Our Congressional Representative, Jaime Herrera Beutler, declined to hold town hall meetings during last week’s Presidents’ Day recess. She found time, however, to hold a closed-to-the-public gathering at swanky Skamania Lodge in Stevenson last Wednesday.

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It’s week two of the federal government shutdown and many of us out here in the hinterlands are still wondering what the Republican end game is. We know what the shutdown represents symbolically: a ransom note to President Obama and Senate Democrats to give in to House Republican demands on the federal budget, i.e., defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, or else the Republicans will increase the pain their hostages — the American people — are enduring at their expense.

Washington is beginning to debate the proper extent of government eavesdropping powers in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA. It’s hardly as robust a discussion as it should be, but it’s a desperately needed start.

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