Down East 2013 ©
You can hit delete on all those phony e-mails about helping a Nigerian prince transfer his fortune to a bank in the United States. You can slam the door on fraudulent contractors offering to spread sealant that’s actually black paint on your driveway. You can even close all your offshore hedge fund accounts, and give your ill-gotten gains away to bogus charities (“I’m calling from the American Society to Prevent Excessive Nostril Mucous”).
Because when it comes to separating gullible people from their valuables, there’s a much better method.
Just pretend to own a pig farm.
I recently discovered this con game , thanks to a story in the Sept. 25 Lewiston Sun Journal, detailing the nefarious ways of the pig-farm underground, a cartel so vicious, it makes the average Mexican drug lord look like J. Wellington Wimpy .
Here’s how the grift works: Organizations that distribute food to low-income people routinely end up with some stuff that’s not fit for human consumption. Dented cans. Moldy bread. Packages with expired use-by dates. Brussels sprouts.
Rather than waste these provisions, the Good Shepherd Food Bank  in Auburn has been giving it away to pig farmers. In order to qualify for the free slop, the farmers must agree not to allow the food to be used for human consumption. Unfortunately, some pork producers may not have been abiding by that promise. Officials at the food bank say they have learned of cases in which the food has been sold to people who don’t mind a few dents or a little mold.
Apparently, the pigs are going hungry.
To counteract this insidious sting, the Good Shepherd has instituted a new policy, effective Oct. 1. Henceforth, it will only give away its unusable food to pig farms that have been licensed by the state.
Trouble is, Maine government – which issues licenses for everything from poodles to pathologists – doesn’t license pig farms.
That’s right. Nuclear power plants need a license. Racinos need a license. Drug stores and medical marijuana dispensaries had better have that certificate. And don’t even think about selling soft-serve ice cream without all your documentation in place. But it appears that the only two things in this state that don’t require extensive paperwork are guns and pig farms.
The omission of the former is probably explained by the Second Amendment. But there doesn’t seem to be any constitutional basis for allowing rampant, unregulated pig farming.
Obviously, the Founding Fathers screwed up. Or caved in to some anti-porcine lobbying group.
(In reality – an area this posting is thoroughly unqualified to deal with – the state does inspect pig farms that feed their animals meat , but these are mostly large operations, and there are only a couple of them in Maine. Not counting the State House. As for small piggeries, officials at the Department of Agriculture say they don’t have the resources to license them.)
Anyway, the Good Shepherd’s new policy will likely put an end to the misappropriation of expired food products, but it will also cost several seemingly legitimate small pig-farming operations their free slop. If, as a result, they are forced out of business, will they then turn to the food bank for sustenance? Or will they wander the countryside offering to seal driveways?
We won’t find out in this posting, because the best-used-by date on this item has expired.
Let’s move on to other questionable schemes. Such as Central Maine Power Company’s plot to remove the old electric meter from your house, and replace it with a “smart meter .”
These new meters will be able to monitor your usage to see if you’re ordering pay-per-view porno from the cable company. They will also be able to tell you when the most efficient time arrives to do your laundry (never, that shirt can be worn again), wash your dishes (the first Tuesday of leap years), vacuum the living room (right after the federal government pays off the national debt) and hook the electrodes to the metal studs in the monster’s neck (just as the villagers, armed with pitchforks and torches, start breaking down the castle door).
This will help reduce peak demand on the transmission system, thereby saving untold millions of dollars. Which is good, because the cost of the new meters is … let’s see … untold millions of dollars.
So this weekend, when it gets really cold for the first time this year, don’t plan on cranking up the electric blanket. If you try, you may hear an eerie voice  explaining why it’s afraid it can’t do that.
Due to a glitch in the hard drive, it may also refer to you as “Dave.”
Don’t be alarmed. You won’t freeze to death. Just go out to the barn and cuddle up with the pigs. The smart meter won’t mind, so long as you don’t try to eat any of the pigs’ slop.
My own electric meter is reminding me that perhaps now would be a good time to move on to another topic, assuming I don’t want a sudden power surge to wipe out everything I’ve written today.
It also called me “Dave.”
Central Maine Power may be able to monitor your mind, but the Maine Department of Education maxed out its monitoring capabilities when it tried to maintain order during sixth-period study hall. The department conceded that shortcoming this week, when it suspended a program in which it intended to collect Social Security numbers of students so that it could follow them in later life to see if all the slop they learned in class was of any value.
The project was dumped after a technology director at one school discovered he could view confidential data  about DOE employees online.
That raised questions about security in the rest of the education department’s computers, which in turn made inspectors in the DOE’s lunchrooms suspicious about the large numbers of dented cans, loaves of moldy bread, and packages of pasta with expired dates stuffed in the refrigerator. Told that they were for the commissioner’s pig farm, the inspectors asked to see her license. Informed that such a document doesn’t exist, they immediately shut down the entire education bureaucracy, an action that, so far, has had no noticeable effect.
Except that a number of people dressed as former education department workers are now wandering the countryside offering to seal driveways.
Al “Dave” Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org . Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want the electric company to read.