Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Exploring the depths of viciousness

David Goldstein (Goldy) of HorsesAss.org just recently posted this:
This morning I received a phone call from Detective Melinda Wilson

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, of the Seattle Police Department’s Internet Crimes unit, investigating allegations that I have repeatedly made “online requests” to “engage in sex with minors.” Apparently, one or two individuals have anonymously made three separate complaints to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) CyberTipline.

I cannot tell you how deeply disappointed I was to receive that call.
This is beyond a doubt, one of the most outrageously vile and despicable acts I have ever heard of.

What kind of people care so little for "moral values"? Apparently, the same people who are continually trying to preach to us about moral values.

Anyone who condones this kind of thing is giving their blessing to the heartless criminals who are so frustrated that they can't express themselves in words that they have resorted to...this.

Here's a nice clip of Goldy's reaction:

There are few crimes more heinous or despicable than molesting children. But it is not the false accusation that offends me most, but rather, that precious resources have been diverted from investigating real crimes against real children… all so that my anonymous accusers could enjoy some sort of petty, political retribution against me for having the gall to speak my mind. In their mad rush to crush dissent, these conscienceless, cowardly brownshirts were even willing to exploit the exploitation of children, making themselves accomplices to the worst sorts of sexual predators.
There are apparently people out there who are so against freedom of speech that they will do anything to stir up trouble for speaking out...whether it be death threats, property damage, or making false accusations about one of the worst crimes imaginable.

The right should speak out to make it clear that they oppose these kind of tactics. Silence from them would be almost paramount to tacit approval of this kind of viciousness.

Have these people no sense of decency?

Bush Backing the Wrong Side on Abortion Bill

Progressive Opinion: Personal Viewpoint

President Bush is backing a bill that could carry up to $100,000 in fines and/or a year in prison for physicians and other adults who help under 18 patients avoid parental notification requirements for abortions by getting them across state lines.
Opponents call it "the grandmother incarceration act" for the penalties that could be imposed on non-parents who travel with young adults to end a pregnancy.

But conservative groups say the measure is a way to ensure that the will of state legislatures is carried out, because it is now possible for a young woman to travel from one state to another with less restrictive laws to avoid having to tell a parent she plans to have an abortion.
As of now, the bill has yet to pass the senate, which it failed to do in 1998 and 2002.

By now, the fundies have really gone too far in their attempts to push the "pro life" agenda into Congress. Do not get me wrong - I do believe that an abortion does involve the taking of a human life and while it should not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to preventing an unwanted pregnancy, it sometimes must happen.

This bill, however, will not solve any problems at all. Instead, it should take us just one step closer to the time when abortion is illegal.

Then we can go back to the "good old days" when abortion was performed in a back alley with a coat hanger, which presents real dangers to the mother.

Bill Could be a Public health Risk
Not only is this bill just another dishonest attempt by conservatives to make abortion illegal, it degrades young women to the point where they legally have no control over their own bodies. Therefore, this bill also takes us back in time to a point where women were considered property of their husbands, which is a mockery to any civilized society.

This bill in itself is a risk to those it applies to, because the only way for it to be bypassed legally is if the life of a young woman is in danger. Of course it makes no room for tragedies like rape because we all have to assume it is all the fault of the 12-year-old that she ended up with an unwanted pregnancy.

I will not accept crap like that for an answer because such assumptions and this bill are stains upon society as a whole and do not act in the interest of young women.

All who wish to defend the right for all women to control their lives and what they wish to do with their bodies should act to block passage of this bill and any other bills that bear a relationship to it.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Rossi says no to Senate bid

From the King County Journal:
Dino Rossi on Wednesday said he will not run for the U.S. Senate, citing his desire to have an impact on the political culture of Washington state and the impact that serving in the other Washington would have on his young family.
Rossi has said this previously. Besides the fact that a race for U.S. Senate would be entirely different than a gubernatorial race, Rossi has cited family concerns that are his primary reason for not running against Cantwell:
"I have four small children and I'm not sure how I'd make it work with the family without upheaval and difficulty for the kids. So, that really is not my focus," Rossi told the Journal during an interview at his campaign headquarters in downtown Bellevue.

"My focus is running for governor and being governor of the state of Washington and turning the state around. So I'm not running for the U.S. Senate. I'm running for governor."
Of course, as state GOPolitburo chair Chris Vance noted:
"There are people and organizations who will want to change his mind," Vance said. "The senate campaign committee will try to persuade him otherwise."

"I don't think this will be the start of serious campaigning for the U.S. Senate until the court situation in Wenatchee becomes clear."
It remains to be seen whether Rossi will change his mind - but it doesn't look like it. Cantwell's challenger is likely to be either Rick White (who ousted Cantwell as 1st District representative in 1994) or Michael McGavick, the current Safeco CEO.

HB 1515 makes The Daily Show

The story around Microsoft's lack of support for HB 1515 continues to crop up in new and interesting places. Tuesday night, it made The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart mentioned the bill and Microsoft in the second segment of his show.

The company would be wise to again throw its support behind HB 1515 when it comes back next year as a sign that it does support gay rights.

It should ignore Ken Hutcherson, who is like a tiny version of James Dobson and Tony Perkins. You can't give these people what they want or their power and clout will only increase. If evangelicals want to start a boycott of Microsoft, they can go right ahead. They're not even going to be able to dent Microsoft's sales.

Let them change all the computers in their offices to Apple operating systems, Unix, or Linux. It's only going to cost them time and money and it means they'll have less resources to oppress gays and lesbians with.

Coincidentally, a story also came out about Microsoft's ties to Ralph Reed a couple days ago. Reed is a leading figure in the religious right movement that staunchly opposes gay rights.
Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said the company has hired Reed on several occasions to provide advice on "trade and competition issues." He said Reed's relationship as a consultant with the software company extends back "several years."
Reed is currently getting paid $20,000 a month from Microsoft.

Reed should be fired immediately. He's a controversial figure and his connection with Microsoft tarnishes the company's image. The company shouldn't be paying someone as a consultant who is so openly and adamantly in favor of discrimination by sexual orientation.

If Microsoft cares about their image, they'll do the right thing and sever all ties with Reed. If they can't or won't do that, it's a troubling indicator that the company doesn't really care about gay rights.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Failure of Privatization

President Bush's two-month road trip to sell his Social Security privatization plan has been a dramatic failure. Rather than unifying the public around his ideas, Americans are far more skeptical of his privatization plans than before and senior members of his own party are raising significant doubts about the proposal.

Speaking at the Senate Finance Committee's first day of hearings on Social Security privatization, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) stated that she didn't want to change "the foundation for our seniors," and Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) expressed concern about the record debt required to finance the president's proposal.

Senators are right to challenge Bush's assumptions: his proposal for private accounts would worsen Social Security's solvency; it requires massive new government debt; and it would force deep cuts in guaranteed benefits.

According to the Center for American Progress:
Privatization requires trillions of dollars in new debt, worsening Social Security's solvency and placing huge burdens on future generations. The hearings on different options to privatize Social Security showcase the underlying irresponsibility of these proposals.

Each plan would require trillions of dollars in transfer from general revenue to Social Security without ever specifying where the money would come from. In the extreme, Social Security's currently shortfall would be doubled.

Privatization means cuts in guaranteed benefits and less wealth for retirees. Any attempt to reign in runaway deficits required to create private accounts under Social Security results in massive benefit cuts.

Each successive generation of retirees would see larger cuts. Even the Congressional Budget Office estimates that workers would be better off under an unchanged Social Security system than under a privatized one.
There are better ways to help Americans achieve a secure retirement. Progressive solutions to retirement security offer much better options for America's seniors. To improve Social Security's solvency, the earnings cap (above which wages are not subject to the Social Security tax) could be raised. Social Security could receive fully funded general revenue transfers.

Massive tax cuts for the wealthy could be repealed and committed to Social Security. To create real wealth, savings options outside of Social Security could be made simpler, with more tax incentives for middle class families, at lower costs, and at reduced risks than is currently the case.

Top Two Primary: Unsound for Washington State

Those of you that live in the Evergreen State probably remember Initiative 872 in last November's election and the "primary fight" that we'd been having for the last year. Opinions on the primary certainly vary.

Most people who consider themselves partisan hated the old blanket primary that we used to have, which was sponsored by the state Grange. That was in fact why the parties sued to get rid of the blanket primary and won (the Grange has never really accepted that the old system was unconstitutional).

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In its place - around this time last year - we eventually adopted an open primary system, which we used in last September's election.

But last November, voters bought the Grange's proposal to adopt a "top two" primary system and approved I-872. NPI is strongly against both this system and the blanket primary. We believe that Washington should return to an open primary system.

In our special report, which is a restoration of the website we created to fight Initiative 872, we explain why, and we give you an update on the primary fight. It's worth a visit.

UPDATE: The News Tribune has an article about the primary system today entitled "Parties will sue over primary". Here's an excerpt:
The state Republican and Democratic parties plan to sue in the coming weeks to overturn the primary election system voters approved overwhelmingly last fall.

The lawsuit, which will be filed in federal court, will mark the latest round in the parties’ battle to shape the state’s primary election system.

Though it likely won’t be resolved before the Sept. 20 primary elections, the lawsuit could have long-term implications on elections in Washington and other states.
Goldy at HorsesAss.org also has a commentary on this news story. However, it seems he confused the terms "blanket primary" and "open primary" in his blog. They're actually completely different:
  1. Blanket primary means a system where you may choose from among all candidates of all parties. So you could skip back and forth the ballot and vote for a Democrat for Governor, Republican for U.S. Senate, and so forth - just like in the general election. This system is what Washington had for decades.
  2. Open primary is different. In an open primary, voters may vote in one primary of a party of their choice - the choice to be made at the voting booth. So you can vote only on the Democratic ballot, or only on the Republican ballot, or only (sometimes) the Libertarian ballot. It's an "open" primary because party registration by voters isn't required. This is what we used last September - the "Montana-style" primary.
You can read more about the primary battle and the different primary systems in our special report.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

No ammo for GOP in Logan deposition

Recently, King County elections chief Dean Logan was deposed by Republican and Democratic attorneys for the May trial where Rossi's election challenge will be decided. The deposition has just becomne public.

David McDonald, the top lawyer for the Democrats, sums up the Logan deposition best:
“If the transcript was available this morning and they didn’t have a press conference this afternoon, my conclusion is they probably didn’t pick up much.”
There isn't any real ammunition in Logan's deposition, or the GOP would be going berserk in a frenzy to spread the news.

Logan is under fire for a lot of things - particularly, his failure to implement recommendations issued last May in an Elections Oversight Committee report.

The problem is that there's only about four months from May until the September primary. Logan simply didn't have enough time:
“We had to consider what changes in polling processes were the most easily achieved in time for a brand-new election in September in a manner that could contemplate the literally thousands of election-board workers being able to absorb and comprehend those changes in time to administer the fall elections."
Not to mention that he didn't have unlimited resources. They did the best job they could in four months. But you can't snap your fingers and get reform. It takes time and resources to change.

Nobody is claiming that the election was completely flawless. But there is a difference between those who acknowledge that no election will ever be perfect and those who seem to think that one or two mistakes should get heads rolling. The former realize reality, the latter are just living in their own little world.

There were problems with King County elections long before Dean Logan arrived. If he was to be fired, he would get snapped up very quickly by other counties who clearly want him.

Then we'd have to go find somebody else, and that would only make it harder for the county elections division to reform. Is that really what the GOP wants?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Building a better website

NPI is all about positive, progressive change – working toward the ultimate goal of building a better region and a better nation.

And change is in the air. We’re always hard at work figuring out how to build you a better website, and today, we’re excited to unveil significant changes to this blog and new useful features at Pacific Northwest Portal.

Let’s start with Pacific Northwest Portal:
  • The Blogs & Websites directory has received a major update. When you have a large directory, you realize sooner or later it needs maintenance as blogs are moved, renamed, or ended. We’ve removed four blogs that have passed out of existence from our directory and edited the URLs for several others that had moved. But we’re also adding fourteen new blogs – seven from Washington and seven from Oregon. This brings our grand total to 106 progressive blogs on Pacific Northwest Portal – a significant milestone.
  • New Highlights Section. The brand new Highlights section showcases the best media and content in the Northwest. Find links to important blog posts, articles, and columns within the last couple of months. Browse the Topic Hotlist to discover what northwest voices are saying on a variety of hot issues. And check out the Blog Feature Awards to see what unique features characterize many progressive blogs in the Pacific Northwest.
  • About Us section updated. We expanded the Portal history section as well as the page-by-page guide to reflect new sections that we hadn’t covered earlier – including the new Highlights section.
  • Knowledge Base update. Viewing problems on Pacific NW Portal? Check the updated Knowledge Base on our feedback page to find help with your problem. If you still can’t fix it, send us a screenshot!
But we’re not just rolling out changes on Pacific Northwest Portal. This blog has also received a significant update. The changes:
  • Expanded Blogroll. Our blogroll has been expanded to include more blogs, drawing from Pacific NW Portal’s lengthy Blogs & Websites directory, which, as you read above, also got a major update.
  • Introducing the Topic Hotlist. The Topic Hotlist is a new and unique tool to read what many progressive bloggers throughout the region are saying on a variety of hot issues. This tool is now on our blog sidebar. As we mentioned earlier, it can also be found in Pacific NW Portal’s new Highlights section.
  • Sidebar Improvements. In Mozilla Firefox, some of the buttons and text on our sidebar had an annoying habit of drifting off of the edge of the screen. This problem has been completely resolved.
  • New Archives Menu. You can now access our archives using a dropdown menu. Just mouse over the month you want to go to and then click. You’ll be transported to our blog archive for that month.
  • Audioblogging. We’ve added a nifty new feature called audioblogging that allows the NPI team to post audio files on the blog from any phone. In the future, look for short audio clips to occasionally be posted on the blog, especially if we’re in Olympia covering the Legislature or a news event.
We feel these changes represent significant progress in our never-ending challenge to build you a better website. Tell us what you think of the changes! Post a comment below or click here to contact us. Your feedback is important to us!

UPDATE: Be sure to visit the diary I've posted on Kos- Netroots in Action - Uniting A Region of Progressive Bloggers!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

House passes gas tax increase

From the AP:
The state House passed an $8.5 billion transportation package today, a day after Republicans derailed it.

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The measure, which includes a 9.5 cent gas tax hike, passed on a 54-43 vote. It was defeated Saturday when leaders could only muster 45 votes, five shy of the bare minimum needed for passage.

A revote was taken today, and applause broke out on the floor after it was approved.

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Good to see that the Legislature is moving us forward on transportation.
Tolls, local taxes and weight fees on cars, light trucks and SUVs also are planned. The full gas tax hike and weight fee would cost motorists between $67 and $172 a year, depending on vehicle size.
The legislation is partly a jab at Tim Eyman. Tim's I-776 killed a lot of transportation funding. Now the legislature is putting some of it back, and Tim's having a cow.

He's already announced a new plan to do another car tab initiative in 2006. Of course, the purpose of such a measure would simply be to gut transportation funding, period. Permanent Defense, of course, will fight this initiative as it has fought every Eyman effort for the last three years.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The disappointing end of HB 1515

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A couple of days ago, the state Senate narrowly approved a procedural move to bring HB 1515 to the floor for a vote - only to see the bill defeated by a 25-24 margin.

The entire Senate Republican caucus (23 senators in all) voted against the bill, joined by two Democrats - Democrat In Name Only Tim Sheldon and Jim Hargrove. Hargrove says he opposed the bill for religious reasons:
“I believe adultery is wrong, I believe sex outside marriage is wrong, I believe homosexuality is wrong. Therefore, I cannot give government protection to this behavior,” Hargrove said.
Jim Hargrove has officially established himself as a complete moron.

It's extremely disappointing that HB 1515 failed. And it's not likely to pass next year, either, for the exact same reason - 25 senators will vote it down again.

If more Democrats can be elected to the state Senate in November 2006, the bill might have a chance in the 2007 legislative session. It's either that or some senators are going to have to be persuaded to change their votes next year.

The message to gays and lesbians is clear: the Republican Party does not think discrimination against you is wrong. It's a shame that the party that considers Lincoln to be its father has adopted this position.

NPI to undergo more maintenance

As it's a weekend, there's a prime opportunity for the NPI team to get to work and improve the site, including this blog. There may be sporadic outages or interesting pageloads for the next few hours. Bear with us - you'll end up getting a better website out of the entire deal.

UPDATE: Maintenance is now complete. Look for another update from us about the progress we've made on Monday.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Tim Eyman on life support

There's no grassroots support for I-900 - only a millionaire's cash, Tim Eyman's life support.

The most recent PDC reports continue to show that initiative profiteer Tim Eyman's grassroots support is dead. And an article from the Associated Press confirms it:
Michael Dunmire, 60, a wealthy investment executive from the Seattle suburb of Woodinville, has contributed nearly $240,000 to Eyman’s Initiative 900 and says more could be on the way. The initiative, now circulating for signatures, would require regular performance audits of state agencies and programs.
Since the days of Initiative 776, and after he was exposed as an admitted liar, Tim Eyman has had fundraising problems. He made serious attempts to get on the ballot with I-267, I-807, and I-864 - but failed.

Tim couldn't get on the ballot with "grassroots" support, so he turned to the special interests - the gambling industry - to get him back on the ballot with Initiative 892.

Now Tim has found another special interest - a wealthy conservative named Dunmire - to back his latest ill-conceived idea, Initiative 900, with overloads Washington State with performance audits.

So Initiative 900 is being kept alive by one millionaire who's decided to prop up Tim Eyman and his initiative factory to advance his own agenda.

His lack of support shows that people aren't interested in his proposals, which aren't even drafted with public input.

Eyman is a tool of the special interests. His job is to look after the big guy while pretending he's just another citizen. He's not. He's in this business for himself and his wealthy backers, who are paying him to push their agenda at the expense of Washington State

Voters have clearly sent a message that they didn't want to be swindled by rejecting I-892 by over 60%. But apparently Tim Eyman didn't get the memo. He went out and found another special interest to keep himself alive.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More Encouraging News on the Downfall of John Bolton

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In a recent editorial the Los Angeles Times hit the nail right on the head when it described the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN "a disgrace."

Here is an excerpt:
President Bush's nomination of John Bolton to become United Nations ambassador began as an embarrassment and is ending as a disgrace.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was right to delay a scheduled vote and resist being railroaded by the administration into approving him.

Bolton's infantile crack that it would make no difference if the U.N. lost its top 10 floors already testified to his unfitness to serve as the United States' diplomat to the world. It may have been Bush's right to appoint someone provocative yet capable.

But the revelations that have emerged over the past weeks in the Senate call into question Bolton's basic ability to do the job.
The article, brilliantly written, goes on to question whether Bolton is even mentally competent, let alone qualified for an ambassadorship:
On issue after issue, whether North Korea or Iraq, Bolton has wielded a wrecking ball. It might be possible to wave off one allegation of the misuse of intelligence — infighting always takes place in the government bureaucracy — but Bolton appears to have willfully and systematically suppressed and misused classified information, including bullying civil service officials who dared to challenge his apocalyptic assessments of North Korean, Iraqi and Cuban weapons programs.

Former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin apparently had to intervene to protect a Latin American analyst from Bolton's wrath; Carl W. Ford Jr., the State Department's former assistant secretary of intelligence and research — the only government bureau to get it right on Iraq — describes him as a "serial abuser."

And Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is rightly inquiring about Bolton's unusual request to look at National Security Administration intercepts and why he asked for the identities of analysts. Why indeed?
The best case that can be made for Bolton is that he's no worse than other neoconservative officials in the Pentagon who manipulated intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

But Bolton also appears to have a mean streak, a pattern of arrogant recklessness that bodes ill for this assignment.

If there is anyone in the U.S. government who needs to be infinitely patient, it's the ambassador at the U.N., who must constantly engage representatives of dozens of nations — diplomats Bolton would no doubt find infinitely annoying.

Not only does he lack the temperament for the job, it's hard to imagine why he'd want it.

The article ends with an acerbic catch:
Bolton surely can't want the job now, with the world on notice that even the Republican Senate has its misgivings about his nomination. Bush may find it hard to back down, so Bolton should do him and his country a favor and step aside.

Maybe there is a consolation prize the White House could offer him. How about ambassador to France?
At least some of the media are getting it right!

Senate Takes Bolton to Task

Here's a much more auspicious update on the John Bolton nomination proceedings from the Center for American Progress:
In a surprise turn of events yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations committee decided to postpone the scheduled vote on the nomination of John Bolton to allow for further review of new allegations about Mr. Bolton's fitness for the UN ambassadorship.

Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH), who had remained quiet during the hearing, came forward and said he wanted more time to look into allegations, saying: "I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton."

The Senate should use the additional time to get the bottom of the following questions:

Why did Bolton seek the names of 10 different U.S. officials directly involved or discussed in highly secretive NSA communications?

The identities of American officials whose communications are intercepted are protected by law, and access to the names may be authorized by the NSA only in response to special requests.

Bolton has refused to explain who the 10 officials were and why he sought information about their communications.

Does Bolton have the personal control necessary to carry out important diplomatic duties? Allegations of Bolton's intimidation and bullying of subordinates continue to mount and demand further investigation.

According to staff at Bolton's old law firm, Covington & Burlington, Bolton was "not invited to return" to his law firm because of "abusive treatment of subordinates there."

Also, a woman working for the U.S. Agency for International Development has reported that when Bolton was a private lawyer for an AID subcontractor, Bolton allegedly threatened her, threw documents at her and was "genuinely behaving like a madman." Her story has been corroborated by two witnesses.

At a time when America's reputation in the world is in desperate need of repair, is it wise to send a man to the UN who has questionable diplomatic and managerial skills?

All of these investigations paint a picture of Bolton as someone drastically lacking the personal and professional comportment required to serve as the UN ambassador.

The nomination of Bolton seriously undermines US efforts to repair our relations with key allies and show the world that America is an honest broker in world affairs.
If my calculations are correct, this means that 8 Democrats and 3 Republicans have joined forces against Bolton, more than enough to prevent his presentation to the full Senate confirmation vote.

Perhaps the forces of conservatism have subsided at least for the moment.

This is a tremendously encouraging victory for progressives. Although the Senate spinelessly nominated the torture czar Alberto Gonzales and the incompetent Condoleezza Rice despite well-organized opposition, it appears that even reasonably conservative Republicans like George Voinovich and Chuck Hagel (88% and 85% approval ratings with the conservative Federalist Society, respectively) are at last letting the egregious facts on Bush's nominee speak for themselves.

In addition this is a victory for the United Nations and for multilateralism as a whole. The Senate's almost certain rejection of Bolton will assuage world opinion to some extent, as it will show that the majority of Americans are not belligerent, antagonistic, and irreconcillable fools unwilling to collaborate on global foreign policy.

This will also send a message to the Bush Administration that although they have a strong hand in Congress, the American people will not stand idly by as browbeating bureaucrats lay waste to international institutions.

Thankfully, a disaster of great proportions at the UN has seemingly been averted due to bipartisan cooperation.

Performance audits bill clears state Legislature

Permanent Defense released this this morning. We're very pleased that the state Legislature has finally acted on this important issue and shown that we don't need Tim Eyman and his shoddy initiative.

REDMOND – Yesterday, in Olympia, the Washington State House of Representatives concurred with Senate amendments to House Bill 1064, approving the revised bill with 75 voting yes and 22 voting no.  

The action sends the performance audit legislation to the desk of Governor Christine Gregoire. The original House Bill 1064 passed back in February. The Senate revised the bill and approved it on April 7th.
 
The revised Senate bill orders the elected state auditor to hire independent contractors to do annual performance audits of state agencies. A panel of citizens will work with the auditor and produce a yearly report card grading state agencies.
 
Yesterday, the House gave its consent to those revisions and cleared the legislation to be signed into state law.
 
Permanent Defense Chair Andrew Villeneuve said of the vote: “This is a clear win for Washington State taxpayers. The state Legislature has acted on this important issue and passed legislation for the governor to sign.”  

The passage of the legislation shows that ill-conceived Initiative 900 from Tim Eyman is not needed. And unlike House Bill 1064, Initiative 900 was not drafted with public input.

Initiative 900 overloads Washington State with audits. It requires every government agency and program in the state, including local governments, to be audited. The state auditor’s office says implementing I-900 would cost $90 million every two years.

The office also says the initiative will require the auditor’s office to expand four times its current size and will take a decade or longer to fully implement.

“Thanks to the Legislature’s action on this issue, Washington State can move forward,” Villeneuve added. “Initiative 900 doesn’t solve anything. It’s like enlarging a wound instead of applying a bandage.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Just Say No to Torture - The Detainee Abuse "Wish List"

Here's a shocking story I found on an organization called Think Peace. Take a look and then go contact your Congressman and tell them to end this barbarism!

Investigative documents released yesterday reveal "Army intelligence officials in Iraq developed and circulated 'wish lists' of harsh interrogation techniques they hoped to use on detainees in August 2003, including tactics such as low-voltage electrocution, blows with phone books and using dogs and snakes." The discussions, which took place over e-mail, were used in part to "develop the interrogation rules of engagement approved by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then commander of U.S. troops in Iraq."

Interrogation techniques officers thought were approved in the fall of 2003 were the catalyst for the death of at least one detainee, who was stuffed into a sleeping bag and wound with an electrical cord.

One soldier with the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion wrote a dissenting e-mail: "It comes down to standards of right and wrong – something we cannot just put aside when we find it inconvenient," he wrote. "We are American soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there."

Bolton the Wrong Choice for UN

While the news media is currently fawning over the new reactionary pontificate, Benedict XVI, they are systematically downplaying a story that is paramount to the national foreign policy debate.

John Bolton, the Undersecretary of State and President Bush's nominee for the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, is perhaps the worst Bush nominee yet - and that's taking into account nominees who advocate torture and slept through attacks on American soil.

Bolton is a man who throughout his political career has shown tremendous vitriol toward the UN and has a history harshly browbeating subordinates who had the misfortune of disagreeing with him.

In the words of one career foreign service officer, Bolton "kisses up to his boss and kicks down his staff" [New York Times, April 12th 2005] over the course of policy analysis. In addition to his abusive office politics, Bolton has consistently shown downright contempt for international institutions and even international law.

He was once quoted as saying: "If you cut off the top ten stories of the UN Headquarters, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."

With an attitude this disdainful, it is not surprising that he would also describe foreign policy goals that entailed using the UN as "a secondary component of our foreign policy," i.e. we will use the UN when it suits us while flaunting its authority and remaining unaccountable to its laws throught blatant unilateralism.

Bolton has even been quoted as saying, "there is no United Nations, only a loose syndicate of nation-states." With this in mind, it is some wonder why such a bellicose bean counter would even want the job as UN Ambassador.

After all, as Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) pointed out in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, how can Bolton work with an institution that he doesn't even believe exists? The Center for American Progress has more details:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on John
Bolton's nomination to the U.N. this afternoon. Bolton's questionable diplomatic
skills, shoddy record on security and overall temperament clearly indicate that
he is not the right person to represent the United States at the world's leading
institution.

Bolton's inability to accept facts when they challenge his agenda has
caused serious harm to American security. Bolton sought to replace two CIA
analysts who would not support his agenda on Cuba and has blocked intelligence
which didn't conform to his personal policy views in other areas.

On multiple occasions, Bolton refused to forward information vital to U.S. strategies on Iran to Secretary Powell, delaying intelligence from getting through for weeks or, in some instances, not at all.

Bolton's management style and temperament are highly suspect for the world's leading deliberative body. As Senator Chuck Hagel, a leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee , stated this weekend: "I have been troubled with more and more allegations, revelations, coming about his style, his method of operation," adding, "to intimidate or bully people is something that is not what we want in our government, especially at the very senior, responsible, high-level positions."

Lawrence Wilkerson, the chief of staff for Bolton's previous boss, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, weighed in on Bolton's qualifications: "Do I think John Bolton would make a good ambassador to the United Nations? Absolutely not…He is incapable of listening to people and taking into account their views. He would be an abysmal ambassador."

Bolton has shown a disdain for diplomacy throughout his career. As Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Bolton heightenedexisting tensions with Iran and North Korea and failed to stop their their attempts to develop nuclear weapons programs.

In both cases, Bolton preferred to insult and degrade rather than finding real solutions to genuine proliferation concerns. His inability to function as true diplomat has hindered America's security efforts.

BREAKING: New pope selected

The cardinals of the Catholic Church have selected a new pope. It will be Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who was widely rumored to be a likely successor to John Paul II. He has chosen the name of Pope Benedict XVI (the 16th). More details to come....

These details from KOMO:
Ratzinger, the first German pope in centuries, served John Paul II since 1981 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that position, he has disciplined church dissidents and upheld church policy against attempts by liberals for reforms. He turned 78 on Saturday.
NY Times:
The bells tolled and white smoke drifted from a chimney over the Sistine Chapel today, signaling that the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church who were meeting inside had elected a new pope on the second day of their secret conclave.

It was a moment that thousands of people in St. Peter's Square had been waiting for. Long streams of Romans hurried to St. Peter's Square and horns blared as people rushed to learn who was selected. People cheered and clapped at the white smoke and deep resonating ringing of the bells, signs that the Vatican had said would indicate that the new pope had been chosen.

Would oil drilled in the Refuge be exported?

A new controversy has blasted now in the Senate over the issue of drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

When Alaska Sen. Stevens stood on the Senate floor last month to support drilling oil in the Arctic Refuge, he said that this bill would boost our domestic oil supplies and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

However, it has now been predicted that there is high potential for the oil to be exported to foreign countries.


Here is an excerpt from the Seattle Times:
As the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was authorized that same year [1970s] to open Alaska's North Slope oil fields, Congress banned exporting the oil amid concerns that it might wind up being shipped overseas while Americans stood in lines at gas stations.

Soon after, oil companies and Alaskan leaders started lobbying to lift the export ban, arguing it threatened to flood West Coast refineries, artificially depressed the price of Alaskan oil and forced oil shipments to parts of the U.S. that lay much farther from Alaska than Asian ports.

The ban was overturned in 1995, an effort led by Alaska's congressional delegation, including Rep. Don Young and Stevens.

Stevens at the time hailed the decision as a "great victory for Alaska" that would encourage further oil development and create more jobs.

"This ban is unconstitutional and unjust. Lifting the ban would mean Alaska could sell its oil on the world market, which would increase state revenues by as much as $700 million," he said in a press release.

The end to the export ban never produced the big jump in foreign shipments some predicted, though it did boost prices for Alaskan oil, according to a report from the U.S. General Accounting Office.

Just 4 percent of North Slope oil trickled to Asia between 1996 and 2000, before the flow shut off almost entirely. Since then, the only export was a single tanker in 2004, which delivered a load of oil to China en route to getting repaired at an Asian port.

The reason is that Alaskan oil fields aren't gushing crude as they once did. Alaskan oil production was cut in half between the 1988 peak and 2000. Now West Coast refineries soak up nearly every drop, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

Washington is one of the major destination points for that oil. A string of refineries near Anacortes and Bellingham rely on Alaska for more than 90 percent of their crude oil, according to a 2004 report from the Seattle and Pierce County chambers of commerce.

WA Senate voting on transportation safety package

"It's Your Nickel. Watch it Work."

That was the campaign rolled out by the Washington Transportation department (DOT) after passing a graduated five-cent increase in gas tax for the first comprehensive, statewide transportation package since before the first Gulf War.

This year, lawmakers have to play catch up as some roads have deteriorated and congestion has clogged road to the point of being unsafe for daily drivers. The conversation has been around for years, but stalemates in Olympia have prevented plans from progressing.

Moreover, so-called "mega-projects" which are economic -- as well as traffic -- arterials have gone neglected for far too long and threaten the lives of thousands of commuters if they are not fixed before a major earthquake threatens to topple them, and Washington's entire economy with it.

As the Seattle P-I reports today, the Washington State Senate is about to vote on a transporation package that will address the significant safety issues of both the Alaskan Way Viaduct along the Seattle waterfront and the Highway 520 floating bridge across north Lake Washington, as well as other needed projects statewide.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Challengers for Cantwell

The Seattle Times reported yesterday that Maria Cantwell is considered one of the White House's top targets for 2006.

Of course, no challenger has yet emerged for Cantwell. Lots of names are floating around - including Chris Vance, current GOP state chair, Rick White, who beat Cantwell in 1994 but then lost to Jay Inslee in 1998, and Michael McGavick, who is currently CEO of Safeco.

But none of them are going to run if Dino Rossi - and this is a very big if - decides to run. A Rossi campaign against Cantwell has the strongest chance of beating her, but it leaves the GOP without a formidable opponent to Gregoire's reelection in 2008.

The White House is probably more interested in having another GOP senator in D.C. then it is interested in capturing the Washington gubernatorial mansion. But for the state party, and especially GOP allied state interest groups, it is the other way around. The BIAW, AWB, and others would simply love to knock Gregoire out in 2008.

We won't know who Cantwell's challenger is until the GOP's election challenge is tossed out (which it very likely will be). Then Dino will have to decide if he wants to run for the U.S. Senate or not. If he chooses to step aside, there is no clear front runner.

The White House, of course, (as the Times reported) has zero interest in a messy primary (if there even is one). So who'll step aside? If the Republicans end up nominating their candidate at a convention, who will they go for?

No matter who Cantwell faces, she needs to have plenty of money on hand in order to beat off a challenge:
Cantwell, who defeated incumbent Gorton by a narrow margin in 2000, has already raised a significant amount of money for next year's race.

She raised $1,937,000 in the first quarter of 2005, according to the FEC report released Friday, and has $1,852,000 cash on hand.
We'll continue to cover and support Cantwell's reelection campaign and analyze the threat she faces from the GOP as it materializes.

Back to business

I'm back, and this blog will once again be delving into serious business as we approach the end of the legislative session and get closer to the election challenge trial coming up at the end of next month.

I had a good time in San Francisco. Actually, I only spent a few hours in the city itself. Most of my time was spent in San Ramon, which is a suburb of San Francisco.

There'll be some surprises in the weeks ahead from NPI, so stay tuned. I'm back, and we're shifting gears.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Nike comes clean, when will Wal-Mart?

Did Phil Knight have an epiphany?

Nike, long the subject of sweatshop allegations, yesterday produced the most comprehensive picture yet of the 700 factories that produce its footwear and clothing, detailing admissions of abuses, including forced overtime and restricted access to water.
Some other great things the Nike factories were doing to their employees:
The report admits to widespread problems, particularly in Nike's Asian factories. The company said it audited hundreds of factories in 2003 and 2004 and found cases of "abusive treatment", physical and verbal, in more than a quarter of its south Asian plants. Between 25% and 50% of the factories in the region restrict access to toilets and drinking water during the workday. The same percentage deny workers at least one day off in seven. In more than half of Nike's factories, the report said, employees worked more than 60 hours a day. In up to 25%, workers refusing to do overtime were punished. Wages were also below the legal minimum at up to 25% of factories.
Admitting human rights abuses in their factories is a major step forward. Nike's stock will suffer during this period, unless other key retailers follow suit and come clean about their sweatshops.

Nike has joined the Fair Labour Association, a group that includes other footwear and clothing makers, as well as NGOs and universities, which conducts independent audits designed to improve standards across the industry. The company said it needed further cooperation with other members of the industry. "We do not believe Nike has the power to single-handedly solve the issues at stake," the company said in the report. Mr Posner said retailers such as Wal-Mart bore huge responsibility for keeping prices low and consequently compounding poor working conditions in factories overseas. He said that the likes of Nike and Adidas needed to work together to gain some kind of counterweight.
Counterweight? Yes, a counterweight to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is devilishly effective in hiding the conditions at its major factories, and doesn't appear to want to make any changes to them. According to Congressman George Miller's report, here at home in the good 'ole USA, taxpayers would have to pick up $420,750 per year for a typical Wal-Mart store employing 200 people. These costs include:
  • $36,000 a year for free and reduced lunches for 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families;
  • $42,000 a year for Section 8 housing assistance, assuming three percent of the store’s employees qualify for such assistance;
  • $125,000 a year for federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families, assuming 50 employees are heads of household with a child and 50 are married with two children;
  • $100,000 a year for additional Title I education funds, assuming 50 Wal-Mart families, each with an average of two children, qualify;
  • $108,000 a year for children’s health insurance costs, assuming 30 employees, each with an average of two children, qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
  • $9,750 a year for subsidies for energy assistance for low-income families.
Oh, and don't forget the slave labor practices, as documented by the National Labor Committee:
  • 13- to 16-hour days molding, assembling, and spray-painting toys-8 a.m. to 9 p.m. or even midnight, seven days a week, with 20-hour shifts in peak season.
  • Even though China’s minimum wage is 31 cents an hour-which doesn’t begin to cover a person’s basic subsistence-level needs-these production workers are paid 13 cents an hour.
  • Workers typically live in squatter shacks, seven feet by seven feet, or jammed in company dorms, with more than a dozen sharing a cubicle costing $1.95 a week for rent. They pay about $5.50 a week for lousy food. They also must pay for their own medical treatment and are fired if they are too ill to work.
  • The work is literally sickening, since there’s no health and safety enforcement. Workers have constant headaches and nausea from paint-dust hanging in the air; the indoor temperature tops 100 degrees; protective clothing is a joke; repetitive stress disorders are rampant; and there’s no training on the health hazards of handling the plastics, glue, paint thinners, and other solvents in which these workers are immersed every day.
  • These factories employ mostly young women and teenage girls.
Wal-Mart, renowned for knowing every detail of its global business operations and for calculating every penny of a product’s cost, knows what goes on inside these places.

Yet, when confronted with these facts, corporate honchos claim ignorance and wash their hands of the exploitation: "There will always be people who break the law," says CEO Lee Scott. "It is an issue of human greed among a few people."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Shameless plug for IRV

Those of you that have been following IRV know that HB 1447 recently passed the Senate, and is now headed to the Governor's desk to be signed into law. HB 1447 allows cities of a certain size (140,000 to 200,000 residents) to be able to amend their city charter to use IRV in their general non-partisian elections.

That leaves three cities in the State of Washington that are elgible for IRV; Vancover, Tacoma, and Spokane. Vancouver has already amended their charter, and appears to be the petri dish for IRV. Brent White, a lobbyist for the IRVWA effort, recently sent out this e-mail:

HB 1447, allowing Vancouver to try IRV up to three times, is on its way to the governor's desk. While it is far short of everything we want, it is still a victory for the cause of IRV, and will allow Vancouver to implement its 1999 charter amendment, at least for a limited time.

We've seen the Secretary of State's office testify skeptically on this bill,and then claim to favor this bill when testifying on other bills. You can be sure Secretary Reed will be meeting with the Governor's office shortly,and he will likely pooh-pooh the whole notion of IRV, public claims to the contrary.

The governor will have five days to act on the bill once it reaches her desk.

We need calls quickly to ask Governor Gregoire to sign this bill.

HB 1447:
* Allows Vancouver to move forward with the instant runoff voting charter amendment its voters passed back in 1999.
* Has a sunset clause, which takes that permission away from Vancouver after the 2011 election.
* Leaves it up to the Vancouver City Council to decide whether to try IRV or not.

There is nothing radical in this bill. It just allows the will of the voters in Vancouver to finally be acted upon. And if IRV isn't tried locally, and in a city that has asked to try it,where should it be tried? Let's get a bunch of calls in to Governor Gregoire's office, and help herdecide that signing HB 1447 is the safe thing to do.

The governor's hotline is 360-902-4111.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Estate Tax Repeal is Unfair to America's Working Families

Congressional "heir heads" today have sent our nation into a chasm of debt and fiscal insolvency while elevating an elite class of nobility at the expense of working people and the middle class.

By a 272-172 vote this afternoon, the Republican Congress has permanently repealed the estate tax following a decade-long disinformation campaign to further enrich the richest 1% of Americans even as those same Republicans assured a Social Security crisis in the next decade and heaved a greater tax burden on middle-class Americans already saddled with billions of debt to pay for the so-called "War on Terror."

If the proposal is not remedied by the U.S. Senate, neocon defenders of the uber-wealthy will have succeeded in pulling off one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated by a government on its citizens.

Just one House GOP member joined the 160 Democrats in opposition to the Republican "heir heads" who are advancing the agenda of the "mega-upper class," shifting their tax burden on working Joes and Janes.

The lone GOP Congressman supporting sound fiscal policy was Jim Leach of Iowa, who represents a state with thousands of family farms. Leach knows, as do countless others, that the vote today was not about protecting family farms. It was to protect Paris Hilton's manicure from scuffs and chips that could occur if she or her heirs ever had to do an honest day's work.

Indeed, "The Simple Life" has perfectly demonstrated what we all already knew -- that the Hilton heiresses and family farmers have nothing in common, including the fact that Nikki and Paris who inherited $50 million without lifting a finger would pay estate taxes upon their death (can Paris' come too soon?) and married family farmers worth less than a combined $7 million would never pay the tax under Congressional Democrats' plan.

Even those with a net worth of more than $7 million would be eligible for some exemptions. So few farmers would be affected that the Brookings Institution predicted that, if the tax were imposed in 2011 on estates under the Democratic plan, only 50 farms nationwide would pay the tax.

The proposal to instigate a floor vote on the estate tax repeal was HR 202, sponsored by Republican Congressman Doc Hastings of the Tri-Cities, a man who wasn't even endorsed by the Seattle Times, despite that conservative editorial board's position demanding the repeal of the estate tax.

The Seattle Times editorialists rightfully warned us then that Hastings was more interested in protecting his party's interests than in looking out for the well-being of his constituents.

Want more evidence? See Seattle Times columnist Floyd McKay's piece today about the "stench" that lingers on Hastings because of his Beltway buddy, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

If the House Republicans' estate tax repeal plans continue unabated, those who need it least are about to be exempted from paying their fair share of taxes while millions of working families will get the shaft.

The undoing of the estate tax is almost certainly assured as a movement mounted by the uber-rich is about to pay perhaps trillions in dividends to those who never had to work a honest day in their lives.

Instead of investigating Enron, Halliburton, AIG, or any of numerous scandals perpetrated by robber barons, the Republican House zeroed in on zeroing out the estate tax for the 30,627 wealthiest Americans who paid the tax in 2004.

Any political observers should know that repealing the estate tax is a horrible idea, except that constantly proposing it results in big war chest by Republican candidates sworn to protect robber barons who contribute to their PACs.

But what may be most offensive in this debate is the utter lack of honesty by those so eager to stick the working class with the tax bill of billionaires.

Backers of this plan have never been honest -- even four years ago when the plan first passed -- about the tremendous costs of an estate tax repeal. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS in the first decade after the repeal.

What we get from Republican sponsors, instead, is a whitewash, as Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne reports in his Monday piece.
“Under a wacky provision of the 2001 tax cut designed to disguise the law's full cost, Congress voted to make the estate tax go away in 2010, but come back in full force in 2011.”
Even the title of the original 2001 plan to repeal the estate tax was euphemized to the point of being unrecognizable -- the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act. These four years later -- if voters are to take Republicans at their word -- the economy is growing yet there is a crisis in Social Security, so making the estate tax repeal permanent by moving trillions in revenues out of the U.S. economy is worst possible scenario to ensure a fiscally sound United States of America because more small businesses and individuals will bear an increased burden in capital gains and other taxes.

Republican floor speeches today disingenuously exalted "family farms and small businesses," but neglected to mention that exemptions are provided exactly for farms and businesses, but Congressional Democrats proposed substitute legislation to ensure that 99.7% of Americans would NOT PAY ANY estate tax. It was shot down easily.

Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott of Seattle spoke during the floor debate calling the plan a "bad bill, bad policy, and bad ethics."

He also quoted very popular Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, saying, "The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the State, because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government."

Other Democratic Congressmen, including one who initially supported reforming the estate tax in 2001, said the country is on the course to "financial Armageddon" due to the fiscal irresponsibility of the current Republican leadership and blasted the "Republican assault on Social Security and on fiscal sanity."

Democrats aren't alone in hopes that the federal estate tax would be mended instead of ended. Even leading Christian Republicans don’t like the repeal plan as it's written. Folks like Bush-appointee David Kuo, the former deputy director at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, who criticized the plan to repeal the estate tax because it dries up the financial lifeline of thousands of charities.

That analysis is backed up by the Congressional Budget Office, which reported that "permanently repealing the estate tax would cause a larger decline in charitable giving--of 6 percent to 12 percent."

Some of the nation's richest, all the while, are entirely against the repeal plan, including Bill Gates, Sr., father of the richest working man in the world. Even the stauchly conservative magazine National Review features a column in 2001 -- the year that the estate tax draw down first passed -- on the malevolent nature of the emboldened Republican Congress.

For the sad fact is that the GOP seems to have got itself into a very perverse social predicament.

U.S. House voting on permanent repeal of Estate Tax

The U.S. House is right now voting to permanently repeal the federal estate tax. It's being televised on C-SPAN.

I will be blogging on this atrocious proposal once the votes are cast and counted.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Your right to know

What kind of an issue in Washington can unite an autocratic former Republican House Speaker with a Democratic state Senator whose day job is spokeswoman for the state Labor Council?

Access. That's the issue.

It's a case of strange bedfellows that brings together ex-Speaker Clyde Ballard with state Sen. Karen Keiser. Both serve on the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, along with state Auditor Brian Sonntag, and editors and publishers of newspapers around the state.

Public records disclosure has been a high-profile issue in Olympia this year, in part, because of new Attorney General Rob McKenna's promises to strengthen provisions for state "sunshine laws."

Seattle Weekly's Editor Knute Berger took up the important issue last month when he saw lawmakers trying to cram attorney-client exemptions for public officials into the proposed law. In part, he wrote:

"Instead of applying the private-sector model of privilege to the public sector, lawmakers should first be addressing a key question: Who is the client the government lawyers are trying to protect with attorney-client privilege? In the case of government, the public is both attorney and client. We pay the salaries and expenses of both. They work for us, and we have every right to know what they're up to."

The Olympian has been following the story throughout the legislative session, including the Senate's attempt to exempt lawmakers from making public their correspondence, a Godzilla-size exemption in a state where most e-mail by public officials and employees is considered releasable under a public records request. Fortunately, just in the past few hours, House leaders have promised to strip at least one of the exemptions out before it goes any furthur.

The Attorney General's Web site has information on provisions of public disclosure proposals, including this comparison chart.

Editorial writers and reporters around the state will be watching closely in the next two weeks to see what ends up on Gov. Gregoire's desk. You should be, too.

Another publicity stunt from Tim Eyman

So...I'm supposed to be relaxing, enjoying my vacation, when I get an alert on my cell phone that Tim Eyman is doing a $30 car tab initiative.

Whaaa....?

Of course, this news had to break the day I left Redmond. Tim's been watching me, I figure, and decided to execute his latest publciity stunt after I'd left town.

What Tim apparently doesn't know is that my mobile device is keyed to recieve alerts whenever he is up to something.
Eyman told The Associated Press today that he'll push a 2006 initiative that rolls back any state or local car taxes that boost the fee beyond the $30 voters approved with Initiative 695 in 1999.

He also wants to force Sound Transit to pay off the bonds for its light-rail program.
How many defeats is it going to take to put Tim Eyman out of business?

Who knows for sure whether Tim's actually going to do this in 2006...I mean, the guy changes course so often it's very difficult to actually predict what he'll be doing.

Fortunately, Permanent Defense has never de-mobilized, and so we shall be ready to take up political arms against Tim Eyman next year when he starts moving on his next effort.

I made my start in politics fighting Tim Eyman, and I certainly don't intend to give up the battle now.

You'll continue to be taken care of by OlyScoop and Brian Moran of WashBlog for the next few days...provided Tim Eyman doesn't somehow find his way into the news again.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Getting from A to B

A slowly sinking viaduct over the Seattle waterfront and a floating bridge that connects the heart of Washington's tech-sector with its largest city -- two projects crucial to the state's economic vitality are the focus of legislative transportation budget proposals rolled out in Olympia in the past few days.

The Evergreen State thrives on exports, from airplanes to apples to software applications. State businesses can't export without the infrastructure in place to get the goods to market -- and that includes a working transportation system.

Transportation concerns have intermittently loomed large over the Washington Legislature for decades. But it wasn't until investments made in 2003 -- the year lawmakers were enticing Boeing to build the 7E7 passenger jet in Washington -- that much was accomplished. Prior to that year, the last major transportation funding package came just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and just before Desert Storm. Politically speaking, it was in ancient history, so it's no wonder that Seattle is among the most gridlocked cities in the nation, the time for Washington apples to go from tree to transport vessel has ballooned by 33% and Boeing moved its headquarters to Chicago as major transportation funding fizzled in the Legislature and on the ballot.

Why has this happened? Well, because the roads of Puget Sound aren't the only thing that has been gridlocked.

Washington Republicans jammed Governor Gary Locke in 1998 with Referendum 49 and Tim Eyman jammed all of Washington in 1999 with Initiative 695, which actually undid Referendum 49 but still was endorsed by the state Republican Party (figure that one out!). You may not remember that, in those years, gasoline prices and unemployment were simultaneously at record lows. A gallon of fuel was under a buck, but Washington Republicans weren’t going to guarantee that you could easily get to work in the central Puget Sound area unless they could offer jobs to more of their friends in Olympia and from 1998 to 2003 traffic congestion in Washington only worsened.

Now, help could be on the way for the “mega projects” that are part of Washington’s economic lifeline with the recently proposed transportation plans. Both plans include gas-tax step increases that will generate the billions needed for the projects. Nothing is final yet, but the House and Senate are talking and the next two weeks will determine the look of the final package. Some of the initial responses to the plans has been positive, including this editorial from The Olympian on the Senate package and this Seattle P-I editorial on the need to "close the deal" and actually pass a workable package.

The preliminary outlays from Democrats in the Senate and the House are online, but the final transportation funding package will be determined in conference committees between now and April 24. Look for more updates from Northwest Progressive Institute in the coming weeks.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Off to San Francisco

The last few months have been real busy for me, and I haven't had a real vacation since last August when I traveled to Oregon. So, I'm heading to San Francisco with my family on vacation. We'll hook up with some of our relatives once we're there and have some fun.

If I am able to post one or two blogs while I'm gone, I will, but I think I'll try to stay away from the computer while I am down in California.

Brian Moran of WashBlog and OlyScoop have kindly agreed to cover for me while I'm gone, and a number of other NPI members may check in off and on and post a few blogs. So, while I may be offline, the blog won't be.

I'll be back a week from today and let you know how my vacation went, and get back into the swing of things.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Wolf Blitzer is an idiot

Via Media Matters:
On the April 8 edition of CNN's Inside Politics, CNN hosts Wolf Blitzer and Judy Woodruff discussed Pope John Paul II's funeral with Crossfire co-hosts Paul Begala and Robert Novak, both Catholics. Blitzer opened the segment by suggesting that while "I'm sure Bob is a good Catholic, I'm not so sure about Paul Begala."
What an insult! Wolf Blitzer is a complete idiot.

Not only is this statement an unfair attack on Paul Begala's religious devotion, but it certainly highlights Wolf's conservative bias. I suppose this is a great example of "that liberal media" in action. You have Wolf Blitzer, who leans to the right, as a host on CNN, and then of course there's Lou Dobbs, who has endorsed significant chunks of the Bush agenda. And that's not all, either.

Anyway, here's a more lengthy transcript:
BLITZER: While they were united today in mourning the death of the pope, U.S. Catholics are a diverse group, as illustrated by two of our Crossfire co-hosts, the conservative Robert Novak, the liberal Paul Begala. Both good Catholics -- I don't know "good" Catholics, but both Catholics. I'm sure Bob is a good Catholic, I'm not so sure about Paul Begala.

BEGALA: Well, now, who are you to pass moral judgment on my religion, Mr. Blitzer? My goodness gracious.

BLITZER: All right, go ahead, go ahead.

BEGALA: On the day of my Holy Father's funeral. My eldest son is named John Paul, after the Pope.

BLITZER: So you are a good Catholic?

BEGALA: I'm serious, that annoys me. I don't think anybody should presume that a liberal is not a good Catholic.

NOVAK: Paul, Paul, Paul is a good Catholic.

BEGALA: The Holy Father is liberal. And in fact, when [CNN contributor] Carlos [Watson] was speaking [earlier in the program], I was in the green room. Underneath, some producer had written, "Many Catholic doctrines are conservative." Absolutely correct. Many are liberal as well. The Holy Father bitterly opposed President Bush's war in Iraq. He came to St. Louis -- and I was there -- and he begged America to give up the death penalty. President Bush strongly supports it, as did President Clinton and others. Many of the Holy Father's views -- my church's views -- are extraordinarily liberal. The Pope talked about savage, unbridled capitalism, not Bob Novak's kind --

BLITZER: I was certainly not questioning -- I was only teasing.

BEGALA: Okay.

BLITZER: Don't be so sensitive.

BEGALA: Well, it's an important day for my faith.

BLITZER: It's a very important day --

BEGALA: It's the only pope of my adult lifetime, so I'm a little emotional tonight.

BLITZER: It's a very important day for Bob Novak. Go ahead, Bob.
Once again: Wolf Blitzer is a complete idiot.

It's a very important day for us to criticize Wolf Blitzer. Go ahead, and let him know you didn't appreciate the comments he made. It's very easy to reach him via this CNN contact form.

Have you no sense of decency, sir?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Funeral for Pope John Paul II held

Pope John Paul II's funeral was held today:
Presidents, prime ministers and kings joined pilgrims and prelates in St. Peter's Square on Friday to bid an emotional farewell to Pope John Paul II at a funeral service that drew millions to Rome for the largest gathering of the powerful and the humble in modern times.

Applause rang out in the wind-whipped square as John Paul's plain cypress coffin, adorned with a cross and an "M" for the Virgin Mary, was brought out from St. Peter's Basilica and placed on a carpet in front of the altar. The book of the Gospel was placed on the coffin and the breeze fluttered its pages.

After the Mass ended, bells tolled and 12 pallbearers with white gloves, white ties and tails presented the coffin to the crowd one last time, and then carried it on their shoulders back inside the basilica for burial - again to sustained applause from the hundreds of thousands in the square, including dignitaries from 138 countries.
Think they've got enough security there?
Rome itself was at a standstill as extraordinary security measures were put in place. Just after midnight Thursday, a ban on vehicle traffic in the city center took effect.

Airspace was closed, and anti-aircraft batteries outside the city were on alert. Naval ships patrolled both the Mediterranean coast and the Tiber near Vatican City, the tiny sovereign city-state encompassed by the Italian capital.

Elite Carabinieri paramilitary police armed with automatic rifles were stationed at virtually every major intersection in Rome.

Combat jets from Italy's air force, joined by an AWACS surveillance plane deployed by NATO, guarded against any strike from above.

Italian security agencies posted snipers on rooftops.

Three hours after the funeral, an Italian F-16 jet fighter intercepted a suspicious plane heading to Rome's Ciampino airport and escorted it to a local military airfield, Italian news agencies reported.

The ANSA agency quoted air force chief Leonardo Tricarico as saying intelligence indicated there might be a bomb on the plane, but none was found.
Without a doubt, this is probably one of the most secure funerals ever held for a religious celebrity.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Martinez's office wrote Schiavo memo

This comes via Daily Kos:

So, after repeated attempts by Republicans (mostly Republican bloggers) to blame Democrats for the Schiavo memo - the one that argued the GOP would reap great rewards by meddling in another family's business - the real author has stepped forward.
The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo, the senator said in an interview last night.

Brian Darling, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

Martinez said he earlier had been assured by aides that his office had nothing to do with producing the memo. "I never did an investigation, as such," he said. "I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid. It was never my intention to in any way politicize this issue."
Well, well, well.

So the memo was real indeed - that certainly hurts the conspiracy theorists from Powerline and other blogs who thought our side had made it up:
Conservative Web logs have challenged the authenticity of the memo, in some cases likening it to the discredited documents about Bush's National Guard service that CBS News reported last fall.
So can we expect any retractions and mea culpas to follow? Kos doesn't think so, and neither do I.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

News Digest for April 5th 2005

There's a lot of different things to cover today, so here's a news digest covering the most important issues for April 5th, 2005:

GOP Unites with State Senate Democrats Sheldon and Hargrove to Derail Equal Rights Legislation
The Associated Press reports that a procedural vote that required the help of two conservative Democrats (one is Sheldon, who is a DINO, or Democrat In Name Only) allowed Republicans to derail the latest attempt by the Legislature to pass a gay civil rights bill, sending it to a hostile committee where it is expected to die.

Rep. Ed Murray, the primary sponsor and driving force behind the bill, issued this statement (courtesy of OlyScoop):
"I'm disappointed that parliamentary procedures were used in an attempt to stop the Anti-Discrimination Bill, a bill that would pass if given an opportunity for a full vote before the Senate.

The actions taken today are stall tactics against a bill that is seeking to ensure that principles of fairness and justice are available to everyone under the law.

Supporters of the bill knew this sort of parliamentary maneuvering was possible. This will not stop our efforts. We believe we are right, a majority of Washington citizens agree with us, and in the end, a majority of Senators will as well.

This bill is long past due. Today a person who happens to be gay or lesbian can lose their job or be denied a house just because of who they are. We can no longer allow these injustices to occur and must protect everyone from discrimination in all its forms."
Date Set in Election Contest Trial
Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges has set a May 23rd trial date for the state GOP's challenge of the result of the 2004 gubernatorial election. The trial is supposed to last two weeks.

Rossi’s attorneys must “lock their claims” and disclose all their witnesses by April 15th; but the Democrats have until May 6th. On May 2nd, Bridges will rule on whether the GOP can use their proportional analysis method to prove their case.

Shipping line that polluted Columbia fined $25 million
Here's an excellent example of government bureaucracy at work serving the citizens of the Pacific Northwest:
Amid the crazy-quilt tangle of pipes and machinery in the cargo ship's engine room, the inspector's attention was drawn to two bolts -- two bolts among hundreds.

The paint was missing.

That sharp-eyed scrutiny by a Washington Department of Ecology inspector triggered a chain of events that culminated yesterday in one of the largest fines ever imposed on a company that deliberately polluted the ocean.
Evergreen International, a Panamanian shipping line, has pleaded guilty to concealing the discharge of waste oil, obstructing Coast Guard inspections and altering records during a three year period which ended in 2001.

This company was deliberately polluting US waters in violation of our laws because it was cheaper and more convenient than disposing of waste properly.

And they wouldn't have been caught if it hadn't been for the sharp eye of that Department of Ecology inspector.

There's a reason why we need government inspectors and regulators. They're the main force that protects citizens and taxpayers from reprehensible companies like Evergreen International.

The next time people complain about excessive bureaucracy, they ought to think about all the things that government does for them that private enterprise can't or won't do.

Must Read Columns
Here's links to a couple must read columns: the first is by Anna Bernasek, who is wrote a column in the New York Times. She explores the myth that taxes are bad for the economy. An excerpt:
Over the last 30 years, economists have undertaken hundreds of studies to determine whether taxes hurt the economy. So far, they’ve turned up little to convict taxes of the charge. After reviewing the literature on the topic in 1993, two economists, William Easterly of New York University and Sergio Rebelo of Northwestern, concluded in a joint paper that “the evidence that tax rates matter for growth is disturbingly fragile.”
A highly reccomended column. The second one is in today's Seattle Times - and it's actually in the Northwest Life section, of all places, though it could have easily made it on the Times' op-ed page. It's entitled "State's broken tax system means society is worse off", and it drives home a number of excellent points. An excerpt:
Nobody likes to pay taxes.

Growing up in the 1950s and '60s, I remember my mom saying we did it for the common good: good schools, police and fire protection, clean water and decent roads. Even people without children pay taxes for schools, she said — to keep their property values high and streets safe.

When did this notion unravel? My dad began voting against everything, including schools, claiming, "They waste too much money!" The once-exceptional public schools that educated my brothers and me lost levy after levy, becoming some of the worst in the state. Over time, gangs roamed streets where I walked as a little girl, and the value of my parents' home — after 50 years — budged only a little.

A sea change has swept through our nation's attitudes about taxes since I was young. As we became wealthier, we became stingier. Lots of us find money for "necessities" — huge homes, cellphones, private schools, new cars and huge entertainment centers — but resist being taxed unless it benefits us directly. Never mind our long-term self-interest in making society better, safer. Only what's in front of our noses counts anymore.
There's your News Digest for today.

Monday, April 04, 2005

NPI launches National Defense section

The Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce the debut of our National Defense section. We're hard at work finishing the website we first started in August of 2003, and this section's debut is another step forward toward completion.

Brian Moran (who also authors WashBlog) is the principal author of this section. He's done a fine job and the rest of us at NPI commend him for fine research and solid writing.

Republicans often accuse Democrats and progressives of being soft on defense, but that is a myth. The reality is that we believe in peace first and war second, usually in defense of our homeland.

We are almost always opposed to the policy of "preemptive strike". We are not the world's policeman and we cannot do just what we please.

We must work with other nations to faciliate international cooperation. By seeking to understand and talk to those that consider us enemies, we reduce the need to go to war. We can all benefit from a more peaceful world.

To read more about NPI's stance on this issue, please visit the new National Defense section.

"Live within your means" has real consequences

We've spoken out a number of times about the absurdity of the GOP's argument of needing to "live within our means". This argument is often repeated by business groups and the Seattle Times editorial board.

A recent story from the AP demonstrates why this argument is so inherently ridiculous:
Advocates warn that parts of the [WA State] proposed budgets could get the state hauled into court, for failing to meet standards set for home care and foster care in two landmark court cases. The effort to save taxpayer money now could cost more in the long run, they say, if it spawns litigation.
When Governor Gregoire first came out with her proposed state budget a few weeks ago, we wondered, is this all?

The budget takes too many shortcuts and uses too many accounting tricks to make the books balance. The bottom line, as we argued then, is that the state simply needs more revenue. We must fully fund government services.

Of course, the government doesn't ordinarily get sued for not fully funding government services. But this is different:
The two key names here are Braam and Olmstead.

The Braam case began in 1998, on behalf of Jessica Braam and 12 other foster children who sued the state for bouncing them around foster homes without adequate services. It turned into a class action, and last August the state settled the case by promising to make dozens of specific improvements, from more mental health treatment for kids to better training for foster parents.

If the state breaks those promises, a judge could intervene and force Washington to pay for reforms. Lack of money is no excuse under the settlement terms.
That's how the state "saves money."

By denying children the proper care they deserve.

By demanding that we "live within our means" and not fully fund services like these, the GOP is essentially saying we should take the risk of getting sued again for shortchanging our children.

This is entirely unacceptable.

But it doesn't stop there:
Home care clients are waiting to hear the final verdict.

"I don't like to depend on anyone, but I need these services to survive," said Windy Day, 57, an Olympia woman who suffers from a long list of physical and mental ailments. "If I lost these services, I probably would end up in a nursing home ... I think I would go downhill and I would not want to live anymore."

Day would lose home care services under the governor's proposed budget.

If budget cuts mean that Day and others are eligible for government-funded nursing home care but not home care, the state could be violating the Americans With Disabilities Act under the terms of the Olmstead decision.

"I think a lawsuit is probable, which is the last thing we need," said AARP lobbyist Lauren Moughon. "We need to let people age with dignity in their own homes."
It's not just children; it's senior citizens and disabled citizens too. These budgets don't go far enough to protect the weakest and most underrepresented citizens of our society: children, disabled citizens, and senior citizens.

Democrats are under intense political pressure from business groups, the GOP, and the Seattle Times editorial board not to raise taxes. This makes it very difficult for Democrats to write up a state budget that fully funds government services.

We can't afford to "live within our means". We have to fully fund government services, and if we need to raise new revenue to do so, then that is what we must do.

One way to raise revenue would be to eliminate tax exemptions for many businesses that are currently enjoying a free ride. That would also help address our regressive tax structure.

One thing is sure: we owe it to ourselves to make sure that everyone in our society is taken care of. If the GOP and its allies truly believe in a "culture of life", then they should be willing to step forward and support not just the beginning and end, but also that part known as the "in between".

Whining about the estate tax

From the Seattle P-I, we get this lovely quote:
"I would support a higher sales tax, even an income tax in this state, rather than having a death tax installed," said Don Root, who wants his sons to carry on his Seattle-based manufacturing and design company after he dies.

Reinstating an estate tax at the same time the federal government is poised to abolish it would cause successful Washington businesses to leave the state, taking a lot of good jobs with them, said Root, whose company employs roughly 450 people in Washington.
Don Root is complaining about the Governor's proposed budget, which reinstates a large chunk of the estate tax that was wiped out by a recent Supreme Court ruling.

Even though Washington has had an estate tax since 1901, Don Root claims that it's enough to drive his business out of state. But David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org has some questions for Mr. Root:
Washington heirs have been paying an estate tax for 104 years – and on much smaller estates than proposed in the new budget – but now suddenly, because the tax lapsed for two months, a new-found class consciousness is going to drive the wealthy out of state? Was Root planning to move his business out of state before the February ruling? If not, why, and if so, has anything really changed? Is anybody actually suggesting that our estate tax has been driving jobs out of state since 1901?

This is not a new tax. It is a tax that we have been levying for over a century, and as William Gates Sr. points out, it is an extremely fair tax.
I could have written a short conclusion to all of this, but for some reason, David Goldstein said exactly what I wanted to say. So rather than rephrase, here's his conclusion below, my thoughts exactly:
I’m not going to argue that an estate tax will never force heirs to sell off a family business… perhaps it occasionally does. But when our highly regressive tax structure is so cruelly unfair to middle- and lower-income households, I find it incredible to think that we should shift even more tax burden onto working families because a handful of multi-millionaires think an estate tax is unfair.

I’m not sure what’s more offensive: the selfish efforts to secure yet another tax break for the wealthy, or the bogus and insulting economic threats with which they are trying to sell it.
There you go. There's no doubt that Washington State has a regressive tax structure. But the estate tax is one of the things that helps balance out the sales tax and the property tax, both of which fall heaviest on middle and lower income families.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Ad campaign to attack privatization

From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON -- A new organization created to defeat President Bush's plans for Social Security intends to open a television ad campaign this week depicting the proposal as the tip of an iceberg that will cut benefits and raise the national debt.

Erik Smith, a spokeman for ProtectYourCheck.org, said the group will spend nearly $1 milion to show the commercial on cable stations nationally over the next three weeks. Other ads will follow on broadcast stations, he said, aimed at individual lawmakers of both parties.
Here's more information about ProtectYourCheck.org:
ProtectYourCheck.org is a non-profit advocacy organization established to oppose the White House's effort to dismantle Social Security, the most successful retirement and anti-poverty program in our nation's history. ProtectYourCheck.org will educate Americans on the financial health of Social Security, promote policies to strengthen Social Security and encourage citizens to speak out about this issue to ensure that Congress doesn't pass legislation that weakens the Social Security Trust Fund.
We need to muster all of our resources to shoot this plan down. A loss for Bush on this issue could have a domino effect on many other issues during the second term, which would greatly minimize the damage this administration can cause our country.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

World reactions to Pope's death

Read reactions from world leaders and politicians on the death of Pope John Paul II below. You can also read the statement from the Democratic National Committee here.

NPI Official Statement on the Death of Pope John Paul II
The Northwest Progressive Institute is sad to learn that Pope John Paul II has died. The Holy Father was truly an inspiration not only to Catholics, but also to all the world’s people.

He courageously tried to build bridges to other faiths, reaching out to Jews, Muslims, and many other faiths. He traveled a greater distance than any other pope, not to mention all the previous popes combined.

He was a beacon for freedom, a source of hope for his native Poland, and a voice for liberty, urging oppressed people everywhere not to be intimidated by dictatorships and autocratic rule.

He condemned war and violence and was adamant in insisting that the world’s nations work together for peace.

His legacy will long be remembered and celebrated.

We add our thoughts and prayers to the thoughts and prayers of billions of other peoples’ around the globe in honoring this wonderful man.


Reactions from World Leaders
“The queen has conveyed to the Holy See her deep sorrow on receiving the news of the death of his holiness Pope John Paul II…Her majesty remembers the untiring efforts of Pope John Paul II in promoting peace and goodwill throughout the world.” - Statement from Buckingham Palace, from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

" It is with the deepest sorrow that I have learnt of the death of his Holiness Pope John Paul II…His death is a great loss. He will be long remembered for his tireless efforts to promote world peace and for his great warmth of personality," he said." - Prince Charles, in a message issued through his residence at Clarence House

"Throughout a hard and often difficult life, he stood for social justice and on the side of the oppressed, whether as a young man facing the Nazi occupation in Poland or later in challenging the communist regime. He never wavered, never flinched, in the struggle for what he thought was good and right." – British Prime Minister Tony Blair

“The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd; the world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home.” - George W. Bush

"In speaking powerfully and eloquently for mercy and reconciliation to people divided by old hatreds and persecuted by abuse of power, the Holy Father was a beacon of light not just for Catholics, but for all people." - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

"Pope John Paul II was a man of God, and he was also a man of the people. He was a source of hope to so many, and he honored that devotion by traveling the world to reach out to people of all ages, nationalities, and faiths." - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California

"Drawing upon his enduring moral strength and conviction, Pope John Paul II advanced the cause of solidarity in his native Poland and helped to topple communism around the world. We will never forget the example he set by forgiving the man who tried to take his life, and by praying at the Western Wall to ask Jews for their forgiveness. He traveled to places forgotten by all but God to pray for the sick and the poor, and millions turned out to hear his voice, even when strained. In death, as in life, his incredible spirit provides every Catholic with strength and his memory provides us with wisdom." - Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts

"In his 26 years as the head of the Roman Catholic church, this noble son of Poland achieved an extraordinary impact, not only as a source of spiritual guidance, but as a true apostle of peace. The Pope's global vision included Canada, and he repeatedly expressed his interest in our country. Our grief today is the grief of the world.” - Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin

"An enlightened and inspired priest, he devoted himself to responding to the search for sense and the thirst for justice that is expressed today on all continents…History will retain the imprint and the memory of this exceptional sovereign pontiff, whose charisma, conviction and compassion carried the evangelical message with unprecedented resonance on the international stage.” – Jacques Chirac, Presdient of France

"Pope John Paul II wrote history. Through his work, and through his impressive personality he changed our world. [The pope should be praised for his work on] peace, human rights, solidarity and social justice." – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

"We are all grateful for the tireless work and suffering that he bore incessantly against every form of totalitarianism, violence, oppression and moral degradation in the name of the values of the Catholic Church that are also the supreme values of human dignity and solidarity." - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

"He ... (was) extremely concerned about the world we lived in, and like me, he also felt that in war, all are losers.” - Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General

"Our people receive the news of his death with a deep sense of grief and loss. He was a holy champion of the Filipino family and of profound Christian values that make everyone of us contemplate everyday, what is just, moral and sacred in life.” - Philippine President Gloria Arroyo

"(Without him) there would be no end of communism or at least much later and the end would have been bloody," - Lech Walesa, former leader of Poland's Solidarity movement

"He promoted inter-faith understanding and dialogue, with a willingness to address the past, and a profound determination to build a future of understanding and brotherhood between all faiths. [His passing is] a great loss...for humanity as a whole." - Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom

"We will miss him as a distinguished religious figure, who devoted his life to defending the values of peace, freedom and equality. He defended the rights of Palestinians, their freedom and independence." - Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas

"We know that Pope John Paul II used his personal stature to fight against communist dictatorships, for a bloodless and peaceful transition. For this all of central and eastern Europe, including all freedom loving citizens of Hungary, must pay their respects to the memory of the holy father.” - Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany

"He was not only a great moral and religious figure, but he was also a very significant political figure, in the best sense of that term…The contribution that he made to the freeing of his native Poland, and what was set in train ultimately leading to the collapse of Soviet communism is one of the more remarkable features of his life. The world has lost one of the dominant personal influences of my generation and indeed of many years. The pope was an inspirational leader, not only to one billion Catholics around the world, but he was an exemplar of the Christian life to all Christians.” – Australian Prime Minister John Howard

"This is a sad day, we are very sad to lose him...We will never forget his noble stance in support of the oppressed people, including the Palestinians.” - Hesham Youssef, a spokesman for the secretary general of the Arab League

"The focus and mission of his pontificate were rooted in his vision of the dignity of the human person and its implications for the proper character of social relations, within and between nations." - Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern

“[Pope John Paul II] was the number one humanist on this planet. The pope was able to do a lot not only for Catholics, but for the whole world.” - former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev

Read more reactions to the Pope's death here.

Pope John Paul II: 1920-2005

The Guardian UK has a good obituary for Pope John Paul II:
Pope John Paul II, who has died at the age of 84, was seen in the flesh by more people than any other pope in history. He made more than 100 international journeys, each of them a marathon which left his suite limp and made his adrenaline flow.

Some said these trips were more show and ceremony than substance, but they had real political significance. In 1989, he went to Paraguay, where he publicly rebuked the long-serving dictator Alfredo Stroessner and greeted opposition leaders; months later, the regime fell.

In 1998, on one of his most highly publicised journeys to Cuba, he had Fidel Castro eating out of his hand, even as he publicly challenged the Cuban president to grant "freedom of conscience - the basis and foundation of all other human rights". After the visit there followed the release of political prisoners, the easing of restrictions on religious liberty, and a softening of the US economic embargo.

The Polish-born Karol Wojtyla had almost become an actor before he became a priest, and he always retained his talent for creating a rapport with crowds. A bishop at 38, a cardinal at 47, and pope at 58, he was the outstanding outsider, his faith tested by decades of communist persecution, to break the 455-year tradition of Italian popes.

On his first visit home as Pope, in June 1979, he stood before a million well-disciplined people in Victory Square, Warsaw, where a 60ft-high cross had been specially erected. No communist country had seen anything like it before.
In Poland, John Paul acted as a tribune of the people, a true populist, articulating the nation's deepest aspirations.

He gave Poles the self-confidence they needed to found Solidarnosc as a unique alliance of workers and intellectuals. The dismantling of communism began there. Mikhail Gorbachev admitted that without John Paul the end of communism would not have come so swiftly; it was his greatest achievement, done without violence - history's first great "spiritual revolution".

BREAKING: Pope John Paul II dies

The Vatican has confirmed that Pope John Paul II has died at the age of 84:
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- John Paul II, who led the Roman Catholic Church for 26 years and helped topple communism in Europe while becoming the most-traveled pope, died Saturday night in his Vatican apartment after a long public struggle against debilitating illness. He was 84.

"We all feel like orphans this evening," Undersecretary of State Archbishop Leonardo told the crowd of 70,000 that had gathered in St. Peter's Square below the pope's still-lighted apartment windows.

The assembled faithful fell into a stunned silence before some people broke out in applause - an Italian tradition in which mourners often clap for important figures. Others wept.

The crowd, which appeared to grow quickly, recited the rosary. A person in the front held a Polish flag in honor of the Polish-born pontiff.

"The angels welcome you," Vatican TV said after papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced the death of the pope, who had for years suffered from Parkinson's disease and came down with fever and infections in recent weeks.

A Mass was scheduled for St. Peter's Square for 10:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. EDT) Sunday.
Rest in peace, Holy Father. You were an inspiration and we will miss your leadership, even though we didn't agree on everything.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Pope's condition very grave

The latest news:
Pope John Paul appeared close to death after heart failure and breathing problems, but was still conscious and in a stable but serious condition, the Vatican said.

Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope had received the "Holy Viaticum" communion, reserved for those near death, after a sharp downturn in his health overnight (local time). He told his aides he did not want to return to hospital for treatment.
We will continue to follow breaking news as it develops.