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This is the archive for June 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A reader kindly left this in the comments below a recent post:
I mainly got in touch to share another sad message -- Commissioner Cole held a breakfast this morning ( June 23, 2010 )at the Sea Dog with the Bangor Chamber of Commerce to discuss -- the CONTAINER PORT ON SEARS ISLAND ! Now that the Transportation Bond passed, the State (MDOT) will soon own the rail connection to Mack Point, and I think a new marketing campaign is about to begin. The pressure's on to turn this part of Maine into a major shipping corridor ...questions remain. Will the Army Corps accept their most recent UMBT proposal? How many times are they allowed to rewrite it -- until it passes ? They're just about to re-dredge Searsport Harbor -- are they going to use that as part of their campaign ? And when all is said and done, will they attract an investor ? Will they talk the State govt. into funding this everlasting 3-port vision? And what the blazes will they be shipping overseas and into the U.S. ? Will we be getting stuff from China that will end up at Marden's ? Liquid Natural Gas ? Will we be sending out wind turbine parts, Blueberry juice and wood products ? The Sears Island port idea isn't over -- someone needs to tell Steve Miller of Islesboro Islands Trust that his article in the Free Press (12/17/2009) which optimistically projected zero marine industry interest, is not the final word. The MDOT is still interested, the Transportation Committee is still interested, and Gov. Baldacci is still involved -- they're painting gold leaf on their rail and port "vision" as we speak. Sears Island is still in danger -- and the MDOT didn't even pay for the breakfast at the Sea Dog !
There was a business story in the BDN today, HERE. Previous posts:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another Counterpunch piece on the clenched fist saga

Notable is its even fuller historical take than the piece I cited Wednesday. Plus, the activities of the conniving Dennis Ross are laid out in detail. But most important is the title,

The Fourth Round of Sanctions on Iran
The End of "Tough Diplomacy"?
...On June 9, 2010?after much delay caused by such unforeseen events as Brazil and Turkey resisting the repetition of the Iraq scenario--the fourth UN sanction resolution against Iran was passed by the Security Council, with Brazil and Turkey voting 'no' and Lebanon abstaining. The passage of the resolution officially ends the 'tough diplomacy' phase of the Obama Administration's Iran policy. So far, the policy has followed closely the script written by Dennis Ross and his associates in the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. If the script is followed all the way through, we should expect the next phases to consist of more severe unilateral sanctions, a naval blockade, and, ultimately, military actions against Iran. The last phase would complete the US-Israeli policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq.
This is the big kahuna. Just like prior to the 1st Gulf War, or the Iraq War, no amount of diplomacy or concession or "confidence building" measure can be accepted. The Bush/Obama program includes an already-written script that says Iran will be neutralized by force.

And why should they think it won't work? The Iraq War is a SUCCESS in this regard. The Israelis have demonstrated in Lebanon & Gaza as the U.S. has in Iraq that extreme aggression is met with but a whimper from the "international community," at least the tiny part of it not either dominated or managed by the U.S.

But still, Iran is the biggest bite yet. China & Russia have gone along because they get what they want out of the deals (missile sales, eg) and the sanctions basically will not affect their dealings with Iran. That whole calculus could change if an aggression is launched by U.S./Israel. We'll guess is before Obama leaves office.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Obama shows his clenched fist to Iran

So the 15-member U.N. Security Council has at U.S. behest approved a fourth round of mild sanctions against Iran to keep on the pressure over nuclear issues. The vote was 12 to 2 with one abstention.

Interestingly, the resolution was opposed by Turkey and Brazil. I had read the news over the last month or so that these two countries and their leaders had brokered a potential solution satisfactory to Iran. Iran would give up substantial capacity to produce nuclear reactor fuel and move a significant amount of existing enriched uranium out of the country. These new sanctions, then, are slaps to the faces of Lula and Erdogan, Brazil's president and Turkey's prime minister respectively.

The importance to the U.S. of continuing tension is made clear by the observed reaction of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when the threat of diplomatic success of the Brazil/Turkey/Iran negotiations emerged.

I was not made aware of just how extreme this reaction was until I read the entire story as told in an excellent piece by Esam Al-Amin posted on Counterpunch June 9. Obama stabbed his Brazilian and Turkish allies in the back:

Obama's Doublespeak on Iran
On April 12, 2010, President Barack Obama hosted a forty-seven nation Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. He met with dozens of heads of state making his case for a fourth set of crippling sanctions on Iran because of its intransigence on the nuclear issue. His main argument was the refusal of Iran to accept the proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of transferring the bulk of Iran?s low enriched uranium outside the country in exchange for medical nuclear isotopes.

The following day Obama met with President Luiz Lula Da Silva of Brazil and Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan of Turkey ... Obama not only encouraged them to pursue a diplomatic breakthrough, but he also vowed to be constructive and flexible, as well as promising to send them in writing the parameters of any deal deemed acceptable to the US. ...
The piece goes on to describe the conditions Obama laid out in an April letter, conditions the Iranians apparently were ready to accept. However,
On May 17, an agreement based on the American and IAEA proposals was signed by the foreign ministers of all three countries. A week later Iran submitted an official letter to the IAEA acknowledging the pact and stating its intention to transfer its LEU to Turkey within one month once the plan was accepted.

To the complete surprise of Brazil and Turkey, the White House and the State Department dismissed the deal out of hand within 24 hours, rejecting the same principles outlined in Obama?s letter. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even called it ?a ploy? before a hearing in the Senate?s Committee on Foreign Relations on May 18, declaring that a sanctions resolution against Iran in the Security Council is imminent.
Secretary Clinton now has her sanctions, the fist firmly is clenched, and Obama has revealed himself to be a backstabber. Evidently the U.S. leaders did not believe the Iranians actually would go for the quite rigid deal. So it was necessary to revoke it against the threat of success.

Evidently the U.S. prefers to coddle the one real nuclear power in the Mideast -- Israel -- while playing a game of threats, sanctions, and false diplomacy. How much stock should we put in Obama's now oft-repeated desire to rid the world of nuclear weapons when he won't stand behind his own diplomatic positions?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Let me start by saying I've always been skeptical of last year's tax reform bill (LD 1495). With a repeal referendum a day away, it's time for a solid decision on it. My decision is to vote Yes to repeal.

This is difficult because I am making common cause with some loopy Republican wingnuts while many progressive Democrats and decent social change groups I've supported in the past are on the other side. Below the fold I have included the full text of two of the emails on this issue I've received in the last few days. One is letter-headed "Engage Maine" and the other is from Maine State Senate Majority Leader Phil Bartlett. I'm not going to take these items apart point-by-point. I'll just discusses why I feel these emails lack the full story of what's going on here.

The reason I disagree with the No vote urged by these emails is that LD 1495 violates what should be a solid-rock Democratic principle: It issues the highest-income taxpayers a large rate reduction while giving the rest of us, through elimination of progressive rates in favor of a flat rate higher than the effective rate most of us now pay, ameliorated by a new complex credit, what in the short term amounts nearly to a wash, and what could in very few years become something of a tax increase.

Built into the new law are clearly regressive sales taxes. Previously-untaxed categories of services that can cost lower-income people higher percentages of their income, like car repairs, would be taxed. A few expensive trips to the mechanic (like the $2500 of attention the Subaru we once had needed a few years ago) easily could wipe out the meager income tax savings offered to lower-income taxpayers like us.

Rhetoric saying "income taxes will drop for over 95% of Mainers" may be well true in a surface fashion in the near term. But this is a shallow statement. Even a slight amount of analysis of figures supplied by Maine Revenue reveals that the biggest winners in tax reform will be the richest Maine taxpayers. The initial "drop" for most of us would be razor-thin while inflation indexing is reduced leading potentially to higher taxes in the future.

Careful analysis on this was done by Portland-area accountant (and long-time Democrat) Albert A. DiMillo, Jr. The best critiques of the "95%" rhetoric are found HERE, at a site called called Maine Democrats For Fair Tax Reform.

DiMillo has sparked some heated controversy. Sometimes I don't like the way he argues. But at Maine Democrats For Fair Tax Reform I've found THIS DOCUMENT very helpful because it is a direct critique of many shallow talking points. And it illustrates the upper-income bonanza that ought to remind us of the Bush years instead of celebrate the wondrous progressive thing we've done.
Albert A. DiMillo, Jr.: The MRS report for year 2013, estimates that a group of 4,638 taxpayers with income over $350,810 will get a net income and sales tax cut of $34.8 million. The other 99.3% of Mainers will have a net income and sales tax increase of $3.5 million.
So it's hardly a "fairer tax base" that's being created here, as the letters below would have you believe. Even worse, Senator Bartlett falls into a trap set by years of Republican media talking points: that the rich deserve to get a big amount of money in tax cuts because they pay more, "Higher income people do receive more money back, because they pay more in taxes;"

Well of course they pay more in taxes! They have more of the money. This is not the point. The real question is what rate do they pay? The bedrock Democratic principle ought to be that those who accumulate money well beyond the marginal incomes the rest of us earn ought to pay significantly higher percentages of that income. Now, I'm not in favor of unreasonably high rates on the rich. But they should be charged what they can can afford to pay. Just like the rest of us. Sadly, Senator Bartlett and Engage Maine, et. al. have shown their willingness to back away from this principle. I will not.

Below I have included the full text of these messages, along with basic provisions of the law from Maine Revenue. I won't bother to refute points myself. Read DiMillo for that. Readers can look at these facts and arguments and judge for themselves.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Fucking BP fucking failed fucking proper fucking booming:

This about says it all:
It is not bright bright orange or yellow so you can see it, dear fledgling boomer, but so Governors, Senators, Presidents and The Media can see it.