The Hog and the Lion

Le cochon. French: pig, hog, swine.

Respectful. Honest. Insightful. These are words I wish I could use to describe my governor. Unfortunately, they do not at the moment, and they may not for another two years. While most Mainers are already on the same page about LePage, this had to be begrudgingly written for the rest of the world.

Painstakingly, I have observed and shared the most magnificent parts of our beautiful forested state. Now one man threatens to destroy that work single handedly. See, in Maine we know our governor is a bit of a shit-head. He belches out whatever split-second half-thought that manages to avoid the few filters he has. As far as I am concerned they are the last snorts of fascism in Maine. Desperate, racist and dwindling.

However, the rest of the world has now seen our leader standing up on some enchanted hate inspired soap box that can be seen from the Belgrade lakes to Belgrade, Serbia. Some of these people reading about him are hearing about Maine for the first time. As if I didn’t already have enough bad first impressions in my life. This insane sensationalism over hate speech has just got to stop. Apparently Donald Drumpf is not enough for the hate crazed media outlets.

We have already tried to impeach LePage, and perhaps next time we will make it happen. Any lost time we can get back from him would be for the better. The man has stood against real progressive change in this state for too long, from action to curb climate change to forgetting to vote for his own racist bills. However, there is no reason to show the rest of the world and the nation a man who does not even come close to representing anything about us or our state. He is our problem and we can more than handle it.

There are two lessons here.

First lesson; implement Ranked Choice Voting (Yes on 5). This will save us a lot of hassle in the future and avoid Vote Splitting (an electoral effect in which the distribution of votes among multiple similar candidates reduces the chance of winning for any of the similar candidates, and increases the chance of winning for a dissimilar candidate). There is no reason for an elected official to win because he just happens to be the only guy standing there with something different to say. Especially when that something different is ignorant and racist. This is the important lesson Maine has to offer the nation this November 2016.

Second lesson; the media has failed in their news coverage. It is not just enough to check the centers of power. Alternatives and movements against outrageous and completely inappropriate behavior also deserve coverage. However, the BBC had an article titled “Black people are the ‘enemy’ – US governor”. Clickbait if I ever heard of such a thing. It was at the top of their US news list when I saw it August 27th. When all those people clicked on it they saw which state’s governor that was. Unfortunately, the title did not read ‘Local American Non-profit keeps governor in check’. The Maine People’s Alliance is already working to put progressive democrats into office in Maine to counter the governor’s nonsense.

Then there is Comedy Central with their over-analyzing of every stupid thing that comes out of that Orange-blur of a maw. Yes, we need to be aware of clear and present dangers. But we do not want to blow it so far out of proportion. Collectively they have given him so much free press and probably a good many more votes. The more you attack and belittle him the more they love him and the deeper their Ostrich ears go into the sand. They will shout; the liberal media is on the attack again! It is the ultimate get out of using logic free card. What we need to be covering is the complete opposite. I want to see more articles about the women and men who stand up to counter such arrogant and exclusive acts.

For example, now that I have tricked you into reading a bit further with a trail of genuine and deserving insults for our blubbering governor you will get to learn about someone more deserving of attention in Maine. The world needs to know that our state is not going to be famous for having a racist governor, but for having an inclusive and fair society. So instead of swinging the camera at the guy with the hate slogans, let us focus on a more respectable up and coming Maine politician.

This November Pious Ali will be running for Portland City Council in Maine. Originally from Ghana, he moved to the United States in 2000 and has been in Portland for the past decade. He has continued to work within the Portland community to bring down barriers separating people economically, socially, and religiously. His civic engagement has been an inspiration for many and it even got him a seat on the Portland Board of Public Education in 2013. This is a man who understands how important education is to public society and for kids to be successful in their lives.

When I first met Pious Ali it was at a camping trip for the Maine Irish Children’s Program. The organization aimed to bring youths of the two conflicting communities in Northern Ireland to Maine for the summer to help build bridges and break down walls. For the American youths it was eye-opening just to realize an almost entirely white community would be at odds in Northern Ireland. To give us a bit more perspective we had a few lecturers and field trips, including a synagogue. It was up to Pious Ali though to teach us about Islam. This was a lecture I will always remember and appreciate. It was 2009 and for some reason Fox News wasn’t giving us any hints at what the Five Pillars of Islam might be. Living in a small coastal town in Maine there also were not too many Mosques around. I remember Pious being very calm, explaining things clearly and taking questions from some of us. He handled what was usually a pretty rowdy group of teens with ease. This is the kind community engagement I want to see an elected official be a part of. Not like some others.

On his website he advocates strong neighborhood schools, quality and affordable housing, and livable wages for a livable city. I definitely recommend checking out his profile even if you are not voting in Portland, as it may give you a better idea of what your local representatives could be saying and doing. This is exactly the kind of progressive and forward thinking policy I want to hear more about going forward and less about the other more boisterous politicians and their bizzaro-world blame game. Solutions work if we work on them together. When bi-polar party politics get in the way we all lose out so that two ideological organizational structures can simply continue to exist.

The point I am very simply trying to make here is for people to focus on the good and the positive. The more we focus on the bad the more it will seem normal until our entire community is so desensitized to hate and violence we just continue to let it happen. The other point I am trying to make is that Maine is not a state for hate. It is time we paid attention to the efforts and to those people who keep our community healthy, educated, together and safe.

One Maine family has already shared a video of their opposing views to LePage’s racism. They are asking others to do the same. Thanks to them we will hopefully be able to save some face and not have our state become a poster child for intolerance.

While many people are viewing his actions as nothing new, many still think that he has crossed a line this time. Both with threatening another politician with violence and claiming that people of color are the enemy. Some have become desensitized to his words of violence. They may think his words don’t really mean anything and he is just blowing hot air. Either way we cannot sit idly by. And while I am appalled that national media outlets would use his words as a catch line for more hits and views, it would be worse to ignore him. I sincerely hope Maine Democrats can do everything they can to get him out of office. We will not let his behavior become the norm in Maine.

People of planet earth, fear not Le Cochon of Maine. He will be gone soon. Perhaps sooner than we thought.  Maine is still a place where all are welcome to visit, join and participate.

But leave the hate at the gate.




Maine: The Way Life Could Be


This past week our fearful French bowling ball of a governor spoke at the Maine Office of Tourism Governor’s Conference. The event was held in Newry, at Sunday River and had way more than 350 people from Maine’s preeminent businesses attending. Glasses were polished, silverware was rolled, and glasses were filled. Everybody in the hotel was ready. Everybody except for the governor, who arrived twenty minutes late in the middle of lunch. To make up for his tardiness the governor reminded the dignified members of the audience that the Tourist industry is of vital importance to the Maine economy…three times in the same speech. No one would argue that fact but some may think to avoid over mentioning it to a group of people whose lives and jobs depend on it already. The event somehow managed to be both insightful and ridiculous.

The Tourist industry in Maine provided 98,932 jobs (15% of the workforce) and more than $5.6 Billion in direct expenditures last year according to their annual report. People across the world come to Vacationland and are greeted with friendly smiles and great service (when it is deserved). We have so many service workers to thank for keeping that money coming to the state year after year. However, it may not be enough to improve Maine’s economy. It has already been pointed out that the state’s decrease in unemployment is actually a forewarning of a decrease in the labor force. And if that isn’t enough jobs are still being lost. In manufacturing and the paper industry people are being let go in the thousands.

While some may have expected LePage to give praise to the tourist industry for being there for Maine in a time of economic hardship or thank them for dealing with the mob of tourists that crash on our beaches and lakes every summer, this is not what happened.

LePage used his time at the mike to attack Bernie Sanders supporters for almost no reason. It is a stretch, even with the guy currently running for president. What does the Presidential race have to do with our successful pioneers in the tourist industry? Apparently, the man is just so enraged with lefty politics that every time someone puts a microphone in front of him he has to attack them. That is a serious dose of fear causing him to froth at the mouth. He continued on to explain why better and more affordable social programs will put us all so deep in taxes the American dream will be lost. Forever. Again. He then went on to another classic conservative trope; it shouldn’t be a crime to be successful. Well, yes, that would be quite ridiculous. What should be a crime though is when the unregulated excess of successfulness starts to boil over with no end in sight like some sort of sick invisible Deep Water Horizon and starts poisoning our shared water, air, and food.

Yet, if we try to fix these things and still allow people to be successful and make money the Governor calls out EVIL REDISTRIBUTION. Which is just such a sad lack of understanding for the basic English term. It is not a big red and scary government roaming around with hammer and sickle taking your belongings and giving them to someone less deserving. Redistribution is a question that every generation, every country, and every person must figure out. How do we split up the pie? How do we distribute wealth? Rick Grimes doesn’t have time to think about that but we do. Capitalism is itself a form of redistribution and the Republicans love certain subsidies, if that’s not redistribution of wealth I don’t know what is. That is an active attempt to alter the magnificent will of the free hand of the market. So when anyone says that socialism is bad or class warfare is wrong, remember there is more to it than that, and whoever said that has no idea what they are talking about. These are punchlines for a public that has a 30 second attention span. Unfortunately, people will say whatever they can to get what they want no matter how close to reality it is. Consequently, it lands on us to communicate and redistribute fairly together.

Still not sure about this crazy redistribution word? Let’s use an example. During his speech LePage mentioned his rags to riches story of how he used to eat cat food because it was cheaper than tuna. Now, if you pay your taxes those taxes will pay for maintaining the government and the governor’s office and salary. So your tax dollars are being redistributed so that Paul doesn’t have to eat cat food any more. Your welcome, Paul.

After his speech he stood awkwardly by and shook the hands of all the award winners. Among them were Greg Dugal for Tourism Excellence, Captain John Nicolai for Marketing and Promotion, The Nonantum Resort for Leadership and Growth, Eastport Pirate Festival for Innovation and Creativity, and the Castine Historical Society for Originality. Great people and great places to visit not just for outta statahs but for Mainers too. Sadly, instead of staying for the lunch, LePage then promptly left out the back door as soon as he wasn’t needed. No reason to schmooze there I guess.

In the end perhaps he attacked Bernie because of the recent win in Maine and he figured since most of the state didn’t even vote for him why not just piss everyone off. It wouldn’t be the first time he has tried to cause trouble for no reason. He has consistently tried to create a divide between rural North and barely urban South, suggesting that economic success is somehow directed more towards the south by…who exactly? Democrats, I guess? The whole thing is ridiculous. I grew up and lived in both parts of our vast state and houses are surely nicer on the Golden Coast but let’s face it once you are on the other side of the turnpike surrounded by the forest and hidden drives it looks the same as everywhere else in Maine. What I mean to say is that there are rural economic hardships in the South just as much as there are in the North. LePage and the North do not have a monopoly on economic suffering. At best its fear mongering but to me it is just a limp unimaginative lie.

I really wish I hadn’t had to hear all those things come out of his mouth. But that is the way the world is. I have to respect the Democratic process that put him in the chair and made him my governor. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t switch to ranked choice voting in the future. Democracy is adaptable to the challenges at hand. Fun fact: Republican nominees for governor in Maine have failed to win a majority of the vote in 12 consecutive cycles over the last 50+ years – the longest Republican streak in the nation. Dirigo, baby! And no governor has been popularly elected with less than 40 percent of the vote in two consecutive cycles in U.S. history until LePage showed up.

Now I could keep going on reasons why I don’t agree with the road block GOP establishment but I want to talk about Tourism and how it is going to help Maine. While the tourism industry may be doing well and is a crucial part of any economy it should not be a main focus. It cannot be the industry we entrust our quality of life, health, and education to. I mean I know the place is called Vacationland but I don’t want to imagine what the thought of 50% of our work force cleaning dishes and tables. The good part is we don’t have to rely solely on this industry but we do need this industry to thrive and help with the transition to a healthier economy that can be sustainable. Tourism may be our white knight, or at least one of them.

What we need is to get people to come and help with our worker shortage in Maine and find productive work. To do that we need to recognize the importance of productive work, creative leisure and educational betterment. This was pointed out decades ago by political scientist Abraham Kaplan.

Thanks to our awesome businesses in Maine we already have the creative leisure part down. The Maine Office of Tourism has shown this and helped to improve on it. However, our productive work is deteriorating, people are losing jobs and are leaving the state. One way to attract people, especially young able bodied workers, is to provide quality affordable education, which is convenient because educational betterment is the next prerequisite for the trifecta of an equal society. We lose these three things if we give into LePage’s fear and we have to remind ourselves of that every day while working toward achieving them.