Midday Scan: Thursday's top stories around the region

Homeland insecurity, a new bridge for endless debate, why Obama is wobbly on the environment, and the high cost of brunching with POTUS.

Homeland insecurity, a new bridge for endless debate, why Obama is wobbly on the environment, and the high cost of brunching with POTUS.

Terrorism has a domestic face: It's xenophobic, racist, and rabidly anti-government. As Meghann Cuniff writes in this morning's Spokane Spokesman Review, the guilty plea of white separatist Kevin Harpham in connection with the attempted bombing at an MLK Day march in Spokane is one of the more visible manifestations of homegrown terror. Cuniff notes, "Although details surrounding how Harpham first emerged as a suspect remain sealed, and investigators still won’t discuss specifics about that case, authorities say investigative techniques have broadened since Sept. 11, 2001." On paper Harpham sounds like a case study from David Neiwert's seminal 1999 book, In God's Country, which documents the rise of the Patriot movement in the Northwest. A compelling aspect of the Harpham case is the role of the Department of Homeland Security: Post-9/11 federal resources augment the capacity of local law enforcement to nab bad guys who have zero connection to international terrorism.  

The news from Spokane seems to validate the mission and scope of the Department of Homeland Security. However, as Slate reports, the DHS is a colossus, a $1 trillion bureaucracy with little or no oversight from lawmakers. As John Mueller and Mark Stewart observe, "The key fact is this: At present rates (and including 9/11 in the count), the likelihood a resident of the United States will perish at the hands of a terrorist is 1 in 3.5 million per year. And the key question, one almost never broached, is this: How much should we be willing to pay to make that likelihood even lower?" It's Public Administration 101: Why can't there be cost-benefit analysis of DHS programs?      

No one is talking oversight in the hyper-transparent process to build the new SR 520 bridge. No, like its evil twin, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the 520 bridge is subject to Soviet-style heel dragging, litigious neighbors, and endless debate. Scott Gutierrez writes in today's Seattlepi.com, "The state's plan to build a bridge almost twice as wide isn't popular in neighborhoods such as Montlake, whose homes will be closer to traffic, and more of it. Some Lake Washington views from neighborhoods like Laurelhurst will be obstructed by the taller bridge. Another concern is the impact of a larger roadway through environmentally sensitive wetlands." The "Coalition for a Sustainable SR 520" is now suing, focusing in particular on alleged flaws in the state's environmental review.  

It's not easy being green: Few can accuse the Obama Administration of hyper-vigilance on the environment (okay, maybe everyone at the Republican debates can). Not many in the conservation community, however, anticipated a laissez-faire, pro-business agenda undergirding administration policy. Cally Carswell observes in High Country News, "Let's get real: No matter what Obama does at this point to court corporate or conservative favor, he's gonna get called a job killer come election season. So why thwart the ozone rules? Will looking like a pushover really do him any political good?" 

We can probably assume that enviros won't be showing up in droves for the big Obama fundraiser later this month. As Joel Connelly of the Seattlepi.com notes, the "Medina Brunch with Barack" on September 25 will set donors back $35,800. The good news: The price includes two, so you can bring your spouse.  

Link summary

Spokane Spokesman-Review, "Terrorist activity festers in region"

Slate, "9/11 and terrorism: Why does the government refuse to do cost-benefit analysis on homeland-security spending?"

Seattlepi.com, "Neighborhoods sue to stop SR 520 bridge plan"

High Country News, "Let it smog"

Seattlepi.com, "Lunch with Obama--$35,800 a couple"


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


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