Down East 2013 ©
Every January, economist Charlie Colgan speaks at a big breakfast event in Portland to announce his assessment of Maine’s financial picture for the coming year. The place is always packed with businesspeople, reporters, politicians, and other economists, which can lead us to only one conclusion:
The food at this breakfast has to be the best in the state.
That would explain why all those important folks have repeatedly squandered their time listening to something that has traditionally been … allow me to put this as politely as possible … completely and utterly wrong.
One Facebook commentator noted that two hundred and fifty people attended this year’s event, held on Jan. 10. “250?” he blogged. “Seriously? Charlie Colgan? Maybe if they all went to work instead, Maine’s economy might be worth talking about.”
Colgan himself didn’t have anything nearly that interesting to announce, according to published accounts . It appears he said just about what he always says. Which is that the economy for the next twelve months will be about like the economy for the last twelve. Actually, he isn’t quite that bold. He equivocates. Adds qualifiers. It might be a little different. Maybe better. Maybe worse. Can’t tell yet. But check back next January, when he promises not only the tastiest pancakes you’ve ever eaten, but also a one-hundred percent accurate assessment of what happened the previous year.
Colgan’s retrospectives have a credibility his predictions lack. In 2008, he guessed that Maine might have some recession-related problems. Worst case scenario: the state would lose six thousand jobs. Reality: More like twelve thousand. In 2009, he said that year would be a lot like 2008. It was. Score one for economics. Or lucky guessing. In 2010, he said it would take a couple of years to fully recover from the recession. In 2011 he said it would take two or three years for that recovery, but job gains would begin that year. They didn’t. In 2012, he announced the recovery wouldn’t get here until 2017. Unless it doesn’t. Because, y’know, he could be wrong.
For a more accurate – but less gastronomically appealing – assessment of the financial picture, let’s trundle on over to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York City, where the maker of Hostess Twinkies has filed for Chapter 11 protection  from creditors. That’s of obvious concern to junk food aficionados. But it’s also of interest to people in Biddeford and vicinity, where Hostess Brands has a huge plant with three hundred and seventy employees. No immediate word on what effect the company’s money problems will have on the local bakery. Nor is anyone saying whether we might soon be experiencing a shortage of Wonder Bread, Drake’s Cakes, Sno-Balls, Suzy Q’s and Ding Dongs.
Well, as the Colgan breakfast showed, there’s probably no danger we’ll run out of Ding Dongs any time soon.
Hostess ran into difficulty due to increased competition for the market segment known as obese losers with the nutritional knowledge of shrink wrap. There aren’t a lot of these folks left, but they consume a disproportionate share of whatever it is Twinkies are made of.
Which, according to researchers at the Charlie Colgan School of Advanced Scientific Analysis, is exactly the same stuff used to manufacture Legos. Only Legos taste better.
Unfortunately, the Lego brand is coming under intense criticism  from a professor at Colby College in Waterville, who argues that new characters introduced to induce more girls to play with the product present poor role models. (Although, you have to wonder about the occupational potential of anyone who’d consider a Lego for a role model to begin with.)
Lyn Mikel, a Colby education professor, said all the new toys do is go clubbing, work on their tans, and worry about their figures and weights.
Which is something of a remarkable achievement for inanimate objects.
According to Mikel, the new Lego girls are bustier, taller and thinner than previous versions. While that would seem to indicate they aren’t overindulging in Hostess products, it also implies they aren’t exactly engaged in scholarly activities, such as predicting the future of Maine’s economy. Which also seems like a good thing.
Still, I can see Mikel’s point. It would be healthier for young girls if, instead of playing with stereotypical Lego characters, they engaged in activities more indicative of the real world and its wide range of options for all sexes.
I’m thinking Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 .
Speaking of art (What? You don’t consider video games to be art? Philistine!), two historic murals  painted in 1940 have been restored and will soon have a new home in Portland.
Unless Gov. Paul LePage finds out. He doesn’t like murals, particularly ones that depict working people without giving credit to the contributions of management. That’s why LePage ordered a mural on Maine’s labor history removed from the Department of Labor last year and replaced it with Lego sculptures.
But back to the Portland murals. They were painted by Ralph Frizzell for the Nathan Clifford Elementary School. One shows fishermen. Another shows farmers. All the men are depicted as slim, tall and tanned. No women are visible in either one.
If LePage is looking for an ally in his anti-mural crusade, he should call Professor Mikel. There’s obviously a real role-model problem here.
Anyway, these murals were taken out of Nathan Clifford before it closed and will be installed in the new Ocean Avenue Elementary School. When funding is available, they’ll be supplemented with additional paintings showing other traditional Maine occupations, such as erroneous economist (could someone turn off the redundancy alarm), Lego dealer, anti-sexism activist, and ding dong.
And yes, Gov. LePage, some of those people will be in management.
Particularly the ding dong.
Al Diamon predicts this week’s posting will annoy many of the same people who complained about last week’s posting. And he has a long record of being right about these things. If you’d like to keep his winning streak alive, send your gripe to him at email@example.com .