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This is the archive for October 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm proud of him:


Maine governor on Rachel Maddow Thursday 10-29-09

He signed the bill, LD 1020, in May. Now he actively endorses rejection of the repeal above and beyond what he'd really have to do. Thank you, Governor Baldacci.

Gerald has more at Dirigo Blue.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Minnesota wind turbines
Near Holland, Minnesota on Saturday October 24

Holland would seem to be an appropriate name for this place that I drove through early Saturday. Except the sea there is a sea of prairie.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New poll has the Question 1 contest a dead heat, 48-48


Jesse Connolly of Protect Maine Equality (the No on 1 campaign) appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show yesterday evening.


Gerald at Dirigo Blue has been all over the school canard fueling the anti-marriage-equality campaign, for example in the previous post (much more HERE). Jesse Connolly dissects that type of fear mongering from proponents of Question 1 in the interview with Rachel Maddow.

Meanwhile, a new release from Public Policy Polling says that in a survey of 1,130 likely voters from October 16th to 19th,
48% say they will vote to over turn the law while 48% say they will vote to keep it with only 4% of the electorate still undecided.
The survey's margin of error is +/-2.9%.

Yikes! This is a much closer result than a Pan Atlantic poll released last week showing a 51-42 lead for No on 1. Nate Silver has a rundown on these and two other Question 1 polls HERE. The polls are "somewhat contradictory." What matters, then, according to Nate Silver, is who actually turns out to vote.

Silver writes, " if you had a 2008-type turnout, the marriage ban would fail." But, "there's not going to be a 2008-type turnout."

So it all rests on who gets their supporters to the voting booth on November 3. Silver continues with a deep analysis of the PPP age demographics, which he characterizes as perhaps "on the pessimistic side." So No on 1 may still have a slight lead. But the contest can fairly be called a toss-up.

Update: Did I really have "opposition to" Question 1 doing the fear mongering? Oy. Confusion. I fixed that above.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cross posted at Dirigo Blue
The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff. -- Ambrose Bierce
In a way, one has to feel for Marc Mutty. He is the chairman for Stand for Marriage Maine (S4MM), the group opposed to same-sex marriage, but only because, as he explained to the WaPo:
he agreed to lead the opposition campaign "because my boss told me to."
His boss is Bishop Richard Malone, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland (Maine).

S4MM hired Schubert/Flynn, the PR firm that was behind the success of Prop 8 in California in 2008, to head the campaign here, and they have used the same tactics - in some cases the exact same ads - as they did out West.

Except that this time supporters of equal marriage were prepared, and the news media has been pretty good at investigating the egregious behavior of the Yes side.

Which brings us to this report by Josie Huang on Maine Things Considered tonight, controversy rages over Question One's impact on school curricula. Deception has been the order of the day in ads from S4MM, as has been shown in these posts here: 16 Oct; 6 Oct (a); 6 Oct (b); 25 Sep; 23 Sep; 22 Sep. And that deception seems to have taken its toll on Marc Mutty, as Huang's report shows:
Marc Mutty, a spokesman for the Yes on 1/Stand for Marriage Maine campaign, says the other side is missing the point. "We understand that schools will not be mandated to provide one curriculum or another, but neither will they be discouraged or will they be unable to provide the kind of curriculum they could so choose that well could include teaching about same-sex marriage."

Mutty contends that if same-sex marriage is upheld, then it makes sense that teacher would bring up same-sex relationships in the context of a discussion on marriage - which he says is not OK with some parents. "We have never said that schools will be mandated -- or actually perhaps we did in one ad, or certainly led people to believe that inadvertently."
Never? The S4MM campaign has "inadvertently" led people to believe that "schools will be mandated" to teach about "homosexual marriage?" Whatever "teaching homosexual marriage" actually means, it is scary to the target audience of the S4MM ads.

Scary enough that the Yes campaign was willing to lie about it in order to convince them to vote against allowing same-sex marriage.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the construct of lies collapsed - I just thought it would happen after the election, not two weeks before it.
Cross posted at Dirigo Blue

TABOR, or the Tax Payer Bill of Rights, is an attempt to limit the tax and spending authority of the State government. Mainers will be asked to adopt TABOR in the upcoming election, 3 November. It is Question 4 on the ballot.

TABOR would limit any increase in spending or taxation (not requiring a special plebiscite) to an "inflation adjustment factor" combined with a "population adjustment index." The "inflation adjustment factor" is defined as:
3. Inflation adjustment factor. "Inflation adjustment factor" means the increase in the Consumer Price Index for the most recently available calendar year as calculated by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The inflation adjustment factor may not be less than zero.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) uses a variety of goods and services to determine the increase (or decrease) in the cost of living for an average American household. It covers eight basic areas:
* FOOD AND BEVERAGES (breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, full service meals, snacks)
* HOUSING (rent of primary residence, owners' equivalent rent, fuel oil, bedroom furniture)
* APPAREL (men's shirts and sweaters, women's dresses, jewelry)
* TRANSPORTATION (new vehicles, airline fares, gasoline, motor vehicle insurance)
* MEDICAL CARE (prescription drugs and medical supplies, physicians' services, eyeglasses and eye care, hospital services)
* RECREATION (televisions, toys, pets and pet products, sports equipment, admissions);
* EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION (college tuition, postage, telephone services, computer software and accessories);
* OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES (tobacco and smoking products, haircuts and other personal services, funeral expenses).
Glancing over the list, it's easy to see the categories which do not apply, or do so only in a very small way, to our State government. In fact, the much of the State's budget is composed of items that the average household does not pay for: teachers' salaries and contributions to local public schools, road construction and maintenance, State troopers, environmental monitoring, social services, etc.

Much of the State budget is composed of very expensive goods and services, and this makes sense - we as a people, unable to afford to provide these individually, have combined a small portion of our collective money (through taxes) to provide for these goods and services.

A Government Price Index , compared to the CPI, would look considerably different, since the normal costs to government are considerably higher than the normal costs to the average household.

And this is the problem with TABOR, one which the citizens of Colorado discovered several years into it. When first enacted as part of that state's constitution, people were moving to Colorado in droves, and so the allowable increases were able to keep pace.

TABOR does not allow for a decrease, based upon deflation or a net loss in population.

And it could be worse - should the CPI or population decrease, so spending would have to be reduced.

TABOR is conceived to, in the words of Grover Norquist, "...to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Many of those that support it do not share this ideology, but just want their taxes reduced, not having realized the breadth of government services the take for granted.

It is an idea that has had a chance to prove its efficacy, and it has failed. TABOR needs to killed and buried, before it does the same to our state.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I've written extensively a few years ago on the effect on occupied people of an invader that feels impunity in bombing, killing, and breaking down doors. I'll repost below something I put up almost six years ago about Iraq.

It shouldn't be so hard, then, to understand what motivates Afghan Taliban forces. Greenwald today discusses HERE some realization from David Rhodes reporting from Afghanistan in the New York Times.

I'm noting here that I've been remiss on the No on 1 campaign. Briefly, a vote of NO on 1 means you are IN FAVOR of marriage equality in Maine. Officially, Question 1 on the November 3 ballot would repeal LD 1020, the law that would allow same-sex marriage that was signed by Governor Baldacci last May.

I note today that both the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News have endorsed No on 1.

Meanwhile a poll shows the good guys (NO on 1) are winning.

But it's like Gerald at Dirigo Blue says, "There is still [two] weeks to go, and while these numbers are great news, it is important to keep the foot on the gas all the way until 3 November."

The No on 1 media campaign is vastly superior to the other. It's why we're winning. These guys are doing a GREAT job:

NO on 1, Protect Maine Equality

Please go there and hit the "Donate" button early and often.

Please keep up with the news through the extensive postings [this link is the rss feed] at Dirigo Blue (and if I can get Gerald to cross-post here).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A story about the woes of the gigantic particle smasher experiment in Europe is causing much agitation in physics departments everywhere:

The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate

By DENNIS OVERBYE | Published: Oct. 12, 2009
More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world?s biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. ...

A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather. [emphasis added]
I don't actually put much stock in this. But me no know particles. Well, I do know the difference between boson and fermion, sort of. Still, it is something to be excited about in the halls of physics.

Oh, I know where I saw a story about someone or some thing from the future coming back and trying to prevent creation of the Higgs particle before it destroys the universe. It was an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where the Enterprise repeatedly blows up until they can find Kelsey Grammer. I think they found him when Data transmitted the number "3" backwards in time. Maybe in that case the Higgs particle was the carrier of interaction. Tell them at CERN!! Something to try!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Historic legislation to expand U.S. health care and control costs won its first Republican supporter Tuesday and cleared a key Senate hurdle, a double-barreled triumph that propelled President Barack Obama?s signature issue toward votes this fall in both houses of Congress.

"When history calls, history calls," said Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, whose declaration of support ended weeks of suspense and provided the only drama of a 14-9 vote in the Senate Finance Committee. ...
That's the front page of the Bangor Daily News today.

If you read down a ways, you'll find some discussion about what is actually in the damn bill, all couched in the politics.

The devil is in those details: no public option, the deal was "quietly sweetened in recent days for the benefit of hospitals, medical device makers and others to put them on an even plane with doctors," new taxes, individual but no employer mandate.

Snowe clearly is on the wrong side of health care reform. A couple of weeks ago she saw to the defeat of an amendment that would have provided the proposed insurance exchanges with more bargaining power,
Jane Hamsher: Snowe almost singlehandedly made the exchange worthless.
This is the foreseeable result of decades of Snowe being allowed to strike a "moderate" pose before the public and the state's media while operating behind the scenes in service of a well-heeled corporate constituency.

Related posts:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Foliage beginning to peak

Bald Pate, Bridgton, Maine: 7-exp HDR
This is a NW view from an open ridge at the Bald Pate Preserve in Bridgton, Maine. Click for a bigger image.

The feature peaking up in the center of the frame behind the foreground hills is Pleasant Mountain in Denmark, about 20 km to the NW. A little more to the west and much further in the background are the White Mountains including Mt Washington and the Presidentials.

This is an HDR image made into a composite from seven separate exposures. A good article on HDR is HERE.

Monday, October 12, 2009

H/T Gerald: Recent appearances by Marcy Kaptur and a Glenn Greenwald column report this most important yet least discussed effect of the economic crisis.

Yep, it's a silent coup. The truth basically is what Naomi Klein said last fall, what Matt Taibbi wrote last spring, and what Marcy Kaptur has been saying all along on the House floor.
Klein: What I argue in the piece is that we actually have it backwards. It's not the banks that have been partially nationalized; it's Treasury that has been partially privatized by the very banks that created the crisis in the first place.
I will add as well a link to this striking post today from Jerome a Paris:

One (or two) years on - they have learnt nothing
October 12, 2009 - The Oil Drum: Europe
Just over one year after it became impossible to deny that the financial crisis that had started in 2006/2007 was a major, systemic event, it is rather depressing to see that nothing has really changed and, to the contrary, if anything has, it is for the worse.

The most striking item, of course, is the continued dominance of politicians by bankers. Banks are universally seen - including by bankers - as being at the heart of the problem, and having created the crisis through reckless behavior and worse. And yet, after having being bailed out at a staggering cost, in a highly asymmetrical way (the losses were socialised, but not the banks), not only have they managed to eliminate the likelihood of any meaningful regulatory change, but more importantly they have managed to maintain the fiction that finance was the reason for earlier prosperity and should thus be protected as a source of future prosperity.
Related earlier posts:
Fall foliage in Western Maine
Bonus fall foliage from Western Maine

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beech-maple forest near Bridgton, Maine:

Fall foliage in Western Maine

Fall foliage in Western Maine

We took a walk today at the Bald Pate preserve in the western foothills of Maine, in the town of Bridgton. The site was saved from the radio tower builders a decade ago by the Loon Echo Land Trust.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org and author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" will be in Orono, Bangor, and Portland November 5-6


David Swanson was arrested Monday (Oct. 5) outside the White House along with sixty other peace activists to begin this week's protest against the Afghan War, now in its 9th year. This clip is his Wednesday interview with Juan Gonzales on Democracy Now!:
JUAN GONZALEZ: But David Swanson, are you disheartened by the fact that so far only twenty-one co-sponsors have signed onto Congresswoman Barbara Lee's bill?

DAVID SWANSON: Well, those are original co-sponsors on day one; this is something that's just begun. I am encouraged that they've put that in and are beginning to whip around it. I'm encouraged that there are a hundred co-sponsors of the bill demanding an exit plan. I'm somewhat encouraged that, when it came down to it, we had thirty members of Congress vote "no" on the money back in June and that the public and the stories in the news have moved the debate much further against this war since June, so that if we had a similar situation, where the Republicans were all voting "no" for some cockamamy reason, we could get the thirty-nine we needed , not the thirty that we held in June. And that's the threat to the President's agenda and to this scheme where the Congress is trying to shift all responsibility for wars to the President, where it does not belong.

The DC protest, October 5

Author and organizer David Swanson will visit Bangor and Orono on Thursday November 5, 2009. Swanson is well known for creation of the website AfterDowningStreet.org following the publication in the U.K. of the revealing contents of the July 2002 Downing Street Memo:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
Here is David Swanson's schedule for November 5. These events are free and open to the public:
  • 12:30 p.m. Talk on "Undoing the Imperial Presidency" Bangor Room, Memorial Union, University of Maine, Orono, Maine
  • 7:00 p.m. Evening talk on "Forming a More Perfect Union: Rights We've Lost and Rights We've Never Had"; Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, 170 Park St, Bangor, ME.

Contact the organizers:

Jamilla El-Shafei
jamillaelshafei at gmail.com

Bruce Gagnon
globalnet at mindspring.com

Michael Howard
Michael_Howard at umit.maine.edu

See HERE for information on the scheduled Portland event. More information about David Swanson is below.

"Shministim means 'twelfth-graders' in Hebrew. Military service is mandatory after high school for young Jewish Israelis. The Shministim are Israeli youth who refuse to serve in the army because it enforces Israel's 40-year occupation of the Palestinians."


Grit TV segment from Oct. 2:
Sometimes revolution ignites when individuals ask themselves one simple question: "Why?" These two Israeli teens, Maya Wind and Netta Mishly, asked themselves "Why terrorism?" "Why hostility?" "Why crisis?". When they discovered the answers, they decided not to perform their mandatory military service. These adloescents are known as the Shministim and are currently on a U.S. tour with the group Jewish Voices for Peace and CodePink and here today, sharing with us why they chose the bold path of defiance through nonviolent activism for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine. For more info, go to: whywerefuse.org.
This is an amazing segment, a great contribution. My appreciation for these young people is enormous. The coercion used to compel compliance in ostensibly democratic yet aggressively militarized states of Israel and the U.S. requires much more exploration.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Maine Senator Olympia Snowe is on the wrong side of health care reform. By seeing to the defeat of an amendment that would have provided the proposed insurance exchanges with more bargaining power,
Snowe almost singlehandedly made the exchange worthless.
Who does she work for?

Related previous posts:
Spineless.
Greenwald: Isn't it so interesting how the phrase "Patriot Act" was the symbol of everything Democrats claimed to find so heinous during the Bush years, but now that there's a Democratic President, Senate and Congress, it's absolutely certain that the Patriot Act will continue, and civil libertarians are reduced to hoping that there may be some tiny modifications to it, and even that's highly unlikely?
And he has more today.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Have we learned from Iraq after all?

These are the answers to Sunday's matching quiz:
1. B; 2. C; 3. D; 4. A

Click HERE to see the background and discussion below.

Now, for a nightmare headline--that is if you are a U.S. or Israeli reactionary who was hoping the "September surprise" enrichment plant "revelations" would leverage a more damaging attack on the Iranian population:

Iran agrees to open up uranium enrichment plant to inspection
Provisional deal offers hope of defusing crisis
Julian Borger in Geneva | guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 October 2009 20.39 BST
Iran agreed in principle today to export much of its stock of enriched uranium for processing and to open its newly-revealed enrichment plant to UN inspections within a fortnight.

The agreements, struck at negotiations in Geneva with six major powers, represented the most significant progress in talks with Tehran in over three years, and offered hope that the nuclear crisis could be defused, at least temporarily.

Western officials cautioned that the preliminary agreements could unravel in negotiations over the details. But if the deals were completed, it would push back the looming threat of further sanctions and possible military action.
Of course this news reads a little different from U.S.-based sources: "Obama: Iran Must Follow Through on Nuke Promises."

Maybe this does make Obama look a bit more rational and able to manage disparate global interests than the Republicans, especially last year's losers, as Rachel Maddow pointed out HERE. Maybe Obama is playing a clever game to defuse the more bloodthirsty elements occupying Washington and Jerusalem.

But somehow I don't think the threat of U.S.-approved violence against the Iranian people is over. It appears the Iranians have played a card the Americans did not expect they would--the agreed to outsource uranium enrichment. This was a proposal floated as early as the 2004 presidential campaign by the Democrats. I've written about this before, back when John Edwards still was a viable candidate:
On the essential aspects of "militarism and oil-driven expansionism," it seems to me quite clear that calls to "negotiate" with Iran ring hollow. Walking a tightrope while recognizing that very few in America, especially in Democratic primaries, are particularly in a mood to jump into a bigger war, Edwards appeared to be conciliatory in a recent interview with Ezra Klein of The American Prospect. The trouble is, there is really no aspect of US imperial policy in the Middle East that possibly could be conceded in a negotiation with Iran, and Edwards failed to offer such.

In that Klein interview, Edwards explains what America would ?give? Iran. They would be allowed to have a nuclear fuel cycle, controlled by Washington. Presumably Iran would be also be allowed to pay its oh-so-?hard? oil $ in exchange for these benefits brought to it by the elite technocratic contracting entities in the multinational Nuclear Suppliers Group. Also, Iran would get economic "help," presumably from a dose of neoliberal medicine. If I were Iranian, that deal would be totally a non-starter.
I may have been proven wrong here. I hope so, if it means that an attack on Iran and the counter measures Iran would almost certainly take do not happen. But unfortunately I'm not quite ready to believe the forces lined up against Iran are going to stand down just yet.