not the “Best Newspaper Contest.”

The bar is pretty low here, obviously, but you know the old saying.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Time to ‘limber up,’ in a manner of speaking

We don’t know about your routine, but as for us, we don’t do as much stretching as we should.  Oh, we get on the treadmill five days a week and head to nowhere for 40 minutes plus.  And we engage in a variety of other physical activities, ranging from the glazed donut lift to the pay per bag carry out.

But we only touch our toes once or twice a year, and only when we have no choice, if you know what we mean.

But it looks like we all better practice up, because as we read the news, it’s time to ‘stand by for incoming.’

By that we mean this item on the Town Council Agenda for the meeting this coming Monday (the 15th).

111. The Town Council will consider setting a public hearing for November 5, 2012, to adopt a “Resolution Amending the 2012-13 Budget Appropriating $174,500 from the Unassigned Balance of the General Fund to Fund the School Department’s Facilities
Master Plan – Phase II,” and will take any appropriate action.

This leads us to ask the following.

1) Why is Municipal Government proposing to appropriate funds for the School Department, when the latter is the largest portion of town spending, and should take care of their own needs from their own budgeted funds?

2) How much was spent on the “Facilities Master Plan – Phase I,” and who paid for it?  Who were the funds given too, and what was the resulting delivered product?  What did it propose, and why wasn’t it sufficient to plan for the future?

3) $174,500, applied to consulting services at a generous rate of $5,000 per  man-week, would cover roughly 35 weeks of professional services. Does it really require eight plus months of very expensive professional services to come up with a “Facilities Master Plan – Phase II,” especially considering that a Phase I plan has already been paid for?

There is a point at which those who pay for such things should cry Bravo Sierra, and we believe that point has already been passed.  The thought that our so-called ‘public servants’ need to spend this much more to create an argument that we need to spend something like $40 million or so to ‘maintain our school system excellence’ is repulsive.

This, it is ever so clear, is the normal modus operandi of those who see OPM as just so much jingle ready for the taking.  The next time you see one of these big spenders, why don’t you ask them to explain why figuring out how much more we need to spend costs so much?

And why they can’t do it themselves?

OK, now, hold on to those toes.  This will only take a minute.

You know what?  We just realized we’re not sure whether this should be called ‘limbering up,’ or ‘getting down.’  Either way, the end result will be the same.  They win, you lose.

Other Side goes for ‘The Big O’

Here at Other Side, we’ve come to realize that our growth has been limited by the fact that we are not a certified organic web site.

This was hammered home to us yesterday when we happened by the Tontine Mall and discovered that you can now get Organic Manicures ($30) and Organic Pedicures ($35).  Imagine how surprised we were to learn that nail polish plants can be grown in both organic and non-organic versions.  What’s next – Vampire Mani-Pedis?

As for us, we’re not willing to pay more than $5 for either our mani or Pedi, and thankfully, Leo the Barber is willing to add these options to our twice a year head shave for these token amounts.  Yes, it grosses out some of the other haircut customers, but it’s time for them to get with the retro-sexual vibe.

So, faithful readers, we come to you today to announce that Other Side is, from here on out, a fully Organic blog.  We pledge to eliminate the use of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, herbicides, insecticides, symbiotics, petrocides, peroxides, fungicides, czaricides, ovicides, germicides, or any other cides or xides from the posts you read here.  We cannot, obviously, eliminate Sides from our content.

Certifying our content as Organic, in keeping with prevailing retail trends, will require that we double our current subscription rates.  You can expect to see the increase in your next statement.  We’re confident that you’ll pony up the increase without any grousing.  If you don’t, expect us to publish your name on the Enemies of Organic Blogging web site.

It boils down to this: the staff here at the editorial offices believes the Organic wave is the key to our financial security, and the way to grow our business base.  While we’re still refining the details, we’re already formulating plans to open an Organic Consulting Agency, an Organic Bookkeeping Office, an Organic Tree Removal Service, an Organic Well Drilling Company, and an Organic Electrician Practice.

We think there might be potential for Organic barbers, handymen, and trash removal services as well.

We’ll keep you posted on these ideas, in a purely organic way. 

If it works out, maybe we’ll create an on-line presence called “Orgy’s List.”

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Monday, October 8, 2012

OPM and Strategic Planning Consultants

As long as we’re on the subject of OPM (pronounced “O-pee-em”), we might as well clean out the job-jar on that subject.  At least for now.

Hopefully you remember our post last month reporting that Marty and Kat at Systems in Sync had decided to send a Dear Paul letter to the Brunswick School Department.  Reporting on that heart-breaking split gave us a chance to remember Seinfeld’s “It’s not you, it’s me” break-up classic.

As we were mourning the loss of Marty and Kat’s affections, we consoled ourselves by looking longingly at their web site.  Doing so was not quite as rewarding as banging our head against the wall in front of the Town Council, but it came close.

Looking at the list of their clients, we noticed two things:

1)  Its makeup is 90% plus government schools, government agencies, and ‘non-profits,’ most of whom exist on government funds in some form.  These are all people who spend OPM, and they don’t have the same thresholds of reason and economic incentives that private sector entities do.  Think GSA conferences in Las Vegas, and MSHA conferences all around the country, plus hundreds of thousands on ‘trainings,’ catering, and consultants of all sizes, shapes, and areas of expertise.

2)  The largest segment of clients is comprised of government schools and school districts.  As we said before, there is only one listing in Maine, that being Brunswick, and Systems in Sync has put on ‘its all overcoat’ and headed back to Vermont.

If you stop and think about this, you’ll realize that Marty and Kat and their ilk are really a form of shadow government. They exist almost totally because of government, and they survive almost totally on government funds, which they extract from others without any taxpayer approval. 

We couldn’t help but wonder if there is some common linkage between their clients that gave Marty and Kat an advantage in marketing their services to faraway, little-known Brunswick.

There is, we deduced, and that would be state teachers unions, who are knit together by the national teachers unions.  Among other possibilities.

Hmmmm.  Could there have been a glowing reference given by those in another state?  Through whom, and to whom?  Or was even worse mischief afoot?  (or ameter, if you’re a euro-metric proponent.)

The least likely scenario, we are convinced, is that the natural alignment of the cosmos and serendipity brought Marty, Kat, and Paul together.

Only The Shadow knows for sure.  And The Shadow isn’t very talkative.  Yet.

But we’ll keep trying to see if we can get him to open up.  The problem is, he keeps hiding out in the shadows.


As a convenience to those who may not wish to visit Marty and Kat’s web site, we’re posting the client list here.  Enjoy.


Bethel School District, Bethel, VT
Brunswick School Department, Brunswick, ME
Caledonia Central Supervisory Union, Danville, VT
Caledonia North Supervisory Union, Lyndonville, VT
Canaan Elementary School, Canaan, NH
Chelsea Public Schools, Chelsea, VT
Claremont Middle School, Claremont, NH
Conval High School, Peterborough, NH

Dartmouth Medical School, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Lebanon, NH
Dartmouth SEEDS Consulting Group, Hanover, NH
Disnard Elementary School, Claremont, NH
Georgia Elementary and Middle School, Georgia, VT
Lisbon Regional Schools, Lisbon, NH
Ludlow Elementary/Union #39 School Districts, Ludlow, VT
Maple Ave. Elementary School, Claremont, NH
Montpelier Public Schools, Montpelier, VT
Newport Middle School, Newport, NH
Northfield School District, Northfield, VT
Peterborough Elementary School, Peterborough, NH
Pierce Elementary School, Bennington, NH
River Bend Career and Technical Center, Bradford, VT
Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
SAU #1, Peterborough, NH
SAU #6, Claremont, NH
SAU #70, Hanover, NH
Southwestern Community Services Head Start, Keene, NH
Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, Bennington, VT
Unity Elementary School, Unity, NH
Washington South Supervisory Union, Northfield, VT
Windsor School District, Windsor, VT
Winooski School District, Winooski, VT


The Alternative Life Center, Conway, NH
Autism Resources for Community and Home, Norwich, VT
Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, Montpelier, VT
Circle Of Life, Derry, NH
Community Health Center of Burlington, Burlington, VT
Council for Children and Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions, Concord, NH
Concord Peer Support, Concord, NH
Cornerbridge, Laconia, NH
The Family Center of Washington County, Montpelier, VT
The Fort at No. 4, Charlestown, NH
Granite State Monarchs, Keene, NH
Helping Hands North, Inc., Colebrook, NH
Mascoma Valley Health Initiative, Canaan, NH
Mount Washington Observatory, North Conway, NH
NH Center for Nonprofits, Concord, NH
NH Healthy Kids, Concord, NH
NH Providers Association, Concord, NH
NH State Council on Developmental Disabilities, Concord, NH
Northeast Kingdom Community Action, Newport, VT
On The Road To Recovery, Inc., Manchester, NH
Orleans-Northern Essex AHS District, Newport, VT
Project Crash, Waterbury, VT
Rural Community Transportation, Inc. St. Johnsbury, VT
Seacoast Consumer Alliance, Portsmouth, NH
Stepping Stone Peer Support Agency, Claremont, NH
Tri-City Consumers’ Action Cooperative, Dover, NH
Vermont Agency of Transportation, Montpelier, VT
Vermont Department of Education, Montpelier, VT
Volunteer NH, Concord, NH
Women’s Information Services, Lebanon, NH


Atlantic Cellular, West Lebanon, NH
Bradford Veneer, Bradford, VT
Grant Ducharme, Builder, Sharon, VT

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Maine Wire: Angus King & Alan Caron–Maine’s ‘colorful’ political animals, in a manner of speaking


Excerpts from the full column:

A few weeks back, I wrote on the subject of partisanship here on The Maine Wire. In so many words, I suggested that Angus King is a skillful political opportunist wearing an “independent” overcoat because it offers the best chance to fulfill his personal ambitions—much the same as embracing wind power offered the best chances for milking the government subsidy cash cow. I stand by that view. (You can read King’s manifesto here.)

In his first column, Caron appeared in the magic Technicolor Dream coat of “independence,” which positions him fluidly on the spectrum of political life styles: liberal, GOP, bi-political and trans-political (LGBT). He hams it up in his role, embracing Angus King’s senate candidacy, because of his legendary stature on the imaginary independent axis.

Read the entire piece here:

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Capital Projects, OPM Addiction, and Public Buildings

When it comes to capital facility projects, Brunswick’s municipal governance history is a case study in incompetence, ineffectiveness, and a cocksure belief that whatever it takes dollar-wise can be squeezed from local taxpayers with not a bit of embarrassment or next election risk.  And at the penalty of perhaps a half-hour of public hearing opposition.

Not to mention a total lack of accountability and responsibility when it comes to prioritizing maintenance of existing assets.  The School Department in particular will always make good stewardship of physical assets last on their list, knowing full well that the general public are suckers for weepy-eyed rhetoric about ‘doing what’s right for the children.’ Even when it means trashing once-praised buildings that should have been routinely kept in good repair, in favor of wondrous architectural ‘visions’ no matter their cost and no matter declining enrollments.

The town is littered with physical evidence of this pathology, or in some cases, only memories.

When a $13 million public safety building proposal was resoundingly rejected by voters in 2003, contrite town councilors openly professed that they had “gotten the message from the public.” 

Yah, shurr.  Some lessons stick; but when OPM (pronounced oh-pi-um) is involved, clear thinking is quickly compromised as the thought of more and more Other Peoples Money is lined up in neat little rows, and keeps the partying going.

It’s obvious that we, the ones who always, always cough up the shekels to bail out those responsible, have created this ‘dependency,’ and allowed it to become permanently institutionalized.  What’s not obvious is how individuals to whom we give the authority in such matters can repeat the same mistakes over, and over, and over again, without ever learning from their mistakes.  And then do it over again, just for good measure.

How many times do you have to stick your finger in a fire before you realize you’re going to get burned?  How many times do you have to walk in front of architects and contractors with thousand dollar bills hanging out of every pocket before you come to realize those involved will help themselves to the goodies?  How many times do you have to hear 2 + 2 = 4 before you realize it’s true?  How many times do you have to fail before you realize there are others who could help you, and without fleecing the town in the process?

We’ve reflected on this subject more times than we can bear to recall over the years, and we continue to marvel at just how forgetful our elected betters, and their hired professionals, can be in this regard.

(If you’re looking to refresh yourself on the subject, you can go here to get a recap of our prior posts searched on the term ‘police station.’)

The latest sad reminder of just how badly elected officials and highly paid, certified administrators can bungle capital projects is the tearing down of the old Times Record building on Industry Road.  We taxpayers invested ~ $1.3 million to buy it, and perhaps half of that again to make it useful for some limited purposes. While our betters have no doubt forgotten, you and this reporter surely remember how shortly after the purchase, it was ‘discovered’ that the building would need $5 million plus in renovations to make a useful municipal facility.

Apparently no one in the chain of command, or any cognizant authority, had ever heard of the term ‘due diligence,’ especially as it comprises a key step before finalizing a facility purchase.  How no-one was summarily terminated over that fiasco is beyond us, but this very fact makes it clear that incentives to perform with competence are non-existent in OPM land.  And that consequences of rank ineptitude are nil, especially if you are widely seen as ‘nice.’  Which leaves us fearful that our pockets are about to be turned inside out in what lies ahead.

In our view, you can chalk up the old TR building caper as a cash gift to the Times Record organization, such as they are today.  They got our money, and we got a building that served no municipal purpose, and now we are paying to get rid of it.  And yet, in spite of this cash gift, the Ostrich has had great trouble staying current on its property taxes.

The good news, of course, is that the School Department is lusting after the cleared Industry Road site as the location for a new ‘bus barn,’ at who knows what cost.  We expect they’ll take their cues from the Cooks Corner Substation, with it’s double deep drive through bays, heated floors, and other amenities.  No doubt the school bus team would love a workout area, a full commercial kitchen, and restful lounge areas just like modern fire stations.  Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

As long as we’re on the Industry Road side of town, we can’t help but wonder why the town hasn’t picked up the Daniel Stone Inn, now that it’s in some form of receivership. They should be able to get it for a song, and that grand stairway in the lobby will be much more fitting for glorious processions of town officials than anything the McClellan building can provide. It would close a dubious circle, since the town itself had a good deal to do with driving the Inn owners into foreclosure.  It seems only logical officials would pick up the pieces for their own use.  And what a break room they’d have!

Which brings us to the most recent example of municipal mangling of fundamental capital project management.  In case you haven’t already seen it, read about it here in the Forecaster.

As if there haven’t been enough controversies and excesses already in the great Police Station dream, we now read that the numbers aren’t holding up before the digging even begins.  The rhetoric coming from the mouths of town officials and the architect are more than we can bare to recite here; you’ll have to revel in it yourself.

All we can say is that nobody in authority seems to have a clue about how to contract for such a building so that taxpayer exposure to cost growth and overruns is strictly limited, while the for-profit enterprises take that risk on themselves. 

But lets face it; the latter know what patsies we all are, especially when seen through the prism of officialdom, where OPM seems  available in whatever amounts necessary, no matter the reason, if just a little well-rehearsed schmoozing is applied.

Too bad there’s no longer a good cobbler in town.  He could make a fortune replacing the rounded-over heels on the shoes of our elected and professional ‘leaders.’ Maybe then they could stand-up straight when the ‘Brunswick, we have a problem’ winds start blowing in.

And it wouldn’t hurt if the round-heelers were to learn how to engage in a little blowback of their own on our behalf.

“To dream the impossible dream, to go where the brave dare not go..”

Sancho, Sancho, bring my steed and my lance, quickly!

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“DARE” we make a suggestion to the Brunswick School Department? About “saying no?”


We haven’t heard much about the D.A.R.E. program in many a year, and a quick trip to the Google guru shows why…the program was declared a ‘big, fat, failure’ to use the words of one citation.

We won’t go off on that bit of history, but we would like to encourage the Brunswick School Department to dare to say no to advertisements on their web site.  We refer specifically to online drug purveyors of questionable character. 

Especially advertising for drugs designed to make one ‘ready when the moment is right,’ and whose use has been known to increase employment for plumbers and bath fixture manufacturers.  Reportedly, this drug has a known side effect: a compulsion to install dual bathtubs in idyllic settings. 

We wistfully remember the Superintendent’s proposal a few years back to place change receptacles in local establishments, so patrons could drop coins they got in change from a cash transaction (something used nowadays mostly by those who could use the medicinal boost we’re talking about) into the jar.  The proceeds would be used to supplement the $30 million plus provided by taxpayers each year.

Unseemly as such a proposal was, it sounds quaint compared to the new attempt to monetize the School Department web site.  But we shouldn’t be surprised by what we discovered.  After all, the Department, and the schoolies who provide it’s loyal and forgiving fan base, are brimming with imagination these days, especially when it comes to generating more dollars to invest in the schools.  Which as we’ve argued repeatedly, really means more dollars for the teachers.

To our point, the following content appeared on the Brunswick School Department web site earlier this week:


October 3, 2012: Facilities & Maintenance Committee, 3:30 p.m., Hawthorne Conference Room.

Buy Kamagra online from trusted online pharmacy

Agenda: update Facilities Master Plan Phase 2/Discussion of Jordan Acres Expenses and Timeline/Other Business-Discussion of Request from Brunswick Alumni Association

October 3, 2012: Agenda Building, 4:15 p.m., Superintendent’s Office

Etc., etc., etc.

The “buy Kamagra” link takes you to a site called “TRUSTED TABLETS”, where you can buy the “new medicine manufactured by Ajanta Pharma (India) for treating erectile disorders in men.”

We get that here in Brunswick, where perfection is the norm, there is no such thing as going too far when it comes to doing things ‘for the children.’  Before we know it, we suppose we could have young students knocking on our doors asking if we’d like to buy Kamagra Candy Bars to support the schools.  Pharmaceutical sales can be a lucrative career choice, and getting kids interested at an early age can’t do any harm.

As a final thought, we hope the advertisement didn’t migrate un-noticed to the School Department web site from a school official’s computer.  The two-tub imagery is bad enough; picturing an administrator or board member in one of them is more than even we can abide.  Even if they are on a grassy knoll, gazing at the splendor of the Harriet Beecher Stowe architectural statement.

We’re biting our tongue extra hard not to follow up on that image with some zingers.  Doing so would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water.  This isn’t ‘the right moment’ for that, and besides, it would be too bitter a pill for readers to swallow.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Have you ever, ever, ‘seen it all?’

We don’t think so.  And that was driven home to us this weekend by an ad in one of Maine’s larger newspapers.

Talk about strange branding, and appealing to the lowest common denominator, the ad was for “Vampire Facelifts.”  This should come as no surprise though; In a culture currently fascinated with zombies, this makes sense in a bizarre sort of way.

Go here to check it out:, and make an appointment, if you wish.

Now that we think of it, we have seen some faces around town in recent years that look like they’ve been to the Vampire doctors.

Who knew our own little backwater was rife with such trendsetters?

Which reminds us of how much we miss the great black and white movies of yesteryear, with Bela Lugosi avowing how he didn’t want to hurt the fair damsel; he only wanted to ‘suck her blood.’

We wonder if our GPS will tell us ‘you can’t get to Transylvania from here.’

Dracula-Bela Lugosi

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Some times, you just gotta go with the Fro.’

Small businesses, as we are constantly being reminded, are the backbone of the American economy.  For all the ones that make it, there are many that fail.  They rise to quickly, and then just as quickly, fall flat.

Sometimes, novice owners jump from the fat to the fryer.  Other times, their business model is full of holes.  Oh, they may try to glaze over the details, but unless you can raise your product to customer expectations, you just might lose the dough you invested.

Twist things this way and that way and you might get lucky; or you can sugar coat things to attract more interest.  The icing on the cake, though, is when you find the secret recipe for keeping things improving, and the proof is in the tasting.

Ok, we’ve exhausted our punspiration; let’s just get to the news.  Today’s big city newspaper reports that Brunswick’s own Frostys', which has had an amazing renaissance under the inspired ownership of Nels and Stacy, is expanding yet again.  You can find the story here:

The anchor location is doing a land-office business, operating seven days a week.  We stopped in Friday before 9:30 am, and they were more or less out, with more being cooked in the back, by a sizable crew.

They opened an annex in Freeport a few weeks ago, and from what we hear, that location is doing gangbusters.

Now they’re about to open a new location in South Portland.  We wish them the very best in their endeavors, as we personally think Frostys’ products are head and shoulders above all the rest; they leave the chains (Dunkin’, Tim Horton’s) in the dust, and the local originals, like Tony’s, offer a completely different product that has it’s own devoted fans.

We hope you’ll go to the article linked above and give Frostys a vote in the poll.

And we hope that the owners don’t over-extend themselves to the point of exhaustion.  From everything we’ve seen so far, they have a solid grasp of the business they’re in, mastering all the aspects that make them successful.  And they are a true pleasure to do business with, emphasizing the personal touch.

All in all, they have a very well-rounded operation.  A donut may not be as profound as the circle of life, but it’s damn close in some respects!

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

“Corny?” Yeah, but it really, really works!

The other day, we posted a diversion about a magical way to prepare ear corn.

Well, fellow cob-nobbers, we gave it a try last night.  And guess what; it actually, really, works!

Quite amazingly, for that matter.  Not a single stray piece of silk on either ear.  Just like the video, one ear slipped right out, while the other required a bit more coaxing.

Now if we could just find a way to strip some other ‘ears’ we’re familiar with of stray ‘silk,’ we’d be a happy old man.  And the first person who suggests we place our noggin in the microwave will be banned from our midst.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

“Dear Paul,” or how consultants leave us….


According to published reports on the recent School Board meeting, Marty and Kat of Systems in Sync have decided to stay in Vermont vis-à-vis consulting work for Brunswick’s School Board.

In what brings to mind the gut wrenching ‘Dear John’ letters of our innocent youth, Marty had this to say:

"We believe it is in both our best interest and the district's best interest to terminate this work," Marty Jacobs, president of Systems in Sync, said in a letter addressed to Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski.

All that’s missing is the Seinfeld breakup shtick:

Breaking up is hard to do….

You can read the article here.

We’ll still wonder about a few things, regardless of the split.

Who and what was the impetus for Marty coming to Brunswick from far away, when she had no other clients in Maine?

How will the School Board, deemed not ready for strategic planning, overcome that handicap, without the ministrations of $1200 a day facilitators?

Without professional consultants to point to as why the outcomes are what they are, who will step up and take accountability?

One way or another, it should be amusing to watch the will of the community bent to the will of the school department.

You do support the children, don’t you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Maine Wire: Pem on Partisanship….


An excerpt:

As I see it, declaring yourself an independent is the political equivalent of visible body piercings and tattoos. “Hey, look at me! I’m different from all the others!” Not to mention that doing so allows one to bypass the often expensive and contentious primary process for organized political parties.

Angus King exemplifies this category: virtually no one doubts his progressive, Democrat ideology, yet he has “Independent” tattooed figuratively on his forehead.

And another:

I want principle.

If that means being a partisan and digging your heels in, so be it. Think of it as protecting your family, your homestead, your well-being and your life and your liberty from those who would endanger or take them away from you. Because when you come right down to it, that’s the nature of the choice we face today.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Corny? Yes, we can be corny, among other things

We don’t know what your experience has been this summer, but from ours, it seems like it’s been a sub-standard fresh corn year, even for Maine.  Perhaps it’s been the odd rainfall pattern, or other things. 

We’ve also had a terrible blooming year on our several hydrangea plants, and some other species as well.  The plants look healthy enough, but didn’t flower like we had hoped…just a few scattered blooms here and there.

And so it is that we find some small solace in what we are about to pass along to you – a miracle of fresh corn cookery.  We have not yet had a chance to try it, but if the honest looking fellow in the video is telling the truth, it’s darn near a summer miracle.

We hope you’ll try it soon and let us know how it worked out.

The “Other Side” of corn shucking!
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Sunday, September 9, 2012

“Dear Paul,” or how consultants leave us speechless, impossible as that may seem

Some years back, we spoke to the town council about hiring us as a consultant to help them figure out how to conduct town business without the need for so many consultants.  Unfortunately, the town did not see the wisdom in doing so; they couldn’t imagine what we could do, and invest in us accordingly.

It may have been around the time that a consulting contract was let for about $1 million to come up with ideas on how to connect US Route 1 to the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.  As far as we can recall, the town itself paid little or none of that sum.  But we remember looking at the related contract documents, only to learn that consultants contracted out to other consultants, and in at least one case, the second tier consultant hired a third tier consultant.

We also remember thinking that even at a generous average consulting fee of $1,000 a day, the contract would pay for four full time, highly paid consultants working for one year to pore over some maps and satellite imagery, drive around town looking at things, and then make some drawings and put a report around them.  No doubt they’d be burning the midnight oil to get the job done for a mere million dollars.

Now we learn that the Brunswick School Department is consulting with consultants on help with the strategic planning process, aimed specifically at the School Board. 

You’ll enjoy looking at a proposal for the consultants (“Marty and Kat”) to prepare the now unprepared School Board for a second contract that would actually involve the strategic planning process, at unknown future costs.  We’re guessing another $50,000 or more.

“After a lengthy discussion with her (Kat), we both agree that the board is not ready to take on strategic planning successfully.” 

You can also find the web page for the consultant here.

Readers who know us know that we aren’t often at a loss for words, but this proposal left us momentarily speechless.  Being speechless has at least two variations.

The first is when you come upon something so visually, emotionally, or aurally stunning that your inner articulator shuts down momentarily, and you are literally at a loss for words.  We think of the first time we held our newborn infant daughter, or when we first viewed the vast Grand Canyon while standing on its very rim.  Moments like these take your breath away, and you need time to absorb the experience, get your thoughts together, and then express them as best you can, if only feebly.

A second way to go speechless is when you encounter something that infuriates you, insults your sense of reason, and gives you the feeling that we are being had.  The words and reactions that come immediately to mind are not fit for public discourse, and so one is at a loss for words, but in a different way.

That’s the case here, so we’ve had to stew overnight and refine our comments.

In our career in a complex high technology field, we didn’t often see consultants hired.  If we lacked a necessary skill, we generally set about developing the skill for ourselves.  And talented individuals were advanced in both skills and responsibility.  But then we weren’t government.

In those rare cases where consultants were hired, you could almost always sense that the person doing the hiring was seeking a crutch, and was buying air cover for a decision he knew would be unpopular, or he didn’t have the guts to think through and make on his own.

We have the distinct impression from our review of the cited document that the same thing is happening here.  That while the process is supposedly aimed at ‘strategic planning,’ as in developing a plan, it is more about developing a strategy to gain support for a plan that has already been made.  (Witness the board’s asserted lack of readiness.)  So it might more accurately be called planning strategy, rather than strategically planning.

Why do we say that?  Because of the context.  You see references to a referendum in the spring, and existing architectural plans for renovation.  You see references to ‘buy-in’ by various parties, official and otherwise. 

In essence, the School Department’s plan is known and addressed clearly; the consultant is proposing to shape the thinking of the School Board in particular, and the various stakeholders in general, to fully support the plan already on the table.  And the consultant makes it clear from having met with Board Members and the Superintendent that the former is not yet ready to have their views shaped by others, so some preliminary work is required to soften them up.

The renovation and investment plan is a fait accompli; it’s already in the CIP.  You don’t see a proposal to study town demographics and growth outlooks, or ability to take on major new capital spending.  You don’t see an effort to understand how those responsible allowed the physical plants to deteriorate to this critical stage, or what alternatives there might be.  Or how the organization should be changed to see the same thing doesn’t happen again, and how snow shouldn’t be allowed to pile up on roofs until structural damage occurs.

You see only a proposal to pay others, and pay them well, to convince the School Board to sell the public on a plan that has already been laid out.

Well, enough general commentary.  Here are some specific observations.

1) The consultancy, Systems In Sync, is located in Vermont.  When you look at its list of clients, you find they are all in New Hampshire and Vermont.  Except for one – the Brunswick School Department, which is not exactly on the New Hampshire border.  This leads us to wonder just how this particular consultant came to be the choice for this work.

2) We find the opening – “Dear Paul” and the references to the consultants as “Marty” and “Kat” to be strangely familiar in professional business documents.  We find the third party references to themselves odd as well.

3) We’re a bit troubled by the notion that readiness ‘includes a high level of trust and support for the strategic planning process..’  In other words, trust us, because you’re paying us a lot of money.  Readiness also involves a ‘relatively low level of conflict and disagreement amongst board members.’ 

Clearly, unanimous or near unanimous support for the plan already in place is the goal, and it may take more payment for Marty and Kat’s services to get that.  On the other hand, the board penchant for almost always voting unanimously to support whatever the Administrations proposes would make this seem like not much of a challenge.

4) Don’t you just love the term ‘building capacity,’ as in ‘an opportunity for the board to assess its readiness to build capacity for both strategic planning and governance?’  We have a hard time seeing the board as being involved in ‘governance’ of any form, unless you consider approving what the administration puts before it to be ‘governance.’  ‘Building capacity’ sounds more like a class for incoming Bowdoin students, in which they learn techniques for holding their liquor or beer better, though we did find this as one definition on the web:

Capacity building often refers to strengthening the skills, competencies and abilities of people and communities in developing societies so they can overcome the causes of their exclusion and suffering.

Regardless of the meaning in the proposal at hand, the use of such terms is part and parcel of justifying $1,200 a day consulting rates.   A person could make a damn good living at that rate, though we don’t have our slide rule handy.

5) On page 3, under purpose and goals, we read in the list of outcomes that ‘the board will gain a clearer understanding of board roles and responsibilities that will enable them to govern more effectively.’  Besides the prior comment on governance, do we really have to pay people $150 an hour to tell the board what its roles and responsibilities are?  Hasn’t the Superintendent already done that?  Isn’t that his job?

6) We realize that Vermont is a long way away, but we still think nearly $3,000 for mileage and tolls is a bit heavy handed.

In conclusion, we realize that $28,000 for this proposal in a Department with a $33 million budget is chump change, and that the ensuing actual ‘strategic planning’ contract, though probably only $50,000 or so, will similarly be chump change for securing a town investment of $20 million plus to pay for deferred maintenance expenses.  Still, we find the rates involved to be alarming for  services designed to overwhelm harsh reality with confidence and consummate professionalism, while dazzling the local populace with ‘shared visions’ and group-think.  Sorry, that’s ‘group decision making.’


Is there any doubt that Marty and Kat know that they’re dealing with OPM, and that the pickings are easy?  And that the usual army stands ready to redeploy those “imagine and invest” signs?

Not to mention getting Sally Sellit to remind us that funding the Marty and Kat team is vital to protecting our home values. 

It’s amazing, isn’t it, how a very expensive journey can begin with the simple step “Dear Paul.”

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Apologies on the WSJ link

Your humble correspondent garbled the link for the WSJ article in the prior post.

We corrected it, and here it is as well:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Economic insights and lessons….


Under the heading of read ‘em and learn, we’ve got another very informative item to pass along.

The first passage that caught our attention is this one:

Today, 70% of government discretionary spending devalues human assets by paying people to be unemployed, unmarried, retired, sick, poor, homeless, hapless, disabled or drugged. With the eclipse of family life in the inner cities of America, we have created a welfare state for women and children and a police state for boys.

Superintendent Perzanoski used the word ‘pathology’ in his stirring letter to staff last month.  If there is such a thing as government pathology, the symptoms above describe it.  And eclipse anything PSPP had in mind.

The most obvious rule of social science is that people will abuse any free good. The price of "free" evokes unbounded demand while choking off supply. In the perverse feedback loops of "free," free health care comes to mean hypochondria, illness caused by needless exams and treatments, queues for an ever-expanding portfolio of mediocre services, and ultimately euthanasia under government bureaucracy.

The highlighted sentence just above is perhaps the most succinct and pithy explanation of the entitlement state and its ensuing fiscal death spiral we’ve ever encountered.

We hope you read the entire column.  We’ve truncated the paragraphs above, and in so doing, omitted far more wisdom.

We are in awe of the author’s ability to capture in very few words, relatively speaking, the problems we face, and the challenges in dealing with them.  We think you’ll find his insights worth your time.

Is it our destiny? Or just dumb luck?

We know many of you believe we were born to do this job.  These are flattering thoughts.  As we’ve said before, however comma we’re quite proud of our humility, and we strive to see that such perceptive views do not get into our fat (size 7 3/4) head.

But sometimes, as the old saying goes, “Side happens.”  Case-in-point, our posts this week on the travel arrangements of Senator Stan the Minority Man, or, if you prefer, Gerzetto.

On Monday, we published a post puzzling over our man’s travel to Charlotte for the just concluded convention.  We played off the theme of a Magic Carpet ride.

We think the flowing robes and unique flight helmet (could it be custom made by Tony Lama?) perfectly compliment our man’s stature.

It later occurred to us that there was another option for his travels, and we posted about it here yesterday.  The new angle was the possibility of Stan winging to NC on the Pingree-Sussman private corporate jet.  They could have picked him up at Brunswick’s Executive Airport, and his Caddy would be in safe hands on the premises while he was gone.  We know the jet’s crew carries a red carpet for such moments.

                N888CE @ KDCA - Taxi DCA - by Ronald Barker

Now the “Side happens” angle.  After publishing these posts, one of our little birds reminded us that the Pingree-Sussman private corporate jet is registered to – brace yourself, now – Magic Carpet Enterprises LLC, of which Sussman is the sole owner.  At least he was two years ago.  You can read about it here and here.

You know the old saying – one congresswoman’s Dassault FALCON 2000EX is another senator’s magic carpet.  We’ll take the accommodations in the former over the latter, however.

So, back to the opening conundrum: is it destiny, or dumb luck, or for the more mystical among you, karma?

We report and we laugh; you can decide.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lagging/nagging questions re Senator Stan’s free ride….

It occurred to us that there is another option on how Gerzetto is winging his way back and forth between Portland and Charlotte.

How could we have forgotten; are we losing our edge?

Look here.

While ‘carpet’ is involved in both our first suggestion and this one, we’re having a hard time which is more becoming to Stan.  Perhaps we should conduct a poll.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Go, go; go Johnny go!

How quickly time ‘flies’ and things come full circle.  And apparently, how short the memory of the average voter is.

We ran the photo below in an April, 2010 post in the formative years of this revered media outlet.

It ran in the Portland Press Herald coverage of the Richardson SNAFU, with this caption:

John Richardson, right, sitting with attorney and friend F. Lee Bailey at Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe in Brunswick on Monday, discusses what led up to his being denied Clean Election money.

Soon after, Bailey reportedly moved to Maine, though we’ve heard precious little of him since.  His self-described status as an ‘aviation expert’ and entrepreneur seems to have stalled in mid-air.

Johnny “Protocols,” as we called him back then, seems to have successfully distanced himself from the half a dozen or more Fortune 500 companies he was ‘in discussions with’ back then about setting up operations on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station (Brunswick Landing, if you insist.)

And the Fortune 500 firms, apparently, forgot about their discussions as well, once Johnny’s prospects for becoming Governor went in the tank.  Funny how that works. 

But rehabilitation, or as we like to call it, rehab, has revived many a political career.

Now, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, comes a report that Johnny is getting his coif tweaked, and will run for the at large seat on the Brunswick Town Council.  This would be the one held by Joanne King for a good long time, most of it as Council Chair.  She has chosen not to run again, understandably, given the work load and the obligation to endure all sorts of abuse from aggrieved citizens.

In case you’ve forgotten, Joanne was the treasurer for Johnny Protocol’s ill fated campaign for Governor, though she escaped any culpability for the campaign’s ethical challenges.      

Given his ‘complicated’ relationships in both Augusta and Brunswick over the years, we’re wondering how this news is sitting with Gerzetto, the would be puppet-master of Brunswick.   Here he is with one of his young puppets, who made it all the way to the statehouse before his growing nose cost him his office.


Things could always have been worse, of course (or better??)  Whose to say whether the House of Sartoris would have put forth a successor to the crown if Johnny hadn’t beat them to it?

Maybe one of these days we’ll have a Bombay Sapphire on the rocks with Johnny….in a gesture of…..we don’t know….accommodation?….accord?…..détente?

Or just plain digging for the inside story.  We’d of course want to know what this portends for Johnny’s future aspirations.

What stories we’d have to tell if we happened to run into Gerzetto at the same watering hole!  We’d even pick up the tab, since the poor guy has no income, and you can’t buy a drink in any place we know with sweaty Tony Lamas or Harley decals.


Last week, Public Servant Paul Perzanoski issued a public statement that in his mind at least, is an ‘apology.’  He’s not sorry for showering his employees with partisan posturing, just for getting caught by how he did it, it seems.


Make what you will of PSPP’s plaintiff offerings below; as for us, it only reinforces the arrogance and elitist self-view of government school personnel.  Mr. PP, Brunswick’s School Superintendent, shows all the symptoms of teachers union pathology, from whence he ideologically springs. 

Like all such leaders, he  proclaims that ‘children are the first priority,’ while religiously avoiding focus on accountability, teacher performance, metrics, and any other way of determining whether expectations are identified (if even acknowledged!), and are being met.  A subsequent item published on Sunday, written by the President of the Maine teachers union, fortuitously reinforces this view with standard union-speak, as you will see.

We still view PSPP’s staff letter as a case study in political  harassment, in which, like union officials, there is an explicit and implicit assumption that all ‘members’ unequivocally support the partisan position of the administration.  Funny how clear those expectations are; if only such clarity were applied in other areas.

Before we go any further, here is his statement. 

Over the course of this week many Superintendents in the State of Maine will be addressing their staff about current issues facing public education in their convocation addresses. Some of the topics will probably be improving student achievement, bullying, public education bashing, staff morale, charter schools and the restraint/seclusion mandate. One school department will be dealing with a $350,000 to $500,000 deficit to pay for students to attend charter schools.

The text of these speeches will probably not reach the media because there will be no media present. I placed my concerns in writing, in a letter to staff which had very different ramifications. The right to express myself appears to be a different issue than the forum used to do it. I will sincerely apologize for using the “Back to School” format to the Brunswick community and the Govenor (sic), yet I will continue to stand behind the message of my letter and interview. Support of public education and the staff that work within it will be voiced through personal letters, appearances and my professional organizations.

Students should come first as we work through reform in public education. We understand this and embrace it, which is why we use data driven decision making to improve student achievement. Recently we have begun to see improvement as evidenced by the last three years of achievement scores.

Education has always been the great equalizer in America and it is more important than ever to keep it that way.

Paul Perzanoski
Superintendent Brunswick School System

“The great equalizer;” wow!  There’s more than one way to read that.  To quote my freshman composition prof at Rutgers, ‘ambiguous-reword for clarity.’

As always, we get complaints about funding, at the same time his own system funding on a per student basis grows at an alarming and unsustainable rate.  He says ‘children should come first,’ and indeed they should.  But they don’t in the Brunswick system (and most others).  Look at salary curves for teachers who do the same job year after year.  As far as ‘reform,’ unless that means hiring more staff and paying higher salaries, we have no idea what he’s talking about.

And we’ve provided pretty compelling evidence that students are not the top priority of Brunswick’s government schools, regardless of the test scores. As Joe Biden says, ‘show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what your values are.’

Case in point: Brunswick’s values are paying teachers more without any evidence that doing so achieves anything except better compensated teachers. And schools falling into disrepair faster than they should have.

We refer you to these two posts of some months back:

See if you can decide

Some help on the answers

So, we say, poppycock!

Now, if you’re up for more poppycock, read this “Maine Voices” column in Sunday’s Portland paper, written by Lois Kilby-Chesley, MEA President.

We’re just going to respond to the ‘highlights’ in her piece.

We must make 2012-13 "the year of the child" in Maine and focus attention on making public schools our No. 1 priority.

From the union President?  Unions are about making the unions and the members and their chosen political champions their ‘No. 1 priority,’ nothing more and nothing less.

Public school educators have always put our students at the top of our priorities.

Balderdash; see all of the above.

Nowhere in the governor's introduction does it say "public education." It is imperative that we focus school improvement and reform on public schools.

Why do solutions to ‘school improvement and reform’ have to be limited to thinking only ‘inside the box’ of public schools?  You said children are the 1st priority, but this doesn’t sound like it, does it?

A -- Accountability. Educators agree that teachers, parents, students and elected officials should be held accountable for guaranteeing we put students' needs first.

Should is the operative word, yet we see no evidence of any commitment; see all of the above.  The last thing unions will support is accountability of any sort directed at them and their members.

B -- Best Practices. We believe that we should raise the bar by adequately preparing educators for the changing role of schools, and providing professional development that informs good teaching and benefits students.

Just like always, it comes down to more money, and all of it spent on teachers.  While you’re at it, how about telling us what you mean by ‘the changing role of schools,’ though we have our own hunches.  Aren’t schools supposed to teach/educate kids?  Or should the focus be on dispensing meals, providing health care, and social, cultural, and political indoctrination?

The second alternative is moving taxpayer dollars away from public education (including public charter schools) into the hands and pockets of out-of-state, for-profit, corporate charter schools.

What about in-state charter schools and private schools?  Is anything but government run schools inherently evil and greedy?  What happened to ‘choice’ as the hallmark of free society?  And what about those out of state textbook suppliers and others?  Do taxpayer dollars flow into their for profit hands and pockets?

Private charter schools have one incentive -- making money for investors.

In case you haven’t noticed, Madame President, private enterprises don’t survive if they don’t deliver for their customers.  We recognize that your beloved government schools and your members survive no matter how poorly they perform; they have the force of law on their side, and the ability to compel funds to keep them ‘in business.’  As we see it, the number one incentive of government schools is funding unions and union members, with no incentive for satisfying their customers, unless you consider the members the customers.

Reforming our schools takes more than rhetoric about our failures.

Well that’s a refreshing observation!  It also takes more than rhetoric about your successes.  It takes openness to real reform, something you have never shown.

Let's focus on what works. Teaching students to think creatively, accept others' differences and listen to differing opinions develops 21st-century learners. Give students the opportunity to practice creativity and problem-solving, critical-thinking and collaboration skills.

There you go; the heck with mathematics, reading, writing, literacy in general, science, and all the other outdated skills no longer needed today.  Instead, let’s focus on group therapy, cultural programming, and social engineering.  Students needn’t worry about making it on their own; we’ve got the government here to help them.

Let's take action now to support our schools, not denigrate them.

The only action you and your unions support and approve is giving you more money and more control over government schools.  

Admittedly, not everything is perfect. We must do better for our students' sakes. 

We’re shocked…a rare moment of modesty and vulnerability from a teacher.  Now please tell us exactly how you need to do better, and how you will!

Rather than building walls between our stakeholders -- parents, educators, community leaders, businesses, professional organizations and the Department of Education -- let's spend the next 10 months honestly working together for our public school students, and lead the way to great public schools in Maine. 

We wish we could believe that last part, but we don’t.  And for the reasons why, you can start with Michelle Rhee and the Washington DC School System.

All in all, Ms. Kilby-Chesley, we give you an A+ in mastering the propaganda from the unions, both state and national.  They’ve had decade after decade to hone their message in the face of public concerns, and have their way with local, state, and federal budgets.  You’re just the latest to be educated in their private school of union orthodoxy.

Imagine what you could accomplish for our children if you truly had them as your highest priority; after all, that’s what public service once meant.  A long, long time ago.

Instead, Madame President, we’ll leave you with this quote from a teachers union legend:

“When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.”

Albert Shanker - President of the United Federation of Teachers [1964-1984] & the American Federation of Teachers [1974-1997]

TTFN, teacher; we’re off to our next class.  And we trust you will ‘accept our differences’ in this matter.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Senator Stan, the poverty man?

Senator Stan the minority man (Gerzofsky, that is) is nothing if not an enigma.  We were reminded of this recently by two things.  First, the receipt of his official “I love me” mailer from the State House, in which he reviews his central role in all things good in Maine, just in time for the upcoming election.  (We wish we could take credit for the “I love me” label, but we can’t; a good friend coined it.)

We’ve addressed the puzzle that is Stan in some detail in the past, pointing out that according to his own public statements, he’s worked and lived in two states at once, with a variety of unrelated and overlapping career pursuits.  We documented his strange and conflicted resume in this post two years ago.

The second point that brings Stan to the forefront is a recent report that he is headed to Charlotte, North Carolina to play his role in the Democrat National Convention this week.  As a grand high poobah of Maine’s Democrat machine, we would expect no less.

Except for the fact that Stan seems to be living in abject poverty, and, you would think, be unable to afford the luxury of traveling to Democrat party central where his presence will make no difference at all.

Which brings us back to the enigma thing.  Stan owns a sizable cabin cruiser, a ‘garage full of Harleys’ (in his own words,) drives around town in a big old Cadillac, and dresses nattily in pin stripes and Tony Lama boots worthy of a “you’re gonna like the way you look; I guarantee it” label.

Fine; given his concurrent career paths in separate locations, we should expect no less.

But then you look at his filing with the Maine State Ethics Commission, in which he is required to report his sources of income for the year 2011.  You can see what he submitted here.

Surprisingly, Senator Stan had not a single source of income for 2011.  No pensions, no investment income, no rents, no social security, no disability checks, no alimony, no obscure government transfer payments, and most interesting of all, not a nickel of income from his role as a member of the State Legislature.

The latter, as we see it, was required to be listed in Part 1 of the ethics filing.  He did not do so, and curiously, neglected to check the ‘none’ box here and in other Parts of the form.  Probably just a ‘gaffe’ as they call it in political circles.

Given what happened in Tampa last week, we wish we could get Clint Eastwood to do an encore turn, in which he flags Senator Stan as ‘the intellect of the Maine Democrat Party.’

Failing that, we’ll watch for the contrails from Stan’s magic carpet as he wings his way to and from the circus in Charlotte.  And we’ll wonder how much he was given to pay for his travel expenses, and whether he’ll report it as income in his 2012 ethics filing.

We’ll leave questions about the cabin cruiser, the Harleys, and the Cadillac for another time.  You can ponder them as well if you wish.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Read ‘em and learn

As you well know, we burn many a midnight candle looking for worthwhile and informative materials to pass along to you.  And we have a far-flung network of correspondents helping us.

Recently, our curious and studious son-in-law passed along an item from the Wall Street Journal that startled us in its predictions of where medical care seems to be headed.  It was published on August 15th, and is entitled ‘Why the Doctor Can’t See You.’  You’ll find it here.

We promise it will make you think, because it raises some issues you won’t hear discussed in the day to day banter of the chattering class.  Here’s an example:

As physicians increasingly have to allocate their time, patients in plans that pay below-market prices will likely wait longest. Those patients will be the elderly and the disabled on Medicare, low-income families on Medicaid, and (if the Massachusetts model is followed) people with subsidized insurance acquired in ObamaCare's newly created health insurance exchanges.

You’ll probably find this surprising given our youthful good looks and boisterous attitude, but the Poppycock's are on Medicare, and so we are not amused.

The same page in that issue includes another thought provoker: ‘Ryan and the Fundamental Economic Debate.’  It was written by a Harvard Economics Professor, and once again, we believe it will raise some issues you hadn’t yet considered.  An excerpt:

If GM had disappeared, its former workers and other inputs would not have sat around doing nothing. Another company—be it Toyota, Honda or Ford—would likely have taken over its operations, expanding production in the U.S. As a matter of economic theory, the overall economy—though perhaps not parts of Michigan and Ohio—would have done better if the market had been allowed to reallocate GM's labor and other inputs.

The article is a worthwhile primer on economics 101 and government’s distortion of the basics.

Last, under ‘Notable and Quotable’ on that page, an excerpt from a Thomas Sowell column appearing elsewhere is provided.  We love the way Sowell, a prolific and insightful economist, sees right through the muck and provides clarity of the challenges we face today.  An example:

Even if most Americans do not have their own taxes raised, that means little, if they end up paying other people's taxes in the higher prices of goods and services that pass along the higher taxes imposed on businesses.

You can read the full version of the article here:

Happy reading, and perhaps, weeping.  Aren’t you glad Side is keeping tabs on things for you??

Yah, sure.