Media, the Economy, Boeing


Anyone who wonders whether it makes a difference having two newspapers in town need look no further than the Monday-morning coverage of this past weekend's Northwest Bookfest. No doubt most fest-goers had a fine time, but there was no missing the fact that attendance was way off from past years (this was the first time Bookfest charged admission), and that a rather dead feeling hung over much of the vast Sand Point hangar. You wouldn't know that from the Seattle Times coverage, however, which, on both Sunday and Monday, waxed excitedly about the event's "high spirits" and "embarrassment of literary riches." Nowhere in the stories was it mentioned that the Seattle Times Co. is the primary sponsor of Bookfest. It took the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to note how precarious is Bookfest's continued existence and to quote a member of Bookfest's board as saying that the sparse attendance threw into doubt the community's support. Of course, the P-I is hardly free of grossly one-sided reporting. But likewise, that's why you need two papers. MARK D. FEFER


Even though last week Seattle's unemployment rate held steady at 7.3 percent and Boeing announced the end of the 757, Joseph Cortright, a Portland-based consulting economist, says our prospects are good. Cortright is working on a study that focuses on cities in which college-educated young people congregate. He claims the presence of such denizens is a determinant of long-term economic health. "Seattle is the best-educated city in the United States," he says. Moreover, "It's going to be some kid in their 20s now who is going to invent the next big thing." Whoever that is, please invent it soon. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.


One of D.C.'s bigger pork boondoggles, Boeing's skyway robbery of taxpayers through an inflated Air Force tanker lease deal took a new, deserved hit last week. A study by the Congressional Budget Office said that making a straightforward purchase of 100 Everett-built 767s (which would be converted to refueling tankers in Wichita, Kan.) could cost $14.8 billion in current dollars, and scrapping the $21.5 billion lease plan could mean a savings of $6.7 billion. It's such a whopping difference that Sen. John Warner, the Republican Armed Services Committee chair, says it's time to take a new look at the deal. If you're just tuning in, it's an especially messy pork-barrel moment, because it turns out that Rep. Norm Dicks, the Bremerton Democrat, first goosed the deal with a post-9/11 plea to President Bush. The ensuing airline crisis "has had a dramatically negative impact on the nation's sole commercial airframe manufacturer, the Boeing Co.," he wrote in an Oct. 4, 2001, letter to Bush, which was recently released during congressional hearings. "At this time, we have a unique opportunity to address the problems affecting Boeing while also meeting urgent requirements to modernize Air Force and Navy aircraft." Dicks proposed the U.S. spend $2.5 billion to buy or lease new tankers. Eric Miller, of the watchdog Project on Government Oversight (POGO), says the letter underscores how Boeing's supposed failing business operation, not national security, was the driving force, and uses 9/11 as justification for "this bad deal." RICK ANDERSON

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