Midday Scan: Monday's top stories around the region

9-11 as a literary event; Sen. Murray as the Senate's baby-sitter; get ready for redistricting fireworks; a warning shot on federal transit funding; and Amazon's truce in the California sales-tax battle.

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Sen. Patty Murray

9-11 as a literary event; Sen. Murray as the Senate's baby-sitter; get ready for redistricting fireworks; a warning shot on federal transit funding; and Amazon's truce in the California sales-tax battle.

The unimaginable may require a poet or novelist to re-imagine it. No journalistic bromides. No recast conventional wisdom. The Seattle Times took a creative approach to assess the tenth anniversary of 9/11, featuring a headlining essay by Spokane novelist Jess Walter. Walter delivers an unromantic and elemental read of 9/11's legacy. "We went on a seven-year spending spree that sent us into crushing personal and national debt. We fought two wars — one against a country that had no connection to the attacks — without paying for them. We tortured, violated our principles, and sacrificed our freedoms all in the name of protecting ... our principles and freedoms," Walter writes. It's raw, unadorned, provocative. Unfortunately, news outlets rarely look to the creative class for insight. Why not elbow novelist Charles Johnson to apply his Buddhist sensibiilities to Husky football, or poet Heather McHugh to tackle the higher-ed budget, or Tim McNulty to crystallize transportation planning into a few stanzas? And Tom Robbins could write about anything he wants.

National media is taking note of Sen. Patty Murray's new leadership role as supercommittee co-chair. Washington's senior senator is, Roll Call writes, "a victim of her own competence." Murray's strength is providing a kind of apolitical ballast, ego-tending the senate's multiple abrasive personalities (she's enough of a conundrum that one unnamed Republican operative calls her "enigmatic)." The article makes it sound as if the world's greatest deliberative body is a mental ward with Murray playing the stabilizing "normie." There may also be an unspoken gender component at work (read: Truculent boys often get out of hand). Meredith Shiner notes that "it even seems like Murray’s role as Senate Democratic Conference secretary — the No. 4 party position — is to adeptly baby-sit others on the leadership team." To add to Murray's designated-adult responsibilities, Roll Call observes in a separate piece that Murray will not relinquish her fundraising duties as chair of the labor-intensive Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "I'm a multitasker. I'm doing great," she tells the paper.  

There is nothing more political or uncertain than drawing lines on a map. Elbridge Gerry, the namesake of "gerrymandering," would be disappointed to witness Washington's peaceable, de-fanged re-districting process. Peaceable, that is, for now. As the Everett Herald's Jerry Cornfield reports regarding Tuesday's scheduled release of the Washington Redistricting Commission's bipartisan recommendations, "Expect a few hoots and howls from those who see their political futures brightened or dimmed in what's revealed." Snohomish County councilmember John Koster, who keeps running for Rick Larsen's seat, could find himself nested in the first district, a potential boon for Koster with no apparent Republican contenders. The newly created tenth district may go in the Olympia area, although why would Republicans effectively ensure a Democratic seat?

Consider a transportation behemoth with funding lined up, planners penciling away, and politicos congratulating themselves for delivering major bacon to the folks back home. Then consider it all gone in the blink of a Tea Party eye. Gerry Shih of the Bay Citizen describes how the spasm of Republican austerity measures now extends to federal transit funding, in this case to San Francisco's proposed and controversial Central Subway. Shih notes that, "Under current projections, about $984 million — or 60 percent — of the Central Subway’s $1.6 billion total cost would come from federal sources, but a bill released Wednesday by a House subcommittee would prohibit transit projects from receiving more than half of their funding from Washington." Republican budget cutters may be savoring the possibility of sandbagging a pet project of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republicans take note: Pelosi plays hard ball, and one person's austerity can quickly become another person's job-killing extremism.  

Detente has been reached between Amazon and the state of California, the New York Times reports. There will be a one-year reprieve in collecting sales taxes, giving Amazon time to try and re-work federal tax policy. As a result of the truce, Amazon will also halt its Eyman-esque ballot measure. Will the company simply use the coming months to move all of its subsidiaries out of the state? As all good Cold Warriors know, detente can be an illusion.  

Link summary

Seattle Times, "9/11 promise made, forgotten"

Roll Call, "Murray quietly ascends in leadership roles"

Everett Herald, "5 things to watch as state's political lines are redrawn"

The Bay Citizen, "House Republicans Threaten Central Subway Funding"

The New York Times, "Amazon and California in deal on tax"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson