Friday, September 24, 2010

You'all Know What a Bidness Plan Is, Right?

In my last post, I introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry into the discussion.
But have I ever told you the story about the time I met him and watched him in action?
Well, here goes.
I was in Texas to give a speech. The sponsor asked me, before it was my time to talk, if I'd like to meet the governor.
Sure, I said.
Having written speeches for the governors of Michigan, Massachusetts, and Oregon, I figured it would be fun, a real treat, to meet the Governor of Texas.
The sponsor told me that the occasion was a meeting Governor Perry was having with two visitors from Mexico: one of Mexico's leading newspaper publishers, a distinguished leader and accomplished businessman, and a member of the Mexican Senate. They were eager to talk with the governor about the state's laws and practices concerning open meetings and freedom of information. What could they learn to help Mexico have a more transparent public sector?
I could sit in on the meeting as an observer.
I was ushered into the room where the meeting was to take place; the newspaper publisher and senator were already there. We shook hands and waited.
In came Governor Perry.
He sat down and immediately plopped his cowboy boots on the coffee table that sat between us.
I think the idea was to show us the map of Texas that had been engraved on the boots.
Then he started to lecture the visitors from Mexico on a long-standing water dispute between Texas and Mexico.
I know you're keeping our water on your side of the border, he told them. We got satellite images that show it. And it's illegal. Strictly against the law, violates a treaty between us. You're gonna have to give us back our water.
He went on like that for about five minutes. It must have taken him that long to realize that he was talking about the wrong thing to the wrong people--or maybe hat's just what he does when he's introduced to people from Mexico.
Finally, he shifted gears to the topic of transparency in government, open meetings and freedom of information.
It's a two-edged sword, the governor said. I know you're thinking it's a good thing, but let me tell you, it has another side to it.
Interesting, right? The governor says there's a negative to public access to information. What could that be?
Now say you come to the government and you're asking for money for a project you want to do. And you show the government your business plan. (Only, of course, he didn't say "government" he said "go'mint" and he didn't say "business plan" he said "bidness plan." But I digress.) Now, you'll know what a bidness plan is, right? That's the document you need to write up when you're starting a bidness that explains how you're gonna do it. So say you want money from the go'mint and so you have to show them your bidness plan. Now, if there's freedom of information, your competitors can go into the go'mint files and read your bidness plan! So all this transparency stuff, it's a two-edged sword!
And he sat back, very pleased with himself for having educated his Mexican visitors on the real nature of open meetings laws and freedom of information acts, and even what a bidness plan is.
After he left, however, it was clear that his guests were a little under-impressed.
I'm certainly glad the governor explained to me what a business plan is, said the senator from Mexico. That's not something we covered when I attended Stanford Business School.
Ah, arrogance!
Ah, insensitivity!
Ah, general stupidity!
No wonder the chairperson of the Texas Board of Education, appointed by Governor Rick Perry, is a creationist who believes that our history books betray an Islamic bias!
I'll bet she doesn't know what a bidness plan is, either!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is This a Great Country, Or What?

Back in the US, back in the US, back in the US of A!
After more than a month on the road, I'm back home, in the greatest country in the world! And you know what, this country is so great, it will never disappoint you.
Don't believe me?
All you have to do is read the morning New York Times, and it will fill you up for the whole day. America: The Only Vitamin Your Body Needs!
Take the piece in today's paper about the Texas Board of Education. You remember them. They're the whack jobs who thought Thomas Jefferson was too far left to be in American history books.
Well, they're at it again.
Apparently, according to Chairperson Gail Lowe, our history books have a concealed pro-Islamic bias!
You remember Gail Lowe, don't you?
She's the creationist, appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry, he of the over-sized cowboy boots and under-sized intellect, to be the head of the school board.
Gail is famous for saying, among other things, "Our country was founded on religious principles . . . and our students will know that. . . . I think the [Founding Fathers] fully intended that our government would not separate church and state."
Yep, you read that quote right. And this woman is the head of the Texas Board of Education.
Or take Gail Collins' column of the Senate's latest incomprehensible inability to do the right thing. Faced with an opportunity to get rid of the inane "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military, the Senate folded its tent, with the always righteous Republicans claiming that procedural issues unfairly used by the Democrats made it impossible for them to vote for the defense authorization bill that the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal was attached to.
Highest honors goes to John McCain, who is rapidly moving from maverick to mutton-head. McCain said, according to Collins, that he'd never seen such an awful trick as the ones the Democrats tried to pull, "for as long as I have been privileged to be a member of this body."
Except, as Collins points out, McCain himself had used the exact same technique for legislation he favored, as had his obstructionist Republican pals.
Question: Does John McCain just say stuff now, and assume that nobody will fact-check the stuff that comes out of his mouth?
Then there's small up-date news item on the latest allegation concerning Bishop Eddie L. Long, a pastor at a Baptist mega-church outside Atlanta.
Bishop Eddie is a God-fearing religious leader, and an out-spoken critic of homosexuality!
And today a third young man said that he'd been molested by said God-fearing, homo-hating bishop. The new accuser says that, as a teen-ager, he exchanged trips and gifts from the bishop for sex with the bishop.
You can't make this stuff up.
Which is what I love about America.
We have creationists running boards of education, but wonder why our children don't do well in school.
We have hypocrites in the Senate, but wonder why voters don't trust their elected leaders.
And we have child-abusers in the pulpit who preach against the sin of homosexuality, but wonder why organized religion no longer has moral authority.
The good thing is, it's all in your morning paper, delivered to your door step every day.
My advice: invest in good, old-fashioned journalism.
It just may save America yet.

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb