Saturday, March 19, 2016

Appropriately Inappropriate: the self-inflicted trials and tribulations of those inside the Bowdoin Bubble


Appropriate is an interesting word; it’s both an adjective and a verb, each with several distinct meanings.  And it’s the root of other words: appropriately and appropriation, which likewise have multiple diverse meanings.

Lately it’s gained featured stature in the Bowdoin Bubble, and other enlightened spaces, in the term ‘cultural appropriation.’

You do know what the Bowdoin Bubble is, don’t you?  If you follow things in Brunswick vis-a-vis Bowdoin College, you should have heard the term frequently over the years.  Our take is that students use the term to suggest a hermetically sealed environment.  One in which they are intellectually, socially, politically, and culturally confined by the college establishment during their matriculation.  It has as much to do with being held captive, whether one realizes it or not, as it does to do with preventing the fresh air of outside thoughts from polluting the campus atmosphere they are expected to breathe.


Most of us over the years have seen Bobbleheads here and there.  They’re those goofy figurines with heads mounted on springs so they can move humorously about with the slightest disturbance.  They were once popular on dashboards or the rear package shelf of automobiles.

Town jester that we are, we’ve decided to play off this classic and call the denizens of the Bowdoin campus Bubbleheads.  Given their frequent mention of existing within the Bowdoin Bubble, the moniker seems poetically apt. We trust readers and the Bowdoin community will agree, and embrace the label.

You know us; we reflect on things and look for more logical, precise ways to explain things to you.  Here’s what we came up with during our latest reverie on this subject:

The Bowdoin Bubble:

A unique combination of institutional elitism; administration and faculty pomposity and virtue signalling; and student body self-absorption, immaturity, victimization syndrome, and assorted other trending neuroses of our day.  The result is a toxic and explosive atmosphere where one can barely breathe without threatening the delicate balance and fragile sensibilities of the campus ecosphere.

The “air” inside the bubble consists primarily of obsessive social justice warrior rhetoric, which has the effect of controlling one’s voice, even when one’s mind knows it shouldn’t. Sort of like an inverse truth serum.  This maintains pressure inside at acceptable levels, and helps those submerged in the deep dark underwater canyons of controlled speech and thought avoid the Bowdoin Bends. 

The bubble behaves like an ideal echo chamber, in which officially approved speech and thought reverberate over and over, but disapproved speech and thought disappear into a black hole.  It has multiple safe spaces, but only for officially recognized victimization classes approved and funded by the college establishment.

Those of us on the outside don’t want to get too close to the bubble, inasmuch as it has been known to suck the unwary in, quickly infecting them with early stages of Bubblehead Syndrome.  Intervention and lengthy deprogramming can be required to overcome it.

Drawing a spotlight to our perfect little town, the Bubbleheads have recently been making a big splash in National media outlets, thanks mostly to simple hats that have drawn attention to the workings of elite institutions of higher education like Bowdoin.  Without whom, we remind you, Brunswick would be nothing.


For example, there’s this:  Bowdoin Wrongdoing

We really hope you’ll read it; “The Scrapbook” is a section of The Weekly Standard that often pokes fun at modren (sic) day cultural phenomena, as we like to do ourselves.  It contains references to coverage in the foreign press, among other things.  A few passages:

In early March, a story made its way into the national media that could have come out of Monty Python’s Flying Circus or some other absurdist British comedy revue of the mid-20th century. A group of Bowdoin College students were invited to a "tequila party" on February 20. Someone handed out sombreros.

Two days later, in an email sent to all students under the heading "Investigation," dean of student affairs Tim Foster wrote: "It has come to my attention that an act of ethnic stereotyping may have occurred at the College over the weekend." Foster mentioned that he had been in contact with college president Clayton Rose, who in turn wrote that Bowdoin must be a place where "race, ethnicity and other aspects of identity are not mocked or stereotyped, but rather are understood and celebrated."

On February 24 the Bowdoin students' general assembly voted unanimously to condemn this act of "cultural appropriation" and to demand that administrators establish a "supportive space for students who have been or feel targeted." The assembly made clear that it "adheres to the definition of cultural appropriation as the manifestation of racism where there exists a power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systemically oppressed by that dominant group, perpetuate racist stereotypes, and/or misrepresent a people's culture." In other words: They made fun of my hat.

And this:

But, since it is our country, forgive us if we don't LOL as readily as our British colleagues. Bowdoin, a once-great American institution, is not being hypersensitive and ridiculous. It is being authoritarian in deadly earnest. Notice that the assembly's complaints of cultural appropriation were followed by a summons to intolerance and retribution: "The Assembly furthermore asserts that such behavior as displayed on 20 February 2016 and the anonymous attacks in the aftermath are unacceptable and do not reflect inclusive values. Such behavior will not and should not be tolerated by the Bowdoin community." The resolution recommended that the college "develop processes for punitive measures to be undertaken against those involved in such incidents."

Punitive measures appear to have been carried out. An op-ed in the Bowdoin Orient alleged that "punishments were given without any opportunity for students to defend themselves. The girls who threw the party are being kicked out of their room and forced to move, as well as being placed on social probation." Those who attended the party had been reprimanded, the correspondent alleged.

It is no wonder that further details are hard to come by, or that students who disagree with the political activists among them have resorted to anonymous posts on social media. The administration and the vigilantes of conformism it has empowered mean to stifle contrary views and have the disciplinary tools to do so. They are not whimpering and hypersensitive. They have got an imaginary grievance in their fevered heads and they are carrying it into the public square in hopes of finding people whose lives they can wreck. Certain Bowdoin parents must by now feel they are paying $60,000 a year in order to subject their children to persecution. Are they wrong?

None other than the “highly respected” Washington Post has written at least twice on the subject.  In case you think we’re pulling that fake moustache of yours, you can look here:


And here:


In the above, you’ll see not only the image this post opens with, but several others that are curious, to say the least.

Then there’s this:

Which contains these words:

The school’s reaction seems especially arbitrary when you learn that — on the very same night of the “tequila party,” just across campus — Bowdoin held its annual, administration-sanctioned “Cold War” party. Students arrived dressed in fur hats and coats to represent Soviet culture; one referred to herself as “Stalin,” making light of a particularly painful era in Slavic history.

What principle makes one theme deserving of school sponsorship and another of dorm expulsion? Perhaps race is the bright line, but not long ago people of Slavic heritage weren’t considered white either. Does intent matter? What about distance (geographic or chronological) from the culture being turned into a party theme?

These are worthwhile questions, ones tailor-made for academic debate. But they are also ones that Bowdoin’s students — like students on other campuses roiled by cultural appropriation controversies — now avoid discussing publicly for fear of being labeled a bigot. Many have instead taken to Yik Yak, an anonymous social media platform that the administration has repeatedly urged them to abandon, because anonymity lends itself to ugliness.

But this necessary conversation has no place else to go so long as colleges remain unsafe spaces for free and open dialogue.

Leading us to suggest that the icing upon the sponge cake of this post is the delicious irony that according to published reports, the Grand High Poobahs of Bowdoin’s administration have wet the very beds they sleep in.  On more than one recent occasion, they’ve approved/sponsored the very “cultural appropriation” they so virtuously despise.  Post-modernism is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?

If only it had been in effect during our college years, we could have ‘evolved’ Ohm’s Law (V = IxR) to Poppycock’s Law: V = W*xIxR, where W* is the Whatever Constant, which can be anything we’d like it to be.  We’d have aced most of our Double E courses!

The Bowdoin establishment, predictably, has been profuse in their virtue signalling in recent reports and statements, working feverishly to “wipe clean” the memory banks of past months and school years.

Is the punishment recently meted out to party-hearty students sufficient atonement for the administration’s own mortal sins?  Or should the juveniles on high be forced out of their offices, and placed on administrative probation?


Given the administration’s reunion gaffe, we think appropriate members of the administration should be perp-walked across campus, and made to lie prostrate in the center of the quad until such time as they can recognize and admit to what knuckleheads they are.  Submitting resignations would be ample proof of their change of heart.  The Board of Trustees, heavily comprised of one percenters, should demand this response.

On another note, we can’t help but wonder if students behaving sedately over a weekend could be accused of appropriating the culture of normal adulthood.  Leading to the need for Bowdoin officials to create a safe space for town residents who exhibit such minority behaviors.  Think about the possibilities:

A New, Less Hostile Form of Cultural Appropriation:  A Grown Up Party. 

This party will run from 3 pm on Friday afternoon until 11 pm on Sunday night.  Among other diversions, the party will include these fun activities and lessons in real life:

Pay-day:  Each party goer will be issued an identical amount of Monopoly Money with which to navigate the rest of the party.  After all, everyone deserves to be equal and receive their fair share.

Budget Segment:  Players will sit down and project their total expenditures for the rest of the party, and how they’ll allocate available funds to manage them.  Among other things, they’ll have to decide how much to spend on food, clothing, shelter, utilities, insurance, health-care, entertainment, transportation, digital services, etc.

Home Care Segment:  Party-goers will be given a sinkful of dirty dishes and a stack of bills to deal with.  They’ll also be assigned a plot of real estate on the campus, for which they are responsible.  They’ll have to rake leaves, mow the lawn, and pull weeds.  And then they’ll have to do it over and over every week.

Common Good Contributions:  Local, state, and federal officials will man tables in a central space through which party-goers must pass with their available Monopoly Money on display.  Officials will pluck currency from their hands as they see fit to finance whatever it is they wish to do.  Whiners will be ostracized and told that they ‘get what they pay for.’

Running Errands and Other Trivial Pursuits:  Students will have four hours to get an oil change, pick up their dry cleaning, shop for groceries, get their teeth cleaned, stop by town offices to pay property taxes and auto excise tax, pay bills, and work on their income tax filings.

Work:  This segment will include two hours of making phone calls, filling out various reporting documents, and listening to others drone on in Powerpoint Presentations, all while being affirming and non-judgmental.  Diversity training will add another two hours.

Social Interaction:  Party-goers will be required to turn over their digital devices, sit around a table with others, and spend two hours engaging in eye contact and verbal communications while doing so.

Rest and Relaxation:  Finally, a reward for the above efforts.  All in attendance will get to sit down on crappy old couches in their underwear and watch TV.  Shows like Dancing With B Listers, American Wannabes, and Dumbass Reality series with riveting scripts like  “If ah cain’t get this here still a’workin raht, ah may hafta get anutha year outta them thar tars on mah pickup.”

While we can’t speak for our readers and others in town, we give our solemn promise not to charge those attending this party with cultural appropriation of adult realities.

In light of all the foregoing, we’re a little worried that Brunswick could one day be known as the setting for the Bowdoin Cultural Insensitivity Witch Hunt, in which the accused were dipped in the hot oil of campus socio-political orthodoxy to see if they could survive the deep-frying.


Frightening as this may sound, we remind you that Salem, Massachusetts has reaped the tourist rewards of similar silliness for hundreds of years, so there may be a silver lining to this kerfuffle.  We can even envision NNEPRA’s promotion of Downeaster packages to Brunswick, home of the “famous” Bowdoin Party Costume Trials.  Can’t you imagine vendors on the Town Mall selling Sombreros, Tam O’Shanters, Leprechaun (Irish fairy) toppers, Indian Headresses, and outsized Gangsta’ baseball caps and gold chains?

Color us outrageous for stereotyping Bubblehead culture if you must, but when you shoot yourself in the foot over and over, you’ve got to expect people to start selling bullet-proof shoes.

Before we say Goodnight, Mrs. Callabash, we should let you know there is an occasional voice of reason inside the Bubble, who we note, pays a price for his contrariness.  Read here:  We warn you; what you read will be encouraging on the one hand, while confirming of the worst of our impressions on the other hand.  Such is the reality of our day, especially inside the Bubble.

We’ll leave you with these additional images mined from the reports cited above:

Note the fake moustaches, sombreros, Bowdoin Reunion tee-shirts, etc.  And make this final observation as well.


The Bowdoin Bubble is like a snow globe: give it a little shake, and you’ll get endless amusement watching the flakes inside move every which way as they seek a collective equilibrium at the bottom of the globe.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Maine Wire: Part III of Deficits, Debt, and Drug Addiction

Herewith Part III of the subject series, now up on The Maine Wire web site:


This is the final installment, and it addrsses federal employee compensation reform.  Here’s an excerpt:

Now-a-days, constant news coverage frequently cites the salary levels of mid-level to senior civil servants, and I am astonished when I hear the numbers, especially since it’s fairly easy to find out what their benefits, including pensions, are. Many are living the high life, as revealed in the GSA expose a few years back, where one manager had his picture taken sitting in a whirlpool tub in his suite, glasses of wine readily at hand (see photo above). Numerous other revelations from various ‘conferences’ should have been embarrassing to those in charge, but disgraceful behavior has become accepted, and perpetrators assume they won’t be held accountable, lest their superiors be exposed for their own misbehavior.

The notion of ‘public servant’ has been all but invalidated by the behavioral norms of the vast majority of bureaucrats and those they employ as consultants. Witness Prof. Jonathan Gruber’s statement that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” and reference to “the stupidity of the American voter.” Throw Lois Lerner’s arrogance into the mix as she refused to take responsibility for clear illegal behavior as a senior manager at the IRS, and that of her agency chief.

We hope your thinking on the subject has been appropriately jostled.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Maine Wire: Part II of Deficits, Debt, and Drug Addiction…


This post last week was Part I in a three part series of ours on The Maine Wire.


Part II appeared today on their web site, and you will find it here:

A glimpse or two of the content…

Sometimes, seemingly intractable problems need to be addressed with ‘brute force.’ That is, you tell everyone to stop making excuses, and whack them ‘upside the head’ until they change their ways and remedy the situation. In the case of “addiction,” which is our operating premise here, it may be useful instead to begin lengthy analysis, in hopes of finding the ‘root causes’ of the substance abuse.

Other times, such as that before us, you heed the advice of Ronald Reagan, who said that the solutions to many of our worst problems are simple.

“There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” Ronald Reagan

And this….

As simple and obvious as this might sound to most of us, it seems beyond the logical grasp of those in federal government, and even worse, horribly threatening to their standard operating styles and tight grip on their sinecures, whether elective or not.

Which is why I propose instituting a methodology that forces them to confront reality, harsh and inconvenient as that can be.

As before, we hope these thoughts foment some discussion.  For some readers, it might ferment some reaction.

Either way, we’ll take it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Maine Wire: Deficits, Debts, and Drug Addiction….


Earlier this week, The Maine Wire published Part I of our three part series on the title subject.  You can find the item here:

Here’s a few paragraphs to wet your whistle, in case it’s dried up in the winter months:

Maine, New Hampshire, and other jurisdictions are fighting a growing distribution of opiates, including heroin and wholly legal variants dispensed via prescription. Noted for their addictive properties, and overdoses that can be fatal, distribution and attraction for the vulnerable is becoming increasingly difficult to control.

OPM, while not a medical challenge per se’, is in many ways more troubling than opium/heroin. OPM, by its very nature, is addictive not only to those who spend it, but to the millions who receive it in one form or another. They find themselves smitten with those who distribute it, quickly dependent upon it, and hence prone to keep the “OPM dealers” in power. The street name for OPM varies from case to case, but pork is as useful as any.

There are no laws against distributing and spending OPM. In fact, just the opposite is true. Its cultivation, harvesting, and distribution are highly celebrated by most.

We’re very hopeful that you will read the first installment, and make sure to seek Parts II and III once they’re posted.  We consider the first part the ‘preamble,’ and parts two and three the real meat of our proposal. 

That’s ‘meat’ in the figurative sense, so vegetarians and vegans in our readership can partake of subsequent installments without any worries about sacrificing their beliefs.