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Midday Scan: Inslee draws fire; City Light experiments in Ballard; Divorce Alaska-style

Has Jay Inslee pulled a Sarah Palin move? City Light considers a big change in street lighting. And lawmakers look at a tobacco tax that would apply to roll-your-own sales of pipe tobacco.

(U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

(U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) None

Jay Inslee is no Sarah Palin. Captain John Yossarian from Joseph Heller's Catch-22? Now that is a fitting correlate.

The soon-to-be ex-congressman and gubernatorial candidate heeded calls to bolt the U.S. House to concentrate fulltime on his bromidic campaign. It's a Catch-22, however, as Inslee, freighted with the shirker label, is forced to answer why he took so long (consequently avoiding a special election that Democrats might have wished to avoid and leaving his seat vacant through November.) 

"The U.S. House of Representatives is due to spend just 109 days doing the public's business in Washington, D.C. this year.  But even a schedule drawn up to grease reelection campaigns and Speaker John Boehner's golf game proved too onerous for Jay Inslee's political ambitions," the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes. "Inslee is quitting Congress in a week's time: The Democratic gubernatorial candidate is going out as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin did in 2009, seeking greener pastures and leaving an important office entrusted to him by the voters."  

Palin? Ouch. The broader question is whether party politics trumped public service. If so, and that's the inference, it could (and should) become a political millstone.

Politics stops at the water's edge or, as one Northwest lawmaker said decades ago, "In matters of national security, the best politics is no politics." Alas, when Sen. Arthur Vandenberg made his water's-edge comment it was 1947, and no one could imagine a decade-long war in Afghanistan. So, a war that once united Washington's congressional delegation now illustrates its political fissures.

"Sunday's carnage in Afghanistan, the apparent result of a violent outburst by a soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has left members of the state's congressional delegation as they were before — sharply divided about how quickly to end the war," the Seattle Times' Kyung M. Song writes. "The state's 11 members of Congress are split on how soon some 90,000 U.S. soldiers still in Afghanistan should come home. The Obama administration plans to formally end combat operations there by December 2014." 

Seattle is still an incubator for creative, vanguard tinkering. Does that tinkering make a difference? Well, sometimes. As the New York Times William Yardley writes, "This city has a noble notion of itself at the leading edge. Its jets, coffee, computers, environmental activism and philanthropy have all been celebrated for remaking the globe. Now Seattle wants to change not just the world but its light bulbs, too."  

The imperative to conserve energy gives momentum to the issue of L.E.D. streetlights, and Seattle is experimenting. Participants were each given $40 and told to evaluate and contrast the new lights along 15th Avenue NW one recent night. (Note to self: Become a paid volunteer for Seattle City Light.)  

Life's axioms include "buy low and sell high," love thy neighbor, and "always seek to punish or impugn evildoer smokers." ("evildoer" and "smoker" have been synonymous for the past 30 years.) One way evildoers have sidestepped ponying up loads of cash for cigarettes is by rolling their own. It's an enterprising approach and much cheaper when using (and, yes, it sounds gross) pipe tobacco. That could soon change, however.  

"Customers are able to bypass hefty cigarette taxes by using pipe tobacco, which is taxed at lower rates. It's triggered a debate among state lawmakers, who are considering whether this tobacco should be taxed at higher, cigarette-like rates," The Herald's Sharon Salyer writes. "The debate doesn't involve small change. At stake is about $13 million a year in potential tax revenues, according to the state Office of Financial Management." Evildoers get dunned and uncorrupted Washingtonians benefit. Who could ask for anything more?

Lastly, we've all been there: A painful breakup followed by the inevitable, "Who gets the elk head?" Now, justice at last, as Alaska decides to permit the sale of big-game trophies in divorce cases. As the Anchorage Daily News' Tim Mowry writes, "Alaskans who get divorced and don't want to look at the moose head their hunting-crazy spouse hung on the wall now have an option. They can sell it."      


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