Monthly Archives: August 2007

Why Larry Craig And Not Ted Stevens ?

It now seems apparent that at some point on Saturday, Idaho Senator Larry Craig will announce his resignation from the Senate in the aftermath of what is at least a very embarrassing arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In what I can only consider a rare moment, though, I find myself agreeing with the New York Times Editoral Board when they point out the hypocrisy of the Republican outrage over Craig’s alleged infraction:

The Republican Party is in quite a rush to keelhaul Senator Larry Craig for his run-in with the vice squad in an airport men’s room. Disclosure of the senator’s guilty plea to disorderly conduct set off a frenzy to demand an investigation by the Senate’s somnolent Ethics Committee and to strip Mr. Craig of his committee seniority. Some of the senator’s peers simply demanded that he resign.

No similar leadership chorus for judgment has been heard about any number of other scandalous revelations on the party’s plate.

There’s the F.B.I.’s inquiry into whether Senator Ted Stevens swung a quid-pro-quo deal for a government contractor who eventually renovated his Alaska home. There’s also Senator David Vitter’s presence on the client list of a Washington brothel. Mr. Vitter, a social conservative, pleaded guilty to “sin” (heterosexual) and no leadership call ensued for a thorough in-house ethics inquiry. Certainly, no Republican called for the resignation of Mr. Vitter, who comes from Louisiana, which has a Democratic governor who would then replace him. Mr. Craig is from a safe state with a Republican governor.

The Times attributes the swift reaction of GOP insiders, and their conservative supporters, to the same prejudices that underlie their opposition to gay marriage.

Perhaps this is true, perhaps it isn’t. In either case, I’d rather be ruled by a Senate filled with Larry Craig’s  than a Senate filled with men like Ted Stevens.

Ron Paul Gets Some Respect

From The Wall Street Journal:

As polls track the public’s disaffection, political strategists are on alert for a third-party movement. Paulites insist their man can win the Republican nomination, though he has gone from zero to just 2% in polls. If he can’t, their fervor suggests they would push him to run independently. But having run as a Libertarian in 1988, when he took just 0.47% of the vote, Mr. Paul has discouraged such speculation.

The Web “is redefining what a grass-roots campaign looks like,” says Mr. Morey, the computer engineer. More than other candidates’ fans, Paul supporters take matters into their own hands, planning events and raising money in a decentralized process that parallels Mr. Paul’s vision of what government should be. Aside from his own Web site, there are free-lancers’ and (“the world’s largest collection of writings by Ron Paul”), among others, MySpace “friends” groups and YouTube video-sharing.

It has meant $3 million to Mr. Paul, making him fourth among eight Republicans in fund raising and first among the five dark horses in cash on hand. But the netroots’ bottom-up energy poses challenges, too, for a campaign trying to channel if not control it. “We’re running a campaign, and we’d like to think we know what we’re doing,” says deputy campaign manager Joe Seehusen. “And then there’s this thing called the Internet, and that has a life of its own.”

There’s just one thing missing from the Journal’s article, and that’s any significant coverage of the ideas that Ron Paul talks about. In more than one sense, I would submit that those ideas are more important than the success of his campaign. This, however, seems consistent with the fact that support for the campaign itself seems to be mirroring the personality-based support for the campaigns of men like Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and Ross Perot in 1992, neither of which succeeded in winning and neither of which succeeded in creating any lasting movement.

As nice as it would be to live in a world where it was possible, given the odds, Ron Paul isn’t going to be President. At the rate things are going, we’ll be lucky if the person taking the Oath of Office on January 20, 2009 is someone who actually believes in the free market.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that can be done to advance freedom. I addressed some of them in my open letter to Ron Paul’s supporters back in July, but I’m sure that someone else can come up with even more ideas.

Let’s Leave The Real Estate Market Alone

For the first time since it has become an issue, President Bush has decided that it’s necessary to inject himself into the market correction currently taking place in the real estate market:

President Bush today unveiled a series of measures intended to help ease a wave of mortgage defaults, but he ruled out any federal bailout for lenders or for homeowners who bought properties they could not afford.

In a brief speech in the White House Rose Garden, Bush urged lenders to “work with homeowners to adjust their mortgages” if homeowners run into difficulties making payments. He also outlined steps to modernize the Federal Housing Administration, allow homeowners to refinance into FHA-insured mortgages with lower rates, temporarily reform a key housing provision of the federal tax code and launch a new “foreclosure avoidance initiative.”

Bush said U.S. markets “are in a period of transition as participants reassess and re-price risks,” a process he said will “take more time to fully play out.” But he stressed that the U.S. economy remains “strong enough to weather any turbulence.”

Referring to strains in the mortgage market, notably the “subprime” sector that includes riskier loans, Bush said the market has undergone “tremendous innovation” in recent years, with credit made available to more people. He described this development as mostly positive, helping to push American homeownership to new heights.

“Unfortunately, there has also been some excesses in the lending industry,” Bush said, citing a “troubling” increase in adjustable-rate mortgages, which start out with low interest rates and then rise sharply to higher rates.

What the President, and everyone else who has seen fit to make a comment on the real estate/mortgage situation recently fails to mention, of course, is the fact that there are two sides to every mortgage loan. There’s the lender, who takes the risk of lending hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there’s the seller, who, at least in the days of the high-flying real estate market, was not exactly the example of the rational consumer.

Case in point. There was a story in a local newspaper here in the Washington, D.C. area (a link to which seems to be unavailable at the moment) about a local couple who purchased a $ 600,000 home two years ago. The wife operated a maid service, and the husband was a construction contractor.

Yes, they may have qualified for a mortgage in 2005, but can anyone seriously tell me that they thought about whether they might have a problem if 2007 turned out to be a more difficult year than 2005 ? Frankly, I think the answer is no.

And yet George W. Bush, who claims to be a Republican, wants to intervene in the market to save people like this from bad financial decisions.

Colored Flour = Felony Terrorism Charges

As is well known to the readers of The Liberty Papers and The Unrepentant Individual, I love beer. It’s also true, largely due to drinking beer, that I could stand to be in better shape. So when I one day found the sport of hashing, I was excited. Sometimes called “a drinking club with a running problem”, it’s an excuse for runners to drink (or in my case, for drinkers to run).

Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I haven’t had a chance to get involved in a hashing club. It’s probably for the best, though, because some hashers found themselves in quite hot water recently:

Two people who sprinkled flour in a parking lot to mark a trail for their offbeat running club inadvertently caused a bioterrorism scare and now face a felony charge.

The sprinkled powder forced hundreds to evacuate an IKEA furniture store Thursday.

New Haven ophthalmologist Daniel Salchow, 36, and his sister, Dorothee, 31, who is visiting from Hamburg, Germany, were both charged with first-degree breach of peace, a felony.

Daniel Salchow biked back to IKEA when he heard there was a problem and told officers the powder was just harmless flour, which he said he and his sister have sprinkled everywhere from New York to California without incident.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I ever anticipate anything like that,” he said.

Phew. Thank god our fine law enforcement has saved us from crazy ophthalmologists with flour!

In a sane world I would expect that law enforcement would realize that they’ve overreacted, and everyone would go on there merry way… Knowing the world we live in, though, it makes perfect sense that this would be blown out of proportion and these people brought up on felony charges. After all, if the local authorities admit they made a mistake, they might have to answer to someone for it. Much better to simply deny they’ve done anything wrong and blame the victim!

And that’s just what the spokeswoman has done:

Mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city plans to seek restitution from the Salchows, who are due in court Sept. 14.

“You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know,” she said. “It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious. We’re thankful it wasn’t, but there were a lot of resources that went into figuring that out.”

However, federal authorities have raised us to threat level Orange, until the below terrorist is apprehended.

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

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