Sunday, March 9, 2014
Gov. John Baldacci ended his term in office with an act of courage and compassion by pardoning Touch Rin Svay.
Touch Rin Svay, seen at his 2004 pardon hearing, could have been deported to Cambodia if Gov. John Baldacci had not acted.
Press Herald file
Svay was born in a Thai refugee camp and came to the U.S. as a child. After attending Portland schools, he served his adopted country by enlisting in the Marines. But through a bad stroke of fate, he never became a U.S. citizen, though he was eligible to do so.
As a 21-year-old, Svay made a terrible mistake. He drove while drunk, crashed a car and killed his sister. He served a jail term, put his life back together and began earning money to help support her children. He has contributed in other ways to his family and his community.
But because of the severity of his crime and the inflexibility of U.S. immigration laws, Svay faced deportation to Cambodia, a country where he had never lived. His mother faced the prospect of losing her only son. The only hope for avoiding that fate was a gubernatorial pardon.
Thank you, Gov. Baldacci, for granting the pardon on your final day in office. You have given Svay the chance to repay his debt to his family by continuing to help his sister's children. You have saved a mother from the heartbreak of losing two children.
It would have been easy to avoid controversy by denying the pardon. But you had the courage to act in a way that reflects the best of Maine values.
Health care wrong target for Congress to attack
It appears that the incoming Republican Congress really does have a clear priority of repealing health care reform.
They explain that this is the American people's wish and they intend to deliver. As a small business owner, I strongly feel that the intent of this reform must survive. After years of having no option to getting gouged by insurance companies on a yearly basis, I hope that the Republican version of health care reform further insulates the average American from the vagaries of insurance and health care provider collusion, but perhaps I expect too much.
I would like to suggest another worthy target for politicians in these "challenging economic times." I would like them to debate the Goldman Sachs/Facebook deal that has been in the news.
The geniuses at Goldman have gathered 500 or so multimillionaires to invest in non-public Facebook to the tune of $1.5 billion and decided to call the investor group a "company." With tax break money, the wealthy can invest before Facebook goes public and reap a windfall later, not to mention Goldman gets a hefty fee.
Legal or not, this sort of wealth club seems a bit shady and might attract some attention, or be opened up to people of less means. I'm sure our Republican Congress will shed the light of fairness upon this scenario as soon as they are done turning out the uninsured and protecting the insurance industry from our pre-existing conditions.
Government should be big enough to protect people
There is a notable groundswell in favor of radically downsizing both state and federal government, one that seems to me to be fueled more by emotion than by reason.
It raises the question of how "big" government should be, and that is a difficult question to address rationally. In a way, it is addressed in the Code of Hammurabi when it says that one of the primary purposes of his kingship was "that the strong should not oppress the weak." This suggests that the greater the gap between the strong and the weak, the greater the need for strong government.
Deregulation would work like a charm if all businesses lived by the high ethical standards of the best of them. They obviously don't, and what is needed is not so much education as commitment. How many potential whistle-blowers have remained silent, and why? Why, if their superiors actually believed that their policies were beyond reproach?
Whether or not power corrupts, certainly corruption gravitates toward power. Willie Sutton is credited (wrongly, it seems) with saying that the reason he robbed banks was because that was where the money was. Face facts: Money attracts crooks, and if the financial and political power of the ethically challenged is not to keep growing exponentially, government has to be big enough, strong enough, and ethical enough to keep it in check.
George F. Dole
Housing editorial did not capture the right trend
The Jan. 3 editorial "House prices go 'soft'" flies in the face of facts. S&P's survey of 20 major markets shows a 1.3 percent drop (October's numbers, "the most recent available," according to the editorial), but the National Association of Realtors' figures show a 1.2 percent increase in November (yes, that's more recent than October).
However, Maine's statistics were even better; home prices here went up 3.66 percent in November, and 2.42 percent for the 9/1-11/30 quarter (MAR statistics). The woes of some specific urban areas (Las Vegas, for instance) that have dramatic overbuilding and speculation skew the numbers for a large part of the country.
For USA Today, ambiguous national numbers may make good press; I expect better from the largest paper in Maine. Bizarrely enough, later in the editorial you state that, with prices dropping, "fewer people will buy their first one." Low prices and low interest rates mean about as good news for first-time buyers as could be hoped.
Your readers look to you for advice, and deserve to have you do better research, particularly on local conditions, before you state an opinion.