Midday Scan: Tuesday's top stories around the region

Chastened homebuilders, bum's rush for Yoo-know-who, unemployment blues in Tacoma and Portland, no-show in 2012 for President You-know-who.

Crosscut archive image.

President Obama leaving the stage after speaking to a crowd in Milwaukee, Wis.

Chastened homebuilders, bum's rush for Yoo-know-who, unemployment blues in Tacoma and Portland, no-show in 2012 for President You-know-who.

In today's Seattle Times, Andrew Garber reports that a funny thing happened on the way to the housing slide: The Business Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), long a conservative bulldog and counterweight to organized labor, transitioned from Genghis Khan to Mahatma Gandhi. With new leadership and diminished resources, the BIAW is reaching out to the governor and other traditional foes in an effort to rebrand itself as just another let's-all-get-along business group. A personality transplant, not simply a facelift, may be difficult to finesse. It was the BIAW, after all, that once called the governor a "heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead." The BIAW is so skilled at lupine political invective, it's hard to imagine them as simply a sheep in sheep's clothing. A recast BIAW is also bad news for Rob McKenna's gubernatorial campaign coffers. As former Republican Party Chair Chris Vance observed, "What it means is the Republicans have no allies with any real money."  

A compelling political encounter in Seattle was captured by the History News Network. John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor and former Bush administration official, is best known for his legal justification to defy the Geneva Conventions and okay "enhanced interrogation techniques" known commonly on the streets as "torture." Yoo was participating in a forum at a meeting of the venerable American Political Science Association in Seattle entitled, "The 150th anniversary of Fort Sumter: Lessons for Presidential Power Today." Yoo was waxing presidential about Lincoln and Bush and it was too much for one participant to countenance (a video link is included). Yoo was heckled but the heckler was ultimately taken away with the guffawing support of members of the audience. The scene illustrated what many of us have suspected for years, that political scientists never had any trouble torturing others.   

Labor Day provides an opportunity to illuminate a stagnant economy's impact on real lives. In a sobering array of snapshots, C.R. Roberts of the Tacoma News Tribune profiles the long-term unemployed, sometimes called the "exhaustees." The range of unemployed in Pierce County underlines the challenge and complexity of the issue. Roadblocks include a job skills' lacuna, structural unemployment, education, mental health, and simple bad luck. The broader and more troubling questions: Are some problems simply intractable and is this the new, invisible face of the economy?  

One economic Catch-22: state lawmakers lay off teachers and other public-sector employees to align with attenuating budgets, and those formerly employed citizens, adrift and slammed for money, exacerbate a stagnant economy. As Harry Esteve of the Oregonian writes, newly unemployed veterans of the public sector are neutralizing modest gains in the private sphere. Teachers, in particular, are taking a huge hit. As Esteve notes, "Nowhere is that public employment downturn more apparent than in the K-12 school system, which has taken the brunt of the cuts. The effects will be clear this week as students, teachers, and staff return to classrooms: Bigger class sizes, fewer offerings and, in many cases, reduced or frozen pay and a shakier sense of job security."

Larry Sabato offers an incisive read in the Wall Street Journal on the seven key states that will determine the 2012 presidential election. Washington is not in play (read: Obama figures the Evergreen state is a sure thing, so don't expect any presidential face time unless you have the resources to attend major-donor fundraisers). Sabato thinks Oregon is "likely" Democratic, which may put it into play. Two Western states, Colorado and Nevada, are part of the magic seven. Will Obama's relative absence hurt Democrat Jay Inslee's gubernatorial candidacy (by lowering turnout) or have just the opposite effect (by giving Inslee distance from President Zero)?   

Link summary

Seattle Times, "Builders group focuses on mending fences"

History News Network, "John Yoo talk on Lincoln interrupted by protest in Seattle"

Tacoma News Tribune, "Determined to work: Stories of the long-term unemployed"

The Oregonian, "School job loses help stymie Oregon's economic recovery"

The Wall Street Journal, "The 2012 Election will Come Down to Seven States"


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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