The Universal Notebook: What were they thinking?

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The news has been filled lately with embarrassing stories of men behaving badly. Though not much was at stake in any of these four unfortunate incidents, they did provoke a common question:

What were they thinking?

Two of these sad stories occurred in my hometown of Westbrook, a former mill town still struggling to find a new identity beyond that of Portland’s least desirable suburb. News stories about an elected official and a city employee saying and emailing stupid things don’t help.

First, we had City Councilor Paul Emery talking at a Democratic event about Gov. Paul LePage being assassinated. Hey, I can’t stand LePage either, but I have no idea what Emery was thinking when he reportedly said, “If he goes to see his maker it wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit. In some countries assassination is a political strategy, but unfortunately not here.”

Emery’s unkind and uncalled-for remarks prompted Cumberland County Republican Chairman Eric Lusk to complain about a media bias, as reported in my esteemed colleague Julie McDonald-Smith’s column last week.

“While the Portland Press Herald and The Forecaster’s own Edgar Allen Beem gleefully harrumphed about Gov. LePage getting a prominent Mainer’s tax domicile wrong,” Lusk said, “neither could find the value in decrying Emery’s advocacy of political assassination …”

For the record, I decry, I decry. There is no double standard as far as I am concerned. Emery was way out of line. If Lusk will agree that LePage’s long history of uncouth comments – from placing columnist Bill Nemitz on suicide watch and wanting to bomb the Press Herald building to Sen. Troy Jackson giving it to Mainers without the benefit of a lubricant – make him unfit to hold public office, I will concede the same of Emery.

Then there was former Westbrook police chief and now Assistant City Manager William Baker’s tirade against folks who advocate for the arts and environmental protection. In a failed attempt at humor, Baker e-mailed Mayor Colleen Hilton that when USM sculpture professor Michael Shaughnessy, president of the Friends of the Presumpscot, proposed placing student sculpture along the river walk, he really wanted to reply, “Dear Michael – this is the dumbest (expletive) idea I ever heard!” Baker also complained that Shaughnessy’s advocacy for the health of the river made him want to say, “Thanks to you Sappi will spend 7 million dollars helping 7 fish get over the falls – that is one million a fish you idiot!”

Maybe if Westbrook paid a little more attention to the arts and the environment it would be known for something other than a history of paper mill pollution and sexual harassment in the public safety department.

In Portland, meanwhile, a trio of restaurateurs saw fit recently to ban a food blogger from their establishments not because he wrote an unfavorable review, but because he wrote a review at all. When you get to the point where chefs are so self-important that they think they have the right to decide who can review their cooking and who can’t, maybe Portland’s foodie scene has started to rot on the vine, as Perry Newman suggested in his May 4 Forecaster Forum, “Has Portland jumped the shark?

Any place of public accommodation that bans a person for doing his job does not deserve public support. As a result of their culinary hauteur, I will not be eating at Honey Paw, Eventide Oyster or Hugo’s any time soon.

Finally, we have the man behind Deflategate. No, not Pats quarterback Tom Brady, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL has suspended Brady for four games and fined the Patriots $1 million for allegedly using under-inflated footballs in a playoff game. Supposedly this is to maintain the integrity of a game and a league that has no integrity. Goodell got a lot of bad publicity for failing to properly discipline players for beating up women, so he tried to make up for it by coming down hard on Tom Terrific for preferring softer footballs.

The Wells Report on Deflategate found nothing but circumstantial evidence and couldn’t even prove that under-inflated balls had been used in the Pats’ rout of the Colts. If anyone needs a suspension and a fine, it’s Goodell. A summer resident of the gated resort community at Prouts Neck, Goodell makes $44 million a year. That’s $120,000 a day. What were NFL owners thinking when they agreed to pay such an obscene amount of money to someone who can’t seem to do anything right?

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.