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Outside Voices: Just say no to earmarks

Chicago Tribune, March 15: On Wednesday (March 10), Democratic leaders decreed that they will ban earmarks – special, under-the-radar spending requests – that benefit private businesses. The Democrats will still allow earmarks that go to not-for-profit enterprises.

On Thursday, House Republicans went one better: They announced they won’t seek earmarks for anybody. A unilateral disarmament.

The spending requests that members of Congress tuck into various appropriations bills have come to symbolize all that is wrong with Washington. They are often concocted in secret and dropped into spending bills at the last minute. They often benefit individuals, companies or causes that contribute money to the members of Congress. That makes campaign cash a wise, but unethical, investment.

So, it’s good to see a wee bit of reform on earmarks. Republicans did a nifty job of trumping Democrats. The Democrats should match the Republican decision to swear off all earmarks. The attempt to protect some earmarks will only cause them trouble – lobbyists will find ways to manipulate that.

Just stop doing earmarks. Take one step to quit spending money you don’t have. Trust us. You’ll survive. Your constituents might even find a reason to like you, for a change.

Los Angeles Times, March 16: Almost 6,000 migrants have died in the Arizona desert since the mid-1990s. Despite the difficulty of making a successful crossing, people take the “Devil’s Path” because the mathematics of opportunity have not changed significantly: An immigrant with a job in the United States can earn in one hour what would be a full day’s wages in Mexico.

Various groups have tried to address this dangerous new reality. These efforts, which skirt the politics of illegal immigration, deserve praise and additional resources.

But aiding desperate migrants who already are in the desert is one proposition, and offering assistance before they begin their trek is another. That’s why the creation of a new cell phone application that uses the global positioning system to guide migrants to caches of water that have been left for them is troubling. The Transborder Migration Tool will be installed on phones distributed by Mexican nongovernmental organizations and churches to those about to set out.

Our concern is that the new technology will give migrants a false sense of security about the horrors ahead of them. What will happen, for instance, if the cache is found, but there is no water left because another group got there first?

The best app would be one that warns migrants not to cross. Already the migrants who dare the crossing often find that they have been deluded. A better way to save them would be to spend time, energy and resources on telling them the truth.

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Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

State lawmakers want to create a legislative loophole in Washington’s Public Records Act. While it’s nice to see Democrats and Republicans working together for once, it’s just too bad that their agreement is that the public is the enemy. As The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia reporter Jim Camden explained Feb. 22, lawmakers could vote on a bill today responding to a court order that the people of Washington are entitled to review legislative records.