One of Baldacci’s last acts: Morally outstanding

One of now former Maine Governor John Baldacci’s final acts was one I cannot help but admire so much.

In one of his final acts as governor, John Baldacci signed an order Wednesday pardoning a Portland man [Touch Rin Svay] who faced deportation to Cambodia because of a drunken-driving crash that killed his sister [Sary Svay] 10 years ago.

Although he had lived in the United States since he was 4, he faced likely deportation because he was born to Cambodian parents in a refugee camp on the Thai border. He does not speak Cambodian and has no ties to that country.

The sentencing judge said deporting Svay would be “a horrible and unjust resolution.” Svay’s immigration attorney, Beth Stickney, said Svay’s only way to stay in the country was a pardon, a rarely used power the governor has to forgive crimes.

Baldacci said in a prepared statement that he issued the pardon largely because of Sary Svay’s two children and Touch Rin Svay’s role in supporting them.

“He has complied with the terms of his sentence, and has turned his life around,” Baldacci said. “But, in my mind, he continues to have an obligation to his sister’s two children — his niece and nephew — to be involved in their lives and to explain to them his actions. He is actively involved in their lives, and his debt cannot be fully repaid unless he maintains that supporting role.”

The article continues that Svay was due a pardon in 2004, but he admitted to minor transgressions of his parole and that caused a delay (as well as another 5 months in prison). Other than that, however, Svay has been a model citizen since completing his original sentence and subsequent probation violation, holding a steady job and helping to care for his niece and nephew. I greatly admire Gov. Baldacci for his decision. Svay has no connection to Cambodia; deporting him would be nothing short of inhumane. The right call was made today.

(Gov. Baldacci also pardoned a second man who had served a morally trivial but legally significant conviction from 18 years ago. That man, who was not named in the article, faced a similar situation, with all his family ties existing in Maine.)

2010: FTSOS in review, April to June

Here is the second installment of the 2010 FTSOS review. See the first installment here.

April:
Easily the top post of the month (in fact, it is number 5 all time) was the one about the topless march in Farmington. It resulted in a lot of people clicking the Photography tab on FTSOS in search of all the topless women who were marching through the small town of Farmington up here in Maine. Because I guess topless women are rare.

When I set up this blog, I never had the intention of giving a good focus to quacks and charlatans. But I just had to write about the scumbag Lawrence Stowe. The guy was caught on a CBS special stealing from the sick and desperate. He was ought ruining lives and families, laughing all the way to the bank. The guy is easily one of the biggest pieces of shit about whom I have ever read.

There was also the issue of FTSOS commenter Jack Hudson chiding a family member of mine through texts. I made mention of the issue on his blog, but he very quickly edited my comment so as not to reflect his misdeed. As a result – and being someone who hates dishonesty – I had to make a post on FTSOS explaining what had happened. This caused Jack to first deny his actions and then vow never to return to this blog. I later granted the small possibility that he was not guilty, but that did nothing to dampen the hissy-fit. Of course, since the texts came from Minnesota (which is where Jack lives) and since they all referenced a specific Facebook interaction he had with my family member, I had to remain unwilling to retract anything. I stand by that.

May:
The big science news of the month was that Craig Venter created synthetic DNA that worked when put in a cell. It is a phenomenal technical achievement that opens up the door to a whole world of synthetic creations. We can now, at least in theory, go into a computer program, change a few amino acids and come up with new genes and gene products. I suspect this will prove invaluable to cancer research.

About midway through the month I decided to tackle, for the nth time, the idea of objective morality. The truth is, even if theists are right that there is an objective morality, they do not arrive at their conclusions objectively. People are always picking and choosing what they want to believe, how to interpret the things they use for their beliefs, and how those things fit into what they already believe. As I said back in May, even a claim of objective morality is a subjective position.

I also talked about the fact that atheism has never been responsible for an act of evil. Two things arise from this. First, people often go back to that old chestnut, “Ideas don’t hurt people! People hurt people!” Of course, this just ignores the fact that people are composed of ideas. If we are not willing to say that ideas lead to actions, then it is no longer clear that we can even say ideas are good or bad. And what does it even mean to say people – explicitly not ideas – are responsible for actions? If people are not just packages of ideas, then what are they? What does it mean to say “Joe punched Suzy” if we deny that underlying that statement is that Joe had the idea to move his fist towards Suzy? Second, people will point to Stalin, Hitler, etc and say “What about those atheists?” This is silly first because Hitler was an evolution-denying, Christian creationist. The silliness then continues when we look at Stalin (and any other leader who was an atheist) because atheism is not a normative position. Since it is purely descriptive, it does not result in any “ought” or “ought not”; it says nothing of what we should or should not do. Stalin and co never acted out of atheism. It is not logically possible.

June:
The most popular post of the month had to be the one where I told people not to talk to the cops. If the police suspect a person of something, it serves the interests of the police, not the suspect, to get a discussion going. The job of the police is to find out information they can use against people. And even innocent people are at risk. The best way to avoid the whole mess? Don’t talk to the cops. Seriously.

In the race for governor of Maine, we learned that the eventual winner of the election, Republican Paul LePage, is a creationist. He later danced, obfuscated, and dodged the issue. The fact is, the guy is not going to object one bit when some Maine school board thinks it will be a good idea to teach creationism to students.

In skin cancer news, researchers found a certain drug, ipilimumab, which allows the immune system to run free and more effectively fight cancer. Responses to the drug were impressive for those with late stage skin cancers and it is hoped that the treatments can be improved. It was thought the FDA might approve the drug for use this year, but it looks like the decision date is going to be March 26, 2011.

Expect July to September tomorrow.

It seems like everyone is endorsing Eliot Cutler

Every time I open up Facebook or check the local links Yahoo! sends me, it seems I see a new endorsement for Eliot Cutler for governor of Maine. I’m thinking that everyone is feeling the emotion-driven anger at the establishment right now, but unlike redneck conservatives, all these papers are actually putting thought into who they want to lead Maine. Cutler is the clear choice – he has a masterful grasp of all the issues and he offers realistic solutions. (I know, I know, conservatives…a smart guy?! What an elitist!)

Vote for Eliot Cutler.

New poll on race for Maine governor

A new poll is out on the race for Maine governor.

The Maine Poll, conducted for MaineToday Media by Critical Insights, had 30 percent of likely voters supporting Mitchell, compared to LePage at 29 percent. This represents a significant change in a race where LePage has consistently led polls by 12 or more percentage points. In Critical Insights’ last poll, released Sept. 19, LePage had 38 percent voter support and Mitchell had 25 percent.

The 405 registered voters, all of whom said they were likely to vote in November, were surveyed on Monday. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. That means that if the poll were repeated 100 times, in 95 cases the results would be within 4 percentage points of those reported.

Perhaps voters are starting to realize that – aside from his horrible ideas of teaching creationism and giving away college degrees to high school students – Maine probably doesn’t want the Rage of LePage at the helm.

This isn’t California or Florida. Maine prefers rational candidates.

U.S. science and math education ranked 48th

A lot of Americans are hostile towards science. With political parties like the Republicans and Teabaggers, it isn’t any surprise. (Of course, the Republicans are a contributor to the hostility; the Teabaggers are a result.) But at the root of these ugly movements is, naturally, religion. It’s fair to place a lot of the blame on religion because, for starters, it teaches that faith is a virtue. Of course, faith most certainly isn’t a virtue and it has only been made into one by the religious out of necessity, but the idea that it’s good to believe without evidence is ingrained into many American minds via religious rhetoric.

We’ve always been a religious nation, but there were times when we managed to lead in science and math. We can attribute a lot of that to economic superiority or importing scientists from elsewhere or, especially during the Cold War, nationalism. But I think we can also attribute a lot of it to the fact that historically it hasn’t been obvious to a great many people that there is a deep conflict between science and religion. Without people being widely aware that God is not only not evident but also not needed for the Universe and for life, there’s little reason to view science with any great hostility. Unfortunately, while science has been the tool man has used to make the greatest achievements ever seen on Earth, it has also revealed that a lot of people are just plain stubborn. People will favor their long-held beliefs over accepting a conflicting fact from science. (In fact, it’s 64% that will do that in America.) That’s why we have religion to blame for results like these.

Stagnant scientific education imperils U.S. economic leadership, says a report by leading business and science figures.

Released Thursday at a congressional briefing attended by senators and congressmen of both parties, the report updates a 2005 science education report that led to moves to double federal research funding.

Nevertheless, the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” review finds little improvement in U.S. elementary and secondary technical education since then.

“Our nation’s outlook has worsened,” concludes the report panel headed by former Lockheed Martin chief Norman Augustine. The report “paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following”:

•U.S. mathematics and science K-12 education ranks 48th worldwide.

•49% of U.S. adults don’t know how long it takes for the Earth to circle the sun.

•China has replaced the United States as the world’s top high-technology exporter.

One of the most interesting facts in the research, though a bit of an outdated one, is that in 1999, 69% of 5-8th graders received instruction in the physical sciences from teachers lacking a major or certification in any physical science. It makes me wonder how many high school students are also receiving their education from un- or low-qualified teachers. We know they’re out there (which is one reason D.C. fired a bunch of them recently), but I’m not sure on the stats. I think there would be interesting implications for Paul LePage’s plan to give away degrees.

LePage questions health of Mitchell

In a recent campaign event, creationist Paul LePage took a jab at the well-being and vitality of Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell. (That link may or may not be broken at any given time. Try here.)

And though LePage said in an interview on the train that he wants his campaign to stick just to the issues, he wasn’t shy about throwing the crowd a little red meat during the stop in Bath.

“Libby (Mitchell) had her 70th birthday a few weeks ago and I’m concerned about her,” the 61-year-old said with a chuckle. “We should send her home.”

Really? Really?

Here is a picture of Paul LePage.

This guy wants to take jabs at the health of others? He’s got to be kidding.

One of the few things I liked about Dubya was the fact that he was a workout fiend. When his doctors told him he should cut back on his runs because of his knees, he took up biking instead. I had a high respect for Bush’s concern for his personal health.

But LePage clearly does not have that concern. At 61 he ought to be doing everything he can to make the final leg of his life as happy and productive as he can. It’s people with attitude’s like his that make the American health care system one of the most inefficient in the world.

Compare, for a moment, Paul LePage to both Michelle Obama and Mike Huckabee. The former is making significant efforts to reduce childhood obesity by promoting better eating and more exercise. The effectiveness of her message is helped quite a bit by the fact that she is in great shape. Who thinks a fat Michelle Obama could get her message across? It would be like Laura Bush trying to get kids to read more while being illiterate (and subsequently unconcerned). Then there’s Mike Huckabee. When he took office, he was obese. Once his doctors told him he would be dying shortly if he didn’t act right away, he shed over 100lbs pretty quickly. It surely wasn’t easy, but his life mattered more to him than his taste buds. Now he has written a book, participates in marathons, and frequently discusses health issues. He’s a better person for what he did for himself (and his family), and his message is effective because he made an honest effort that yielded honest results.

Next time Paul LePage wants to bad mouth the vitality of someone else, he ought to take a look in the mirror.

More creationist canards

In my post on the continued dishonesty of the LePage campaign I skipped over a few creationist canards from LePage’s creationist supporters. (As he is an ardent creationist, believing it is okay to tell children that dinosaurs and people walked the Earth together, he has many creationist supporters.) Here’s one of the most common from Christopher Bowker. (Scroll down to the question from Matt Ellis – I cannot link directly to the wall post in question.)

I have a BA in Zoology from the Univeristy of Maine. I am also an evangelical christian, believe me when I say you can believe God created the world, and species can evolve from other species, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I say be tolerant of each other, this scientific theory take a bit of assumption or faith, as much as believing the biblical account. Learn as much as you can and make your own judgement. People who believe in the Genesis account aren’t forcing their beliefs on anyone. Keep an open mind!

He starts out okay – people can believe God created the world while also accepting the fact of evolution. Unfortunately, he quickly takes a wrong turn. The two are mutually exclusive as a matter of philosophical compatibility. One is an ancient sheepherder’s myth while the other is established science. Bowker may as well say it isn’t mutually exclusive to believe in gravity while also believing the Earth rests on the backs of turtles.

What is actually true is that plenty of people can believe two distinct, conflicting ideas. Everyone does it. In fact, as with Bowker, Christians who accept any science whatsoever are constantly doing it. But that isn’t an important point in the whole compatibility debate insofar as the question of whether these things are true or not is concerned. I know, I know. Then why do Christians constantly point out all the scientific authorities who manage to hold biblical and scientific beliefs? It’s because they’re bad at argumentation. No, really. It’s that simple.

Yes, people can hold two beliefs. No, this does not mean they are not in conflict. Internal harmonization of the world does not equate to external harmonization.

The dishonesty of the LePage campaign

Paul LePage has been running a pretty shoddy campaign so far. Take his Facebook fan page, for instance. It has this disclaimer.

Paul LePage, Maine’s Next Governor is a fan page.

It was created by volunteer supporters of Paul LePage’s candidacy for Governor of Maine. For that reason, we cannot get into answering policy questions that get posted here.

Therefore, our rule on this page is to NOT respond to policy questions, but rather refer people to Paul LePage’s contact form on his official campaign website.

We do encourage discussion and debate by other fans, but ask that you refrain from vulgarity or other language that could be deemed offensive or demeaning to others. The page admins reserve the right to delete such posts, or posts that are unrelated to the content of this page (SPAM).

Thank you for your understanding on this issue.

Fans of Paul LePage, Maine’s Next Governor

As I’ve documented already, I’ve asked on creationist Paul LePage’s page why he wants to teach creationism in public schools. I originally blame him or his people for deleting my question and preventing me from posting any further. But according to this, these are just some random schmucks running a fan page, right? Oh, hang on.

Want to be a part of the success? Come join our team and help spread the message!

Simply drop us a line at any of the methods below:

* Paul’s campaign Twitter Page.
* Paul’s campaign Facebook Page.
* Call us at (207) 877-7616
* Email paul@lepage2010.com
* US Mail:
Committee To Elect Paul Lepage, Governor
c/o Rick Swanson Treasurer
P.O. Box 1788
Waterville, ME 04903

Guess where that link to “Paul’s campaign Facebook Page” links. Can you guess? That’s right – directly to the page that claims to have no affiliation with the actual campaign. (Here’s a screen shot in case they edit and deny all this.)

This is all just a big excuse to not be held responsible for anything. The LePage campaign wants to run an unofficial fan page so he doesn’t have to actually answer anything. Fortunately, my calls for people to continue asking LePage why he supports creationism has spilled over to Eliot Culter’s page.

Regina Karapetyan: So Mr. Cutler, I was going to vote for Paul LePage… But, I asked a simple question on his facebook page about his beliefs on whether creationism should be taught in public schools… well my post was deleted and I was removed from the fan page. I don’t believe that my question was rude or disrespectful in any way, I simply would have liked to know his view on the subject if the man is to be voted into office. I think the question should have been answered and left on the page but instead was deleted. So Eliot Cutler, what is your view of creationism being taught in public schools?

Regina happened to miss my question to Cutler earlier where he responded that he does not support teaching garbage to children. But something did come from this because an administrator from LePage’s officially unofficial fan page was lurking.

Aaron Prill: Regina that is not true. I am co-admin of Paul LePage’s facebook page and we don’t delete questions, and we definitely don’t remove people from the pag (it’s not even possible on pages). Paul LePage’s vision is a fiscal one for Maine to save our state from generational debt. He will bring fiscal responsibility and welfare reform to a state that needs both. Social issues like the one you mention are not even on the radar.

Lies, lies, and lies. After receiving a thorough shellacking, Aaron Prill eventually apologized.

Regina- let me first apologize for saying you weren’t being truthful. You are right on the ability to Remove people. I didn’t notice the “X” next to people’s names that does allow them to be removed. I am in fact the creator of that page. I said co-admin just so it was clear I wasn’t the only admin. I am following up with the other co-admins now to find out what happened in your case.

Our rule on that page is to NOT respond to policy questions, but rather refer people to Paul LePage’s contact page on his website. This is because that page is a fan supported page created by a supporter (me) back in February, it is not run directly by the campaign… nor is it a place to discuss policy questions.

So, in short, what the admin should have done is explain the above policy to you and refer you to the campaign website. If we got into debates on every issue, then that wouldn’t be a “fan” page now would it? Other fans are allowed to respond to people when they ask questions like yours, but the admins typically don’t.

Again- I’m sorry you (or anyone) was removed, and you are welcome back anytime…

I’ve since sent a private message to Aaron telling him that I was also banned from the page. I really hope he does fix the LePage campaign’s unofficial officially unofficial official error because someone has been answering policy questions over there ever since one of my reader’s asked why LePage supports teaching creationism.

He just thinks knowledge is a good thing, the more knowledge you have, the better off you are. And he has alread said that school curriculum should be decided on the local level, local school boards should be deciding what they want taught in their schools.

Why, Michael, you say, that is but one random fan! Yes, yes, it is. Well, sort of. It’s hard to say she’s random when her name is Lauren LePage. I’ve been unable to confirm any details, but it appears this is Paul LePage’s daughter. And lo, she is answering policy questions without being deleted. Hell, my question was deleted within 4 hours. And that wasn’t even a violation of the officially unofficial official unofficially official fan page policy.

Oh. And Eliot Cutler responds on his fan page routinely. It isn’t a violation to state a candidate’s policy positions – especially when that candidate lists the fan page as his own.

Thanks to Dave for much of the information here.

Kevin Scott responds

I’ve received direct responses from three candidates for governor for Maine regarding my question about their position on teaching creationist garbage. Eliot Cutler and Shawn Moody do not want it taught. Now Kevin Scott weighs in.

Hello Michael, creationism as science is not acceptable for teaching in public schools for a number of reasons – certainly not as an element of the curriculum. K-12 should teach tolerance and world cultural views but a “religious” doctrine of any kind is not acceptable in our K-12 public school system.

I firmly believe religious and moral values are derived from family, not public school. In my view schools are for academic pursuits and the home & church is for social value development.

We need to elect a Governor who will work to make society, jobs, policies, etc… that will empower families and add value to individual efforts to raise and grow a family.

He posted this post on his Facebook page as well as in a private inbox message to me. Another good answer.

I’ve also received an indirect response from that poverty-loving, equality-hating, ignorant bigot Paul LePage: he deleted my question and prevented me from asking it again on his page. Fortunately, I have a blog with nearly 150,000 hits. That isn’t me bragging, like LePage. It’s me pointing out that I might be able to encourage some of my readers to head over to LePage’s Facebook page and ask him to clarify his position. He has recently said he supports teaching creationism, but he never said why. The answer is presumably that either 1) hates science or 2) is ignorant. But he needs to give the answer. So go ask him.

I’ve also reiterated the question to Libby Mitchell. She’s a smart lady so I can just about guarantee that she rejects the teaching of creationism, but it wouldn’t hurt to try and prompt a response from her as well.

Shawn Moody responds

I’ve been asking the candidates for Maine governor their positions on the teaching of creationism in public schools. Paul LePage, Republican, deleted the question, presumably out of understandable embarrassment for his previously stated support for teaching children that people and dinosaurs walked the Earth together. Eliot Cutler expressed his support for evolution, calling it fundamental to the understanding of the world. Now Shawn Moody has responded.

Michael,
I don’t believe teaching creationism in public schools is appropriate. In the history of the World, many military conflicts centered around religious intolerance. Our Freedom of Religion is one founding principle that makes America the greatest nation in the world. I do believe in the separation of Church and State.
There is a time and a place…….. Thanks Shawn

Sort of a hodgepodge of points, but that’s pretty standard for most politicians answering this sort of question. But good. I’m still waiting on Libby Mitchell and Kevin Scott to respond, but it seems as though the only anti-science candidate so far is Paul LePage.

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