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Posts published in “Day: April 22, 2007”

John O’Brien, and WA Legislature, adjourn

John L. O'Brien
John L. O'Brien

The Washington Legislature is adjourning today, on schedule. That will be a subject of discussion, but for many in Washington politics, it will be secondary: John L. O'Brien, who entered that body in 1939 and left it in 1993, died today in Seattle.

We never met O'Brien, but sometimes felt as if we had. We've spent a fair amount of time in the O'Brien Building, across the way from the Statehouse, where House legislative offices and meeting rooms are located. And one of the first books we read on Washington government was the useful Speaker of the House: The Political Career and Times of John L. O'Brien, by Daniel Jack Chasan.

O'Brien's fingerprints are all over Washington government and policy. Inevitably: He was House speaker for four terms, and served in the legislature longer than anyone else in Washington history (and, for a time, held that record nationally, too).

More commentary available at the David Postman blog.

Illicit and contraband . . . cigarettes

cigarettesThe excellent recent book Illicit by Moises Naim offers a startling overview of a big piece of the global economy little noticed (because it deliberately keeps its head down) - the trade in illegal, contraband or counterfeit goods and services. The longtime editor of Foreign Policy magazine at one point offers this description:

"Since the early 1990s, global illicit trade has embarked on a great mutation. It is the same mutation as that of international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda or Islamic Jihad - or for that matter, of activists for the global good like the environmental movement or the World Social Forum. All have moved away from fixed hierarchies and toward decentralized networks; away from controlling leaders and toward multiple, losely-linked, dispersed agents and cells; away from rigid lines of control and toward constantly shifting transactions as opportunities dictate."

A point to bear in mind, reviewing the announcement last week of a settlement in the great Northwest cigarette smuggling case, now, evidently, mostly settled in advance of trial.

It was a large case, brought in 2003 and worked steadily since in the old-fashioned way, getting participants to roll over on others. If you think cigarettes are a minor deal as crime goes, ask yourself how many crimes would cost taxpayers (in this case in Washington state) as much as $56 million in tax revenue, which federal officials estimate was the case here.

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