Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Businessmen in politics

It's primary season in Maine and for the next two weeks we have to put up (again) with the endless barrage of political ads on TV, in newspapers and in the mail. Ah, Democracy!

This year there is a large number of people running to be their party's candidate for governor of the fine State of Maine as the current guy is term-limited out. I've lost count, but there were over a dozen folks running between the two major parties.

Just about all of the Republican candidates are touting their experiences as "businessmen" as the primary reason for being elected. This continues a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember and was most memorable during the presidential debates with Texas businessman Ross Perot. You remember the "giant sucking sound guy...?"

It is absolutely amazing to me that anyone would ever consider that being a businessman was a positive qualification for politics. The organizations (business and government) are diametrically opposite each other.

Hello....Mr. Republican businessman....I hate to tell you this....but businesses ARE NOT DEMOCRACIES!!! Governments cannot be run like businesses!

If you are a CEO you don't do anything by consensus. When was the last time you made a business decision in your organization where you sought the opinions - and VOTES - of all the employees? If you did that, you would be either out of business, or a miracle worker. So what makes you think you have any qualifications to run for governor? Oh, so YOU think that running a state IS just like running a business?

Do you really think by you putting your buddies into the positions to head up the various state departments that all of a sudden all the state workers in those departments and related organizations are going to start to do the things YOU tell them to do?

What a bunch of boobs.

Yes, history tells us that the only "really successful" governors and presidents (and I will not define what "really successful" means) have been "dictators;" albeit benevolent dictators. But it was always because they were unique individuals who were able to persuade large numbers of people (the voters and the elected representatives) to come around to their way of thinking...and that usually required a lot of bargaining and compromise. And that my dears is called politics, not business. In other words, in my estimation, the best governors and presidents have been really good politicians.

The last of the masterful governors who did this well in Maine was probably Angus King. Yes, he was a businessman, and he ran on that. But he was also a TV personality and had that great persuasive know like Ronny Reagan. But even King was not able to change the whole system and was smart enough to choose his battles carefully. But, I'll bet if he wasn't term-limited out, he'd have won again.

There appears to be no one in the current crop of contenders running for Maine governor that appear to have the panache of an Angus King or a Ronny Reagan. I guess we'll just have to see what politics brings.

Oh, and Mr. Republican businessman, good luck with that election.

Image from

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Maya Angelou in Maine

When it looks like the sun wasn't gonna shine anymore,

God, put a rainbow, in the clouds.

This is how poet Maya Angelou began her talk the other night at the University of Maine at Augusta.

I choose to call Ms. Angelou - poet - because, though she has done many things, and has served in many capacities, the role of poet, I believe, is most fitting, and most descriptive.

You can read all about the evening, its purpose, and who was there in the press reports on the local TV station's website or even view a clip of some of the evening's activities on the Kennebec Journal's website, but I wanted to bring you Ms. Angelou's words. So, I transcribed some of them for you here. Feel free to share and comment:

That statement, from a 19th Century slave song, was inspired by a statement in Genesis. In Genesis we are told that rain persisted so unrelentingly that people thought it would never cease. And in an attempt to put the people at ease, God put a rainbow in the sky. That's in Genesis. In the 19th Century, some African-American poet, lyricist - probably a woman, I'm not sure on that - said God put the rainbow, not just in the sky, but in the clouds themselves.

We know the suns, the moons, and stars, novae, and comets, are always in the firmament. But clouds are so lower and loud that we cannot see the promise of light. But if the rainbow is put into the clouds themselves, that means that the worst of times, there's a possibility of seeing hope. I am here because I wanted to come here. I wanted to come to the University of Maine at Augusta, particularly, because I think of your university, your institution of higher education as a rainbow in the clouds.

I had every reason to apologize and not come. This day, these days, I'm feeling the loneliness of the absence of a great woman whose been a mother to me and, uh, my heart is very heavy. But because she has been a rainbow in my clouds, and I would be speaking at her going home services at the National Cathedral on Thursday, I said I must come here, because I know that there are re-entry students who come here. People, women and men, who come here, who may have not had the energy, or insight, or the smartness, or the money to continue years ago. They come back, and they reenter at the University of Maine at Augusta. I said, I must come. I want, I have so much to say to you, and I'm just starting. Really, really.
Image from Kennebec Journal - Andy Malloy