President Obama’s recent decision to move forward with three proposed free trade agreements negotiated by President Bush represents a disappointing reversal of promises he made during the 2008 presidential campaign.

NAFTA-style free trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia threaten to continue the devastation of our manufacturing sector here in Maine and throughout the United States.

All three proposed trade deals undermine our democracy by favoring investor rights over the public interest, allowing foreign corporations to bypass our domestic court system by filing claims in international tribunals.

Corporations can challenge local laws impacting human rights, worker rights and environmental protections if those laws affect their ability to maximize profits at any cost.

The Korea Free Trade Agreement will have a devastating effect on our economy, with even U.S. government studies showing it will increase the trade deficit and lead to a net loss of U.S. jobs. Meanwhile, Panama remains one of the world’s worst tax havens and allows corporations and individuals to dodge their obligations back here in our country.

But it may be that President Obama’s decision to move forward with the Colombia Free Trade Agreement is the most troubling. Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for workers with 51 trade unionists killed last year alone. That’s more than the rest of the world combined.

Although the Obama administration has negotiated an action plan with Colombia that contains some good ideas, it doesn’t require an end to the actual murders or prosecution of past perpetrators.

While Rep. Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud have already expressed their opposition, we need Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to take a strong stand now against these terrible trade deals. More NAFTA-style free trade is something that we just can’t afford.

Matthew Beck

South Portland

She’s making a Liszt, and she’s checking it twice

I am wondering why Christopher Hyde felt compelled to review the composer rather than the pianist when he wrote of Anastasia Antonacos’ Franz Liszt concert of May 6.

I did not hear the concert but write only in response to the review. If the pianist had improvised through a memory slip in the Beethoven Hammerklavier, would the fault lie with Beethoven? If she had been unable to transcend the virtuosity of a Chopin Sonata sensitive to the equal technical demands of expressing the quiet and sublime, would he say she should have played Prokofiev?

This bicentennial year of Liszt’s birth continues to be filled with celebrations of Liszt’s music and his legacy, including his extraordinary impact on the next generation of pianists and composers. A more informed audience, increasingly aware of the complexity of Liszt’s compositional technique, his mastery of transcription and innovative harmonic language, will hopefully assess the composer (and the performer) based on more than his virtuosity.

It is disappointing to hear a reviewer take such an outdated and narrow approach to a Liszt concert. I would encourage your readers to attend some of the other upcoming bicentennial celebrations, read current literature about Liszt and enjoy one of the most influential and idealistic composers of the 19th century.

Tish Anne Kilgore

President, American Liszt Society Boston/Northern New England Chapter

Groton, Mass.

Diamond Cove resident upset city won’t pay assessments

I am writing to express my extreme frustration with the city of Portland regarding the events below.

1. The city of Portland approved the development of “Diamond Cove” on Great Diamond Island (an island military base fallen into neglect), with a requirement that residents would pay privately for services like road maintenance, snow removal and garbage pickup.

2. In the mid-1990s, residents of Great Diamond Island attempted (along with Little Diamond and Cushing residents) to secede from the city. Portland officials overwhelmingly voted down those efforts.

As The Press Herald reported on March 2, 1994, “It was a huge victory for the city. The House action all but kills the secession bids of Great Diamond, Little Diamond and Cushing islands The city stood to lose $32 million in taxable property that generates $800,000 a year in taxes. The city spends about $200,000 a year to provide services.”

3. About six or seven years ago, Portland acquired — through tax lien foreclosure — two large buildings in Diamond Cove. The owners of record refused to pay assessments for the 24 units in the buildings (claiming they had not “taken possession”), so liens were placed.

The city sent out a call for developers to submit proposals for the buildings. Although the private association “approved” development of one of the buildings into a “Hotelminium” (with the city voting 24 times, and conveniently approving all zoning changes and permits), the vote was recently overturned by the courts. The city remains in possession of the buildings, with past due assessments now at about $1 million.

4) “Nicole Clegg, a spokeswoman for Portland, said the city believes it shouldn’t owe any dues (assessments) because it doesn’t benefit from the things dues support, such as maintenance. …” (May 4, Portland Press Herald).

You just can’t make this stuff up — no one would believe it!

Holly Fitch

Diamond Cove, Great Diamond Island

Portland

Snowe, Collins should back higher taxes to fix deficit

Here are two observations and one question for our reputedly moderate senators.

All economists worth their salt, and the recent debt commission, tell us that solving our deficit and debt problems will require both higher taxes and reduced spending.

The budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and touted by Republican Party leaders as the only basis for negotiating a solution outlines massive spending cuts and explicitly rules out any tax increases.

So if Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are the moderate Republicans they’d like us Mainers to believe they are, why haven’t they publicly repudiated the “spending cuts only” solution offered by their party and spoken the plain truth that both spending cuts and tax increases will be required to solve the problem?

Mark Love

Portland