Thursday, December 12, 2013

American Thinker: Column from a “Brunswick Thinker?”


Your faithful correspondent spent the vast majority of his career working on the Aegis Combat System.  This is the command and control element deployed aboard the U.S. Navy Cruisers and Destroyers built at BIW over the last 30 years or so.  As well as the same type of ships built in Pascagoula, MS, wherever the hell that is.

While the details may not excite you as much as they do us, here is a photo of the technology on which we invested our career energies:

File:USS Vincennes (CG-49) Aegis large screen displays.jpg

Our career was a marvelous experience, during which we worked with superb team-mates, made many lasting friendships, and learned enduring lessons about how to execute complex mission critical system engineering developments. 

Based on this experience, we and a colleague from those years decided to compare what we learned to the rather embarrassing ‘roll-out’ of ObamaCare in recent months. 

So we wrote up an article that lays out the primary keys to a successful development process.  We compared them to what we have seen in recent months as the DHHS led introduction of the ‘Affordable Care Act’ unfolded in a very public way.


The article was published on the American Thinker web site today, and we are posting the details here so you can read it, and if you wish, comment.  Here’s an excerpt:

We're watching government at its most harmful and ineffectual. This is not rocket science -- no risky new technology is required; no laws of physics have to be invented or repealed. While the technology itself may present some challenges, problems like this more often than not stem from poor leadership, discipline, and accountability.

We were privileged to spend our careers on a team responsible for the Aegis Combat System, a complex, mission critical system. Like the ACA, or as the President is fond of calling it -- ObamaCare, Aegis has life and death consequences, which is why there was such attention to strict design, development, and testing policies. We are resolute believers in these immutable principles for successful system development, and we are saddened and appalled by the government's incompetence in undertaking total restructuring of the American healthcare system.

Along with their related credits and the link to the full article: 

Read more:
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don’t worry, be happy!


We were going to title this thread “Be afraid, be very afraid!”

But then we decided there’s nothing unusual to see here, so just move along, folks.  So what if there’s an agenda item for an upcoming town council ‘special meeting’ that reads as follows:



November 22, 2013

Special Meeting

3:30 P.M.

Executive Session for a Consultation with Town Attorney regarding the legal rights and responsibilities of the Council per 1 M.R.S.A. §405(6)(E).


Our first reaction was to think that anytime the council meets with their attorney in private to consult on ‘legal rights and responsibilities,’ you can be damn sure, we said DAMN SURE, that they aren’t interested in reducing or constraining their ‘rights and responsibilities.’  They have to be looking for ways to expand their ‘rights and responsibilities.’  Like the scorpion and turtle story relates, it’s ‘in their nature.’

But here’s another case where the statutory citation in the agenda item doesn’t tell the full story, and is in fact, inaccurate.  The full text of 1 M.R.S.A. §405(6)E reads as follows:

E. Consultations between a body or agency and its attorney concerning the legal rights and duties of the body or agency, pending or contemplated litigation, settlement offers and matters where the duties of the public body's or agency's counsel to the attorney's client pursuant to the code of professional responsibility clearly conflict with this subchapter or where premature general public knowledge would clearly place the State, municipality or other public agency or person at a substantial disadvantage; [2009, c. 240, §2 (AMD).]

Clearly, the statute refers to ‘legal rights and duties,’ not ‘legal rights and responsibilities.’  Clearly, the advertised justification for an executive session, if you want to be a nit-picker, is invalid.  The session should be cancelled until such time as the justification complies with state law.

Then we note the terms ‘pending or contemplated litigation, settlement offers…’ etc, and we have to wonder just what the hell is going on.


Given Johnny Protocols leading role on the council, you probably assume it’s all on the up and up.  Good for you.  As for us, we’ll hold the matter in abeyance.  And frankly, assume the worst.  That way, reality can only have an upside.

The next item to get really excited about is this:

Looking at the article will let you know that the Brunswick School Department, in their incessant search for more dollars, more control of your children, and more justification for expanding facilities and staff in the face of declining enrollment and Maine’s demographic winter, has jumped on the “Preschool is mandatory'” bandwagon.

Besides having tacit full endorsement of the teachers union, the school architects, and the school construction interests, this proposal plays right into the wheelhouse of the mommy mafia that believes free babysitting is a ‘right.’  Along with so many other of life’s necessities.

Let’s be clear on a couple of things.  There are privately operated pre-school and day-care centers all over the place.  And if the demand was greater, we’re confident more would spring up.  But they are not FREE.  The issue here is expecting that others should provide FREE care for their children, from the earliest age possible.

Once the government school system crosses this line, the next frontier will be year-round (12 month) day care, kindergarten, and eventually, primary and secondary schools.  You can’t expect parents, or whatever takes their place these days, to provide meals and care for the children during the months schools are closed, can you?  How mean-spirited can you be?

The underlying pathologies are pretty obvious.  First, the concept of a nuclear family with primary responsibility for the care and upbringing of their children is an ‘oh so yesterday’ concept.  Secondly, the way to deal with the abysmal failure of American public schools (accept for Brunswick, where our schools are ‘the best’) is to give them more money to do even more of what they’ve been doing, rather than clean house, reform the system, and insist they start performing.

Let’s not forget gushing support for the earliest possible public programming of toddlers to maximize the benefits of government control of their upbringing, including endorsements from law enforcement officials. 

Most folks here in the Cape won’t be interested in a minority opinion on the subject, but we’re confident our readers are more discerning.  So here’s a contrasting point of view.  After you read this, reflect on how you were brought up, and whether you suffered or grew from the experience.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Morsels

Re: Question of the Week

On Friday last we posted a question deriving from this frequently seen bumper sticker:

The question was this:

‘rhetorically speaking, how many of those who display such a bumper sticker on their car think Obamacare is a breakthrough in ‘social justice,’ and are resolutely ‘pro-choice?’

Where we were headed, we’re sure you realize, is to point out the cognitive dissonance involved.  In our editorial mind, we’re damn certain those who display this bumper wisdom and similar shibboleths are social welfare state zealots of the first order.  Especially when it comes to believing that Obamacare is a miracle of the ages, a gift from the mythical gods of Washington who wish to control every aspect of our existence.

Put aside the fact that it represents the most egregious example of ‘politicians thinking your body is their business,’ and far worse.  This ‘law’ takes government control of our bodies to new extremes; regulating every aspect of our health care from pre-birth to death, and in the process, erasing ‘choice’ as a fundamental of how we deal with such very personal, very private, very intimate matters.  HIPPA anyone? 

“Stay out of our bedrooms?  Keep your laws off my body?”

How about ‘stay out of our lives, and keep your laws off our wallets?’

No; it seems like it’s much more fashionable to be politically correct hypocrites.  As depressing as that sounds, it seems to be the order of the day.

Re: Oxford & Horowitz

The hits just keep on coming for this established act.  While the latest reports don’t specifically name FLee Bailey and Johnny Protocols, you can almost smell their influence in the tactics.

Read the latest here.  The highlights include:

In an effort to forestall the eviction of Oxford Aviation from its headquarters, President James Horowitz has transferred the company to himself and filed for personal bankruptcy.

On Nov. 12, Horowitz signed over all property, assets, inventory and leaseholder interests held by Oxford Aviation to himself for $1, then filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Once again we’re reminded of MRRA’s serious flirtation with Horowitz, and we can’t help but wonder whether Klapmeier won’t follow in his footsteps.

We’ll close with this graphic that seems all too appropriate, and which we had intended to use in other items.  We reserve the right to do so, if you don’t mind.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

“Going to School” on the Amtrak MLF


The other day, we posted a scale-wise comparison of the local Super WalMart to the proposed Amtrak Maintenance and Layover Facility (MLF), currently planned for the Bouchard Drive neighborhood of central, in town Brunswick.  That building is 655 ft long; 96 ft deep, and 37 ft tall.

We thought about this a bit more, and wondered whether there were any other useful examples of this scale hereabouts, and yes, there are.  We chose two:  the glorious symbol of community pride known as Harriet Beecher Stowe School on McKeen Street, and Brunswick High School, our rapidly aging secondary school out in the boonies.

Best we can tell from using the ruler on Google Earth, the ‘span’ of HBS School is about 625 ft from one end to the other.  So it’s not quite as wide as the proposed MLF.  We headed over to the school site to grab some pix.  We positioned ourselves on the sidewalk across the street from the school, roughly 200 ft from the building, or about the distance between the MLF and Bouchard Drive backyard fences.

Once again, even with our wide angle lens set to 18mm, we couldn’t take in the full frontal image of the school.  Here are the photos:



It took two wide angle shots to take in the whole complex.  We also concluded that the building is no taller than about 25 feet, or one third less than the MLF, and considerably less in lower sections.

Then we headed on over to the High School, which we noticed, has a cornerstone that reads 1995.  No wonder it’s looking a bit long in the lockers.  We wonder how long it will take our newly appointed Principal, once she repatriates, to tell us ‘how excited she is to be on board, but sad to report that she found very troubling building conditions within weeks of taking on the job.’  Maybe she’ll find inspiration in our upcoming ‘pay per bag’ discussions and the plight of the municipal dump.

(Note to School Department: BHS is nearing 20 years of age, and with all the abuse it’s had to take, you better start planning its $30 million refurb, or if you really, really care about the children and our schools, its replacement.  Schools designed and built that long ago don’t rise to modern day construction and efficiency standards.  ‘Numbers’ Ellis should find a good architect and start the ball rolling.  {pssst, Rich: tell PDT and Lyndon Keck we’ve almost got the ‘woe is me’ narrative in the can, and we’ll sell it to them for a song.  But please keep this to yourself.})

Once again using Google Earth, we peg the High School at a span of about 425 feet in width.  We pulled out our trusty camera, set the wide angle lens to it’s widest, and snapped away, again from roughly 200 feet away (or a little more):



As you can see, even though BHS is only about two thirds the span of the proposed Amtrak facility, we still couldn’t take it all in with one shot.  We did estimate, however, that the school is roughly as tall as the MLF, by counting brick lines on the building’s exterior.

So if you want to know what the MLF will seem like to those on Bouchard Drive, take a run over to the High School, and picture a facility 230 feet wider than what you see, sitting 200 feet from your back fence.

That’s what it will LOOK like.  But don’t forget to add the hum and whine and vibrations of multiple diesel engines, and that lovely diesel fuel fragrance that permeates every olfactory orifice, and says ‘we’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.’  If you happen to be a BHS booster, think of it as “Dragon’s Breath.”


THEN you might be able to imagine the full sensory delights of NNEPRA’s plan for saving Brunswick from economic ruin.

And you’ll know why we like to think of it as Amtrakolpyse Now.  But don’t let that worry you.  It’s not like they’re gonna put the damn thing down there in the rail gulch by Federal Street, adjacent to the Stowe House and the Barry Mills residence and the rest of the in-town elites.

THAT would be a problem; but Bouchard Drive?  C’mon; get real.  We got bigger problems to deal with around here, like spending a million or so buffing up The McClellan to meet ‘public servant’ standards, including two hundred large on ‘finishes’ and one hundred and forty large on ‘electrical’ (see page 39 here).  What is this, some old farm house being restored?

Oh, and one more thing before we start the fire going and sit down for some football. In a continuing effort to cover their butts and otherwise avoid deeper scrutiny of their plan and process to date, NNEPRA has been propagating the falsehood that unless an MLF is built in Brunswick, and specifically at the Bouchard Drive location, Amtrak service from Portland north must, of necessity, die. 

Given the utter lack of rationale for why it has to be in Brunswick, or even more, why it can’t be at Brunswick Landing or at the Crooker site in east Brunswick, this is nothing but an epic bureaucratic tantrum based on deceit and refusal to budge.

We’ve even heard NNEPRA is now claiming that should they be required to do additional environmental assessment to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, the added cost will doom the overall plan, and once again, Amtrak will disappear from our landscape.

That in and of itself sounds like an open admission that they know what further study will reveal, and they just can’t bring themselves to admit it.  You know, it might just show that ‘you can’t keep your policy and your doctor like we said after all.’

So now they’re trying another ploy; this passage appeared in a recent Channel 6 News Center report:

The next step in Downeaster expansion would be one more round trip from Boston to Brunswick. In order to do that, NNEPRA needs to build a layover facility to house trains in Brunswick because trains are only allowed a certain number of trips per day. That facility, however, has come under harsh opposition from Brunswick residents who live in the neighborhood. NNEPRA is still in the process of reviewing public comments on the proposal.

We don’t know what is at the heart of this limitation, but it sure sounds like another feeble attempt at overcoming truth and reality with fantasy and Brunswick Sausage.  Do the poor itty bitty twains get tired pulling those empty cars back and forth all day?  Or do the widdle motors get overworked?  That seems odd, since they can sit here in town and run the engines for 5 hours or more every day, doing nothing but burning the daylight oil.

What are we talking about here?  Horses that are rode hard and put away wet?  Or modern day marvels of mass transportation that can’t pay their own way?

Or both?  BTW, does anyone know if they’re still serving free Kool-Aid with each Downeaster ticket you buy?

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

“Flushing out” the refuse in Lake Basebegone…

Get the smelling salts, Igor; what we’re about to say will cause a stampede for them.

We’ve talked before about what sets Lake Basebegone apart from less perfect villages in the Northeast.  For purposes of this discussion, we wish to add fairness, perspicacity, and parsimony to the mix.  Let us tell you why.

Are we heading for pay per flush?

Oh what lovely memories resurfaced when we read this item in the Agenda for the upcoming town council meeting (Nov 18, 2013):

121. The Town Council will discuss increasing the cost of the pay-per-bag program, and will determine if any future action is needed. (Councilor Brayman)


(Note: if you’re an info junkie, you can read the backup information in the meeting ‘packet’ beginning at Page 84 here - – where you’ll find a letter on the subject from John Eldridge, town Finance Director.)

You must know that certain ‘moments in history’ attach to Side’s reputation for dabbling in town affairs, and have helped create the legend of us.

The introduction of ‘Pay Per Bag’ trash pickup was one of these moments.  The advocates used the ‘fairness’ hot button as their major argument: the more you fill up the dump, the more you should pay, which is another way of saying that if you bury or otherwise minimize your trash, you shouldn’t have to pay the same as the reprobate down the street who consumes far more than his ‘fair share’ of available dump capacity.


We took this as a tacit endorsement of ‘pay per book’ at the library, if not ‘pay per child’ in Brunswick schools.  Think about these concepts as you read the Eldridge letter, which documents revenue shortfalls in planning for eventual closure of the dump.

And so we wonder why there is a fixed ‘rate’ for bags, instead of an adjustable rate like we have for property taxes.  Surely you’ve noticed that the property tax rate is not fixed in any sense of that word. It simply gets calculated anew annually to provide whatever the ruling class wants to spend in the coming year.  Surely, Shirley, the price of bags at Hannaford could be recalculated whenever necessary.

As could the price of book borrowing, and the price of attendance at our schools.  (Cue the community vapors.)

We went so far as to speak publicly on the subject at a town council hearing on the subject in April, 2006.  (We’ve attached the statement in it’s entirety at the end of this post.)

If we were to pick one passage to remind you of its glory, it would be this one:

When it comes to priorities, I conclude that trash collection, because it is an essential public health and safety function, ranks well ahead of public libraries, which are at best a public amenity; a luxury, if you will. Said another way, my expectation of having trash safely disposed of trumps your expectation of having someone else pay for your books, magazines, and newspapers.

And this was the fallout it caused, as we expected it would:

When you read that classic, which we hope you will, you’ll see that we alluded to a ‘pay per flush’ tax.  When we reread it, we couldn’t help but chuckle and relive the moment.  But we’re easily amused, especially by our own words.

As we’ve learned, however, from the community debate over Class A Bio-solid application, the sludge from the sewage treatment plant has to go somewhere!  So why shouldn’t there be a per-flush charge?

Fair is fair, and economic justice can’t be far behind.  Unless you have double standards, that is.

As a final thought on this subject, we fully expect the recently elected House of Sartoris to speak forcefully at the meeting.

Bowdoin Students and the McClellan

Halfway through our lunch yesterday at BTD, the latest issue of The Bowdoin Orient was delivered.  We were shocked, shocked we say, to see this item prominently placed on the front  page, for which the headline reads:

McLellan renovations to cost town 10 times initial estimate

Never would we have expected Bowdoin students to give a pooping Polar Bear about what the cost of town facilities might be.  And even more (or less?), never would we have expected them to keep records of prior public pronouncements of proposed prices for such things.

All we can say is that we have a new-found respect for them and their coverage of local news.  The salient passages of their reporting are these:

“A lot of this discussion has arisen because the price has escalated,” said town councilor Benet Pols. ……  According to Pols, the office of the town manager originally estimated that the renovation would cost around $100,000 in Spring 2011, said Pols. That estimate increased, first to $200,000 and then to over $750,000. The final cost is ten times more than the initial estimate.

Once again, we’re reminded of ‘the town’s’ inability to address and manage capital facility projects with anything remotely approaching credibility.  The old Times Record building comes immediately to mind. 

Though to be ‘fair,’ we should point the fickle finger at Town Managers, who are charged with the professional responsibility for such pursuits.

But you know what?  We just noticed in the passage above that ‘the office of the town manager’ was the one doing the estimating, not the town manager his-self.  Minus ten points for that, Orient.  If you’re going to be a ‘watchdog,’ you’ve got to bark at the perp, not the perp’s ‘office.’

We’re going to go out on a limb here; we’re not professionals.  At least in the way that label is ordinarily applied.  But we wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we haven’t seen the end to this price escalation.  And you quote us, if you wish, Bowdoin Orient.  This thought is now a matter of public record, if not of yours.

Oh, and one more thing.  Given running Jane’s election to the council as well, and her excoriation on the subject during her campaign, we expect her to speak Monday night and have McClellan estimates reduced by half through sheer force of her will if nothing else.

Boola boola!  See Jane!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Question of the week….

While in town today to partake of BTD’s finest offerings, we saw a car with this bumper sticker.  Brunswick, as you know all too well, is bumper sticker central in these here parts.

You won’t believe this, but we failed to take note of what make of vehicle it was.  We’re used to Volvos, Subarus, and Piouses Priuses being the canvas of choice.

But that really doesn’t matter for purposes of this post.  Instead, we asked ourselves, rhetorically speaking, how many of those who display such a bumper sticker on their car think Obamacare is a breakthrough in ‘social justice,’ and are resolutely ‘pro-choice?’

You may well be wondering why we ask.  Good.  We know exactly why we’re asking, but we’re going to give you a day or two to ponder the point.  Frankly, there are very good reasons why we ask.  You just have to figure out what ours are, and what yours might be as well.

For now, we’ll give you this hint:

And show you this bumper, which is typical of what one sees driving down Maine Street, roller coaster humps, heaves, and all.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wal-Mart in your backyard

We’ve written before about the scale of the MLF proposed by NNEPRA in the Bouchard Drive neighborhood.  The planned building is over 600 feet wide, and 37 feet high.


It’s hard to get a grasp of just how big that is when you live in a world of single family houses, some one story, some two story, and other edifices of similar scale.

Knowing that the local super Wal-Mart is of roughly the same scale, we decided to visit there today and capture the magnitude of that structure.  

The first thing we can tell you is that even with a very wide angle lens on our camera, we could barely take in the sweep of the building when we stood at the outer limits of their parking lot.


And now that we paste that photo here, we are even more convinced that there is no way to give you a guttural sense of what that MLF will mean to the in town neighborhood.

Here’s another angle:


Can you imagine having a structure like this over your back fence?  We know that the proposed MLF is 37 feet high.  Our best guess is that the average height of the Wal-Mart building is about 20 feet, and that the height of the two or three ‘towers' might be about 30 feet.

So if you want to envision the impact on the Bouchard St. neighborhood, you can take the width of the Wal-Mart, increase the average height by 10 feet or more, and then make it vibrate, hum, and spew diesel fumes beyond anything the town of Brunswick has ever known.

But it will be well worth it; in town restaurants should sell a few more hamburgers a day.  How can you not like this?

While we’re at it, now that the election is over, we can’t help but wonder where the House of Sartoris and Jane (Sally Sellit) stand on this plan.  Neither could be bothered to participate in our candidate forum.

So we probably shouldn’t expect them to report in on subjects that really matter either.  You don’t want to mess up your chances for re-election.

Even if you haven’t been sworn in for your first term.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oxford Aviation: what a beauty Brunswick missed

If there’s any justice in life, you’ve long since forgotten about Oxford Aviation, as we thought we had.  You might even have forgotten that John ‘Johnny Protocols’ Richardson and his consiglieri FLee Bailey were cosmetic consultants to the operation, with the latter bringing his considerable reputation as an aviation industry leader to the table.

Oxford Aviation had great plans to leverage the key asset at the former BNAS – Hangar 6, we think it is - into a leadership role in global aviation maintenance, refurbishment, and upgrade.  They went so far as to show what they had in mind, using this picture of the ‘Brunswick Jet Division’ on their web page.


We apologize for the lousy quality of the image, but it’s all we could get our hands on, and frankly, taken in context, it’s poetic and prophetic.  (We’ll have to watch it, or we’ll soon be known as the Bard of Brunswick.)

Thanks to our informant Michelle A. Small, formerly code-named Ms. Mall here on Side, we can report to you that Oxford is back in the news.  We’re not sure if they’re seeking the advice of J.P. and FLee these days, even behind the scenes.  Both have more than enough ‘fly by night’ entries on their resumes, and don’t need to add any more to their glowing legacies.

According to the first story Michelle passed along, the folks at Oxford Aviation have been working their tails off.  And the tails of customers as well.  Here’s a sample passage from the article:

Steven Skilken, 63, was piloting the Cessna with five family members from their home city of Columbus, Ohio, to Colorado Springs when a section of the airplane’s tail broke off, sending the plane into a “violent yawing oscillation” as it was coming in for a landing, the suit alleges.

Scary as hell, you must admit.  Both literally and figuratively, this makes Johnny Protocols and his snafus re clean elections (that’s a laugh) funding of his Goobernatorial campaign look like a kid who can’t get a paper airplane to fly.

You’d think such high-profile glories would clip the wings of Johnny P. and Oxford, and cause their flights of fancy to end in tailspins.  But never fear; there are lawyers involved here, folks.

In the second article passed along by our source, you can read about the lovely time Oxford County is having with Horowitz’ and Oxford Aviation’s stewardship of the local airport operation.


Here’s the crux of the story:

Oxford County is attempting to evict Oxford Aviation from Oxford County Regional Airport, accusing the company of violating multiple terms of its lease.

According to the county, Oxford Aviation violated 11 terms of the lease it signed with county commissioners less than a year ago, following a three-year negotiation. The lease expires in 2027.

This is bad enough, but the words that really caught are attention are these:

According to the lease, Oxford Aviation does not pay rent to the county but is responsible for the cost for maintaining the facilities it leases at the airport and for submitting quarterly maintenance records to the county commissioners.  (emphasis ours)

Which couldn’t help but remind us of the generosity of certain well-known quasi-governmental entities, like one right here in Cape Brunswick.  We don’t know about you, but we think a $247,000 grant to Brunswick Taxi, with the barest of obligations, trumps the generosity of a zero-rent arrangement for a facility that probably couldn’t find a respectable tenant under any terms.  Kind of like the old Times Record building, once the pride of our municipal leadership.

All things considered, you might say we should file this post under ‘count your blessings.’

Lucky for us, thanks to the rigorous management style and due diligence of MRRA and other local notables, Oxford Aviation’s “Brunswick Landing” got the wave-off.

And MRRA’s due diligence dug up Kestrel Aviation and Alan Klapmeier to kome our way, and klaim their place in Brunswick’s illustrious ekonomic development history.  


And BDC even plays a role in MRRA support.  Can it possible get any better than this?  We can almost hear “This nearly was mine….” playing in the background.