Monday, July 20, 2015

Bully At The Helm By Don Loprieno

Bully At The Helm

Travel on public carriers is safer today than driving in traffic because those piloting the aircraft or guiding the ocean liner are trained professionals who have demonstrated experience and good judgment. That’s a good thing, but what about the ship of state? What if the captain is vindictive, petulant, and infantile? Even worse, what if there’s a bully at the helm?
If this was only a metaphorical vessel, any comparison it makes could be sloughed off as simply a figure of speech, but, unfortunately, when it comes to the Pine Tree state, it’s all too real.
The captain of our ship has been at war with the crew, with the result that what should be a unified, cooperative command has deteriorated into a divisive, contentious group constantly at odds with each other so that what should have been a smooth journey has become a troubling and uncertain voyage. The direction of the ship is no longer predictable or assured. In fact, it may run aground or even be scuttled, thanks to an increasingly apparent lack of leadership at the wheel. The Captain may literally be in over his head, and those on board may seriously consider a sink or swim scenario.
This shadow persona is, of course, Governor Paul LePage- the man whose gaffes and intemperate remarks have made our state the laughing stock of the national media, except for the undeniable fact that what he’s done isn’t funny, from publicly insulting those who disagree with him, to holding hostage bonds that were approved by voters, and, most recently, to blatantly interfering with the right of institutions to hire whom they please by threatening to withhold public funds. Under him, the voyage charted by the ship of state should have been one of safe passage – instead, it’s headed for the rocks.
The governor has even targeted helpless animals because, even though LD 335 (the so-called puppy mill bill) was amended, endlessly debated and voted on, and finally passed by both house and senate, he vetoed it because it was sponsored by a democrat, which, in his mind,was reason enough to oppose it. An attempt to override his veto failed by 64 votes in the house, 59 of them cast by Republicans on the grounds that ending puppy mills in Maine would be ‘bad for business’ – the same argument that the party of Lincoln has always used to oppose progress in the past, from ending child labor to providing a minimum wage to lowering the work week to a mere forty hours. 
Now those who will suffer the wrath of the governor’s political vendetta are the adult dogs who breed many of the puppies who stare out at passing humans in a pet store, hoping for the love and affection they need and deserve.
At least the puppies (and kittens too) will have a chance at a better life, which is more than can be said for their animal parents who, for the profit they bring, have been turned into breeding machines. As one recent editorial eloquently expressed it, “instead of a loving home, they got a lifetime in a small box. They are unwilling participants in the large-scale breeding industry, and the victims of loose laws and lax oversight”
Maine residents were not able to affect puppy mills that exist in other states, nor could they have allocated more resources to increase federal enforcement. However, they could have kept these “puppy mill” puppies from being sold here – and with all the small, reputable breeders out there, and all the dogs available for adoption from overcrowded shelters, there was no rationale not to do exactly that, especially with all the overwhelming public support in favor of LD 335.
Now a hard won opportunity to end cruelty that animal slavery promotes and make the world – or our part of it – a little more humane is gone, at least for the time being. Why? Because the leadership and mature judgment we look for in the state’s highest elected official is sorely lacking. Instead what we have is a sand box mentality that lashes out in what has now become is a very predictable pattern of outrageous reactions to any perceived difference of opinion. That, in turn, creates discord and division instead of civility and reasoned discussion, undermining any attempt at effective government. It’s behavior that most citizens have unfortunately come to expect from the current occupant of Blaine House.
If the governor were a ship’s captain, there might well be talk of mutiny. Now there’s a thought.

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