Thursday, February 18, 2016

Puns O’Plenty: “When it trains, it pours?”


Morton Salt is famous for its logo, shown above


Our pun here is based on the fact that earlier this week, a sprinkler system pipe burst in the Maine Street Station, above Scarlet Begonias and Byrnes Irish Pub, flooding both establishments.  Reports are that it will take weeks (into months?) to repair the damages and reopen.

It occurred to us that Downeaster diesel locomotives stop in the ‘back dooryards’ of both restaurants, as shown in the photo above.  Looks like no more than 20 feet or so away from the structure.  The trains arrive, and the engine idles until it leaves, exposing the ground and the building to considerable vibration loading while it sits there.  This happens multiple times a day, 365 days a year, and has been going on for more than 3 years now.

We can’t help but wonder whether this atypical vibration loading on the building structure and internal piping systems and such could be the cause of the pipe failure.  The building is too new to think deterioration is the culprit.  Vibration of this frequency over this long time span, at the very least, could put unusual stress on pipe fittings and junctions, we would think.

We also wonder whether building design and construction took this unusual vibration loading into account, and made appropriate adjustments to typical standards and reinforcements.

Only the Shadow knows for sure, and we’re confident that if the Downeaster and/or JHR enterprises are culpable in any way, we’ll never hear about it.

We wouldn’t want to spoil the perfect reputations of those who service our perfect town, would we?

Second thoughts on “Color us shocked….”

Once again, your humble correspondent follows up with some further nuggets related to the subject post published last night.


We have word via subterranean channels that Bowdoin student activists, following up on the concerns they delivered to the college administration last year, will soon demand that the Bowdoin Chapel be officially redesignated as the Bowdoin Cathedral of Openness, Affirmation, Sustainability, and New Campus Orthodoxy.  They want to use it as a safe space to draft a Catechism of Postmodernist Academic Theology, and hold mandatory classes for all students and administration personnel.

Separately, we understand these same students will demand that the Town of Brunswick create safe hookup spaces around town in various business establishments, and the Town Hall as well, so that when the urge strikes, instant gratification can be the norm no matter where no matter when.


They plan to ask the good ladies of Brunswick to see to it that bowls of free condoms are made available all around town, and in our government schools, to demonstrate solidarity with contemporary college moral codes.


We think these ‘condoms on a stick’ should broaden appeal to all ages, yet befuddle town old foagies into thinking they’re just lollies for the kiddies.

Amazing how clever our good ladies and those crazy college kids can be when they put their minds together for the common good!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pardon the pun: Color us shocked and questioning

We’re not exactly sure where to go on this post, since it deals with the hyper-sensitivities of the town of Perfect, or more correctly, the ‘community’ of Perfect.  Or if you prefer, Cape Brunswick.


Along with the more-than-hyper-sensitivities of Bowdoin College, our very own Ivory Tower of higher education and purveyor of the tenets of cultural correctness in the new millenium.  (Some call them, ‘tenants.’  We’re here, if nothing else, to help with your vocabulary and spelling.)

But you know what?  Tough cookies.  In today’s civic discourse, we’re fire hosed with all sorts of grievances and tales of social injustice that threaten the very day to day, formerly inconsequential, pedestrian interactions of daily life.  “Social media,” our supposed internet based path to salvation, is equally useful for paving the road to hell.

Triggers?  Micro-aggressions?  Get serious!  Grow up. Or go back to living with Mommy and Daddy, or whomever helped you develop your ‘world view.’  And your pathological sense of victimization and oppression and entitlement to homage and restitution.

Last fall, our town leaders, sensitive as always to reports of local misbehavior, met with Bowdoin officials, at their request, to address remedies for mutliple allegations of sexual aggression upon Bowdoin coeds, and numerous reports of alleged ‘drive by’ verbal affronts hurled at Bowdoin students.

Since that time, the acts of sexual aggression have been investigated and dealt with by local Law Enforcement Officials (LEOs).  We are, however, unaware of any substantition for the reported incidents of drive by verbal abuse.

Regular readers of Side may recall our cautionary post, just days before Christmas (pardon the micro-aggression) -


- in which we worried that the formation of an official “Race and Gender Task Force” by the town would require a demonstratively forceful reaction, warranted or not. The charter of that group has evolved into a “Human Rights Task Force,” which raises the ante by an order of magnitude.

Is Brunswick ‘opposed to Human Rights???’  Are we a ‘community insensitive to fundamental respect for personal safety?’  Is this ‘who we are?’  Have we abandoned our recognized stature as the most beautiful of people?  Have we no dignity? Are the wheels coming off our carriages?

Who knows.  Anything is possible, we suppose, depending on your self-conception of Brunswick’s extraordinary place in the world.  Our own view was jostled a bit when we looked at the latest edition of the Bowdoin Orient.  The visual at the top of the front page is shown above, harkening back to a mass gathering roughly a year ago.  The article can be found here:

The meat of the article is hinted at in this summary of student demands from that date, and how the College (the administration, to be clear) answered:


As best we can figure, the Bowdoin ‘community’ consists of two primary cohorts.  The student body, made up almost exclusively of those ranging in age between 18 and 22, and conforming with the acceptance criteria of the college.

The other cohort is the faculty/administration, which also conforms with certain very specific expectations.

So to read the article linked to above is to rock us back on our heels, if there is such a thing.

The student body has been brought up swimming in a societal marinade of multiculturalism, postmodernism, celebration of diversity, an anything goes view of gender expression, and the embarassments of their parents’ class, race, and gender biases.


The faculty and administration are the masters of the marinade, having spent their formative years and their ascendancy into the campus intellectual elite as the architects of such theories.

We take this occasion to refer you to a recent article of some length that at least for us, tied together a lot of loose ends and connected a lot of dots on the battlefields of the culture war.  We hope you’ll take the time to read it; you may even find, as we did, some passages that seem as if they were written to describe conditions at Bowdoin (and Brunswick, by extension.)

You’ll find the article here: What Next for the Left? | The Weekly Standard

We maintain that if you persevere and read it in its entirety, you’ll have a far more coherent understanding of the current status quo, and may actually go back and reread it, as we have.

Now, because we can be silly at times, we have a ‘sidebar’ for your consideration, related to our main thesis.

What about mascots?

Shown here is the Bowdoin mascot: a Polar Bear.  Polar Bear?  The epitome of white might, power, and privlege?  How can this affront to our sensibilities exist in this day and age?


The Assistant Deputy Vice Dean of Mascots, Campus Atmospherics, and Animal Rights needs to face up to a serious town & gown problem.  We’ve been told a nasty whispering campaign is already going on around town, and that it’s even beginning to affect ridership on the Downeaster.

What about black bears, brown bears, gummi bears, kodiaks, koalas, pandas, Chicago Bears, Mama Bears, Pooh Bears, Papa Bears, Baby Bears, and all the rest?

Isn’t it time for bear diversity and inclusiveness?


Isn’t it time for this symbol of historic biases and social injustice to wave good-bye?

Wrapping It Up:

At some level, reading and absorbing this article in the campus paper could lead you to believe that decades and more of sensitivity training, celebrating diversity, adopting postmodernist views, and firehosing with the precepts of multiculturalism have made things worse, not better.  Especially when you consider that the leading beneficiaries of this cultural crusade should be those who occupy the ‘Bowdoin Bubble.’

Which must make those of us outside the Bowdoin Bubble, as in residents of Brunswick and the region, and those who drive through from time to time, positively savages and cretins relatively speaking.  If things are as bad as they say on campus, surely conditions off campus must be unbearable and wholly uncivilized.


We’re not sure how the ladies of our fair town might take this; another run on smelling salts might be in the offing.  Whether or not the town council’s Human Rights Task Force is up to the challenge remains to be seen.

As for us, we’re reminded of a famous saying somewhere that says ‘physician, heal thyself.’  If the cultural re-education offered at Bowdoin, and the pre-training incoming students received isn’t enough to do the trick, it comes down to a very personal, individual matter.


“This isn’t who we are” deconstructs to a collection of “this isn’t who I am’s.”  And that includes all the individuals at Bowdoin, students and administration, who’ve succeeded in projecting their campus concerns about race and diversity onto the shoulders of Brunswick officials and residents.


And so we come to our close, whether sensible or not.  Frank Lee, we’re tired of wrangling with this item for the last several days, so we’re going to push the send button and let it fly.

We can’t wait to see the reaction.  Perhaps the Bowdoin Orient staff will even choose to contact us like they did a few years back.

Boola boola!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CNT/NNEPRA: Brunswick, get ready to become Boomswick!


Stand by for heavy rolls, Brunswick.  According to the authors of the above report, this area, and several others along the Downeaster corridor, are poised to experience explosive growth and economic development.  And we don’t have to do anything!  The magic of Transit Oriented Development (TOD), like most mystical elixirs, will do it for us.

Shirley you haven’t forgotten The Center for Neighborhood Technology from Chicago, employed by NNEPRA to project the benefits of Downeaster passenger rail service upon our beloved community and state.

We discussed them in December, and pointed out they are anything but an objective, detached, non-ideological honest broker in such specialized topics.  Their effort that we discussed in that post ( was dated 2008. 

They are, instead, the sort of foundation funded snake-oil purveyors favored by TrainRiders Northeast, the Brunswick Downtown Association, and All Aboard Brunswick as they seek air cover for their phantasmagoric advocacy for big taxpayer spending on wasteful programs catering to the few at the expense of the many.

Hiding the waste of such funds in the budget of state agencies like NNEPRA makes it all the better.  This ‘authority’ is virtually autonomous, and lacking in accountability and transparency.

Which is why NNEPRA has been able to contract with CNT for a follow-up ‘study,’ with no complaint from taxpayers, the legislature, or their very own Board of Directors.  This effort is called “Downeaster Going Forward,” and curiously, was delivered in a draft version in 2014.

We’ve managed to obtain a copy.  And we’ve excerpted pages that pertain to Brunswick so that you, dear readers, along with TRNE, the BDA, and AAB can bathe in the wonder of the latest projections.  You can find the Brunswick excerpts here:

(Note that when the file opens in your pdf viewer window, you should be able to rotate the view of the tables that appear in landscape format in the report.)

At this point, we have no real stomach for drolling on about the delusional views contained in the study.  We ask that you read the excerpts linked to above and judge for yourself.  Perhpas some ‘highlights’ will entice you to do so.  Like this brilliant recording of the promise of Thompson’s Point development plans:


Not to mention CNT’s mention that the main building at Maine Street Station is three stories, when it is in fact two stories.  Which emphasizes, ironically enough, how CNT engages in story telling whenever it suits their and their sponsor’s interests.

Now for local advocates and foamers, here’s the primary development area the Downeaster will be ‘exponentially’ benefitting economically, to borrow a term from one such advocate:


Now, let’s whet your appetite with this projection:


That’s right; 3,276 new households within 3 miles of our train station.  That’s positively California style mega-development in scale.  Imagine the traffic on Maine Street, not to mention the parking crisis.  Oh well, at least the carriage set will have their dignified choo-choo upon which to ride.

Freeport is expected to grow by 945 households in the same period.  Sounds like we better all start building multiple new schools now to prepare for the onslaught, not to mention expanding every other aspect of municipal infrastructure, including the water and sewer systems, public safety services, and you name it.

We also suggest the town council immediately appoint an ‘Explosive Growth Task Force’ to address this looming and much welcomed crisis.  We’re already 6 years into the 20 year growth period used in the study, and have 3,000 plus new households to add over the remaining 14 years, or an average of more than 200 per year from here on out.  Think of the sprawl!  The smart growth!

Don’t you just love it?  Boomswick, here we come!  Tired old retirement community, we think not!

We confess that we have no idea why this particular “Draft” effort has not been refined into a Final version and formally distributed for public consumption.  If we had been in charge, CNT would not have been engaged in the first place, so a draft would never have come into being.  Their wild exaggerations and ideological bent are a matter of public record at this point, and we’ve made note of their reckless projections here on Side, and in a formal presentation to state officials, including the DOT Commissioner, the Governor, and the ED of NNEPRA.  That presentation resides here should you wish to revisit it:

So far, our inquiries to NNEPRA and CNT regarding the status of the effort have yielded absolutely nothing in the way of a response, and we asked months ago now. 

Perhaps those offering such ‘remedies’ have moved on to other more lucrative markets; you can draw your own conclusions.  Just be careful where you walk so you don’t step in something you regret.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bus Riders Norhteast, we have good news for you…

Just a brief note about an article appearing in last week’s Coastal Journal.  It’s on page 3 of the February 4th edition.


It should strike fear into the hearts, we would think, of the passenger rail advocates (or “foamers,” as they are widely known) in our midst.  Service begins in May, running between Portland and Freeport, with intermediate stops in Falmouth and Yarmouth.

We realize the above image is a bit difficult to read, but here’s an expanded view of the key words:




You can also go to this web page to get the latest specifics on the planned service:

We seem to recall that Brunswick town officials briefly discussed taking part in such a trial run, but we don’t remember seeing any discussion of it in recent months.

It wouldn’t surprise us in the least if the BDA and other local train zealots came to realize that beginning such a service here in Cape Brunswick would undermine the wondrous advantages of the Downeaster, especially since the service could start up literally with a finger-snap, and without requiring tens of millions in taxpayer investments to do so.  A word here, a phone call there, and next thing you know, end of discussion.  We’ve always prided ourselves on frank and open discussion of such matters, haven’t we?

That might put the lie to the fantasy that is passenger rail.


Why would anyone want to drive a stake through the heart of perhaps the greatest step forward in the storied history of our perfect little town?

Only The Shadow knows.  If you should run into him, why don’t you ask him to give us a call?

Geez! It’s only a damn shed!

Supporters of the construction of the Brunswick Maintenance and Layover Facility have used all sorts of rhetoric to demean those who opposed the NNEPRA project in support of a bizarrely unsustainable Downeaster passenger rail service.

“Historic rail yard.”  “Whining NIMBYs.”  And the most ludicrous at this very moment, “it’s only a shed.”  We don’t know if councilor Kathy Wilson has used this specific comment, but we remind you that she decided to relocate her business/personal residence once construction was given the final go-ahead.  Does relocating your back yard make you a NIMBY?  Afterall, the net result is that the project is no longer in her immediate neighborhood (back yard), is it?  (earlier post can be found here:

Some time ago, we took the dimensions of the proposed MLF and attempted to find existing local structures of similar scale in an effort to give some tangible perspective for those who have trouble grasping its magnitude from engineering plans and dimensions.  We recommend reviewing these past items to reorient yourselves:

Now let’s travel back to the present.  Several days ago, we decided it was time to see what we could see of the now quickly erecting MLF.  We wanted especially to get a sense of its overall scale, as close up as possible.  We chose to drive into the parking lot of the Salvation Army Thrift Store on Pleasant St, and as soon as we did, we knew we had picked a useful vantage point.

Driving to the back of the lot, the scale and sweep of the facility up close was jaw-dropping.  “Just a shed?”  We defy anyone who does the same thing (or equivalent) to hold on to that rather bizarre and quaint view.  Especially if you get a glimpse of humans working on the structure, as we did, to help you with the scale.  Simply put, 37 ft tall is one damn big building, and when you’re up close, 600 ft plus long is eyes full left to eyes full right.

This is not a ‘shed.’  This is a monster industrial facility that Brunswick zoning regulations were created to preclude.  But you know those from Government that come to help us; they find a way to create laws that allow them to preempt the petty restrictions of the little people.

Go to this web page, and you’ll find full-throated documentation of NNEPRA’s pride in the scale of the building.  Pictures nearest the top are the newest.

For example, take this one, which clearly shows the ‘human scale’ of the building (or ‘shed,’ if you insist.)

Or this one:

And this one, with snow more prominent to give it a “winter wonderland” look:

And a few more just for grins….

A nice cozy interior, don’t you think?  Imagine such a ‘shed’ built downtown near Maine Street Station.  Hannaford and it’s parking lot would disappear, more or less.  All for a ‘shed.’


We recognize at this point that we’re beating a dead horse, in a manner of speaking.  But you must admit, it’s a horse of Trojan size.



On a personal note, we’re sad to report that one of our mascots, Maggie, affectionately known as ‘Sweetie Bitch’ and shown at the side of our ‘front page,’ passed away on New Year’s Day with her ‘family at her side.’  It was not a fun way to begin our new year, but she had a good long life, and we cherish the memories.  Her brother ‘Boo-boo’ (Boomer) is doing OK at present.  One of these days we’ll change the side notes; but for the moment, we’re honoring her by leaving it as is.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Crimmins on Crocodile Tears (about Brunswick School Dept budgets)


Frank Lee, we can’t remember whether we’ve posted before about young Jon Crimmins, or posted an item of his here on Side.  He is now a ‘featured opinion writer’ in The Ostrich.  He’s also a stand-up guy with deep Brunswick roots.  His father, Tom Crimmins, was a town councilor until his untimely passing, and he has a young family - wife and two boys -  last time I knew.

In our view, he’s also a clear thinker and observer of Brunswick town governance, and a damn good writer.  His latest item in the above referenced print outlet is a perfect example.  Jon has given us his permission to post it here, along with his email address so you can contact him and comment if you wish.  Should you do so because of this post, please mention that fact so he knows from whence the response derives.  Jon can be reached at:

Here is the text of his column as he submitted it; it appeared in the January 27th edition of the local paper:


When someone does a good job I think it is important to make note of it and applaud the effort. In keeping with this ideal, I want to take the opportunity to thank School Superintendent Paul Perzanoski on his efforts to bring entrepreneurship to the School Department. In case you missed the story from last week, the Superintendent is going to start selling clothing that will, in a small way, go to support some summer educational programs including a reading and math camp.

This foray into the world of clothing sales will undoubtedly raise fewer eyebrows than the last attempt to raise money by the school department. Several years ago, the School Department’s website had a link on it which allowed the user to purchase various quantities of male enhancement supplements. The address for the online pharmacy has long since escaped me, suffice to say that the school department was not peddling the wares of Osco or Walgreens. Despite this, I am sure that the firm was legit.

At the time, when I contacted the Superintendent about the information on his page, he was silent for a moment but said it would be removed later that day. True to his word, roughly four hours after alerting the department to the link it was gone. Vanished after what can only be seen as a stiff reminder as to why you should check your sites often.

All of this brings me back to my congratulations for Paul Perzanoski. He is going to overcome the, “budget difficulties” of the last eight years to restore some programs. Bravo!

The only question I have is what “budget difficulties”? Is the Superintendent saying that Brunswick has seen their school budget get decimated and cut? Maybe we really do need that math camp program after all.

If you have had the same passing interest in town governance over the past decade or so that I have had, then you may recall the yearly drama at budget time. You know the time, when the people of Brunswick routinely approve increases to the school budget and sometimes, the municipal budget.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, nearly a decade’s worth of budget documents can be found right on the School Department’s web page. That information paints a wildly different view of the idea that Brunswick schools have suffered through a financial crisis.

For the 2007-2008 year, again according to the School Department’s own figures, the approved budget was $32,734,737. No paltry sum. Some of the years showed increases in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. One year even topped out at more than a $1,500,000 increase, year to year.

Now, yes, there were three years where the school budget actually was smaller than the year preceding it. Those three reductions amounted to a grand total of $300,885. Even accounting for the reductions in the budget, by the time that the 2015-2016 budget was passed by the voters in June of last year, the school budget had ballooned to a total of $36,525,855. The eight years of “budget difficulties” saw the school budget grow by more than $3,791,118.

Remember, these are not just any figures. These are the figures that the School Department has put on their website.

Of course the dollar amounts don’t tell the entire story of this saga. No, if the School Department witnessed a vast increase of students there may be some justification for the increases. So what does the enrollment look like in Brunswick?

Again, using the numbers provided in the budgets from the School Department the number of students accounted for at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year was 3,204. The number projected to start the 2015-2016 school year was just 2,288. Over the course of the time that the Superintendent is claiming that we are in a difficult position we have seen our school population drop by 916 students. This cannot be right.

How can it be that the enrollment has dropped by nearly 1,000 students or 30% of the pupils and yet the budget has increased by roughly 11% in that same timeframe? How can anyone in, good conscience, call this, “budget difficulties”?

I do applaud the Superintendent for his willingness to look outside the box with this new endeavor, but I really think we are being taken to the cleaners and it is not for the new shirts.

That’s my two cents…


As we read it, the words “two cents” reminded us of an item we posted in the early days of Other Side.  This one:


It’s about the Super’s plan then for drudging up extra jingle from local taxpayers because the School Department was being starved, as he saw it.

Horse puckey.


Any objective review of School Department funding, especially when based on per student spending, puts the lie to anything the PP might say on the subject.  Of course, there’s the standard communications methodology favored by such bureaucrats.

That is, anything but approval of a requested increase in a budget is a ‘cut.’  If a 10% increase is requested, but only an 8% increase is granted, the budget has been ‘cut,’ of if you’re in a heated discussion, ‘slashed again’ or ‘cut to the bone.’


Jackie the P, a town councilor for several terms some years back, frequently asserted that ‘we’ve been cutting school budgets every year for as long as I can remember’ or some such blatant claptrap.  We kept looking for budget declines year over year, and finally came to understand that we were being toyed with by a practitioner of public tears of distress, distraction, and delusion.

We started keeping track of budget totals back around then, along with school enrollment.  And recently, we asked the town finance department to compile our own personal property tax history for our domicile, along with the share going to the Brunswick School Department.

We have never had children in the Brunswick School System.  None the less, without telling you more than you need to know, our current tax bill includes a school allocation that is multiple thousands more than it was when we built our house in the late 90’s.  Matter of fact, it’s up by $1,500 or so in the last five years, or an increase in school taxes that averages in the range of $300 per year.  That’s not pocket change, friends and readers.

Especially when you consider that school system enrollment has declined by roughly 30% since base closure, and has not rebounded by any meaningful amount, even though expert consultants predicted we would be back at pre-closure levels by now.  Quick!  Somebody find 1,000 students so the consultants can be vindicated.


For now, however comma we leave the Superintendent and his mommy mafia with these words of wisdom.

And as for you, dear reader, you might chase down your own property tax history over the years of this century as well, so you can see for yourself the ‘budget difficulties’ in recent years, and how you, personally, have been such a tightwad when it comes to funding school needs.

Wouldn’t it be fun if at an upcoming budget hearing this spring, a bunch of us held up signs clearly showing how much more we’re paying in school taxes than we were 10 years ago, along with how many fewer students the school system is educating.

We doubt that Professor Gruber and Super PP would approve, but so what.  It’s time some realism, facts, and truth become part of the discussion, as unpopular as that might be with the ruling elites.  They proved their disdain for such things in the Downeaster ‘economic benefit’ debate, and they’ll surely look the other way in response to such signs of protest.

Technorati Tags: ,,,

Maine Wire: The Filibuster Update…

The Maine Wire recently ran an item of ours extending an earlier discussion of the filibuster, and we’re copying it here for your reading pleasure.  If you prefer reading it on their web site, you can find it here:



More than three years ago, The Maine Wire ran a brief item of mine on the filibuster concept memorialized in U.S. Senate rules; it read as follows: (note that the Maine Wire did not run this prior item, but substituted its link for editorial purposes.)

The Filibuster: Hypocritical Bi-Partisan Duplicity of the Most Transparent Sort

Wouldn’t you just know it; the venerable Senate filibuster is back in the news. The Maine Sunday Telegram featured a Maine Voices column on the subject on December 9th. Terms like ‘the nuclear option’ and ‘the constitutional option’ were on display.

Senator Chuck Schumer, that unctuous 55 gallon drum of sanctimony, is trying to ride the fence on the issue, claiming the filibuster is vital to senate operation, but that ‘Republicans are abusing it.’ This loosely translates to “hey, we Democrats want to use the filibuster any way we please, but you Republicans should go pound sand.” You can always count on Chucky to lobby for an unfair advantage. The same talking point was advanced by the author of the column cited above. Funny how that works.

Whenever I hear the term filibuster, visions of Senator Foghorn C. Leghorn come to mind. Or perhaps Senator Bobby Byrd in his prime, bloviating for hours on end in his stentorian style, pomposity on full display. Others may envision Jimmy Stewart’s role as Mr. Smith, as the Maine Voices column did, but not me. Frankly, the thought of Harry Reid, who comes across as the Head Mortician of the Senate, negates any illusion that a Jimmy Stewart type could have a meaningful role in our government.

The nagging question now is where our newly elected Senator, Angus King, will leave his footprints in the sand on this beach. What a perfect challenge for Mr. Independence, the self-described solver of intractable problems. Never mind that he quickly confirmed his liberal Democrat loyalties when he announced he’d caucus with Reid’s embalmers. Let the burial of the American founding proceed as planned.

At times like this, when things seem confused, we know that we can rely on the New York Times to clarify things. So I did a bit of research, and came up with this:

A January 1, 1995, New York Times editorial on proposals to restrict the use of Senate filibusters said this:

In the last session of Congress, the Republican minority invoked an endless string of filibusters to frustrate the will of the majority. This relentless abuse of a time-honored
Senate tradition so disgusted Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, that he is now willing to forgo easy retribution and drastically limit the filibuster. Hooray for him. . . . Once a rarely used tactic reserved for issues on which senators held passionate views, the filibuster has become the tool of the sore loser, . . . an archaic rule that frustrates democracy and serves no useful purpose.

A March 6, 2005, New York Times editorial on the same subject read as follows:

The Republicans are claiming that 51 votes should be enough to win confirmation of the White House’s judicial nominees. This flies in the face of Senate history. . . . To block
the nominees, the Democrats’ weapon of choice has been the filibuster, a time-honored Senate procedure that prevents a bare majority of senators from running roughshod. . . .
The Bush administration likes to call itself “conservative,” but there is nothing conservative about endangering one of the great institutions of American democracy, the United States Senate, for the sake of an ideological crusade.

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? At least on the editorial pages of our elite media, who for better or worse, serve the willfully uninformed.


A few weeks ago, some friends and I engaged in a discussion of the same subject as it relates to politics and the challenges of governing at this moment in our history.  We have a ‘divided government;’ the U.S. Senate consists of 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 2 independents.  The U.S. House consists of 246 Republicans, 188 Democrats, and 1 seat is vacant.  The Presidency, obviously, is held by a Democrat.

Simply put, Republicans have an overwhelming majority in the House, and should be a formidable factor in governance of our Nation and the direction in which it is headed.  While Republicans also have a majority in the Senate, it isn’t sufficient to overcome the ability of Democrats to block any legislation that comes before the body.  This stems from the ‘time-honored’ procedure mentioned above.

Given current congressional profiles, and the fact that the House has a new speaker, Paul Ryan, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that Republicans in the House should be able to exert considerable control over the legislative agenda, and hence the general direction of our government and our nation.  They can pass bills easily and send them on to the Senate.

All too easily, it turns out, because as long as the rule of 60 exists in the Senate, legislation sent over from the House has virtually no chance of being debated on the floor, let alone voted on.  This state of affairs is rationalized on the basis of ‘protecting the interests of the minority’ in the Senate.  Sounds good at first, until you realize that it does exactly the opposite for the American people, who with their votes constitute both bodies of Congress as they see fit.

Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Majority Leader, has the power, we are told, to change the rules so that a simple majority could put legislation approved by the House on the Senate floor for discussion and a vote.  When both chambers reached agreement on the bill, it would be sent to the President for his signature or veto.

In reality, however, because of the Senate rule, legislation approved by an overwhelming majority in the House dies in the Senate because Republicans don’t have a filibuster proof majority.  So the Senate constipates the gastro-intestinal system of Congress, blocking legislation from passing.  Absent a super-majority, for all intents and purposes, the Senate amounts to a useless chamber of self-absorbed patricians, given to bloviation and power preservation.


(ed note:  the Maine Wire elected not to run this photo included in the original submission; we think it captures Senate countenance quite nicely)

This holds true no matter which party is in the majority, as long as they have 59 or less seats.  Think about the numbers for a moment, and you realize that rarely will one party have a super-majority.  Either party holding between 41 and 59 seats implies that the Senate, under current rules, is a feckless bunch of blowhards inhabiting the ‘most exclusive debating club’ in the world.  They’re more interested in strutting then they are in leading.  Like the Beefeaters, they amount to ceremonial “yeoman guardians extraordinary.”

This wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, if the only thing they did was neutralize the majority powers of the House in situations like we have today.  Paul Ryan could shepherd a bill through the house to a compelling vote of approval, and the Republican held Senate would be powerless to act upon it.  Unless, of course, the bill was so irrelevant that it has wide bi-partisan support.

Now imagine that the Senate is as we currently have, but the House had a Democrat majority.  The same circumstances would apply.  The Senate would lack a filibuster proof majority, and would therefore be unable to act upon legislation sent over from the Democrat majority House.

In other words, unless the Senate has a constitution of 60 or more members of one party or the other, it not only can’t act decisively on its own, it neutralizes, or emasculates the House, regardless of who controls it.

Which is to say that in the limit, the super-majority rule (filibuster) in the Senate will almost always neutralize the powers of the Legislative Branch of our Federal Government.

Or in other words, enable the unitary presidency, in which the executive rules by fiat and executive order.

This is, in other words, about much more than the arcane rules of a small body of elected elites; it is about the very ability of elected officials to exercise the powers granted to them by the Constitution and the will of those who elected them.

This is not a good thing.  A legislative branch that can’t act, as appealing as that can sound in some contexts, is a worthless assemblage of eunuchs, and with the challenges facing us today, both fiscally and existentially, this is a death sentence for the American experiment.

Especially with an executive determined to make transformative changes to this country.  Under the circumstances, this stubbornness on the part of Mitch McConnell (at the moment) seems near-suicidal.

Surely there must be a more responsible way of going about things.

In the meantime, is it any wonder the candidacy of Donald Trump has so much traction?