- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

Noble: Velvet, the black Labrador mix who saved the lives of three hikers stranded on Mt. Hood.

Last weekend, a group of eight experienced hikers, along with their faithful pup Velvet, ran into trouble while climbing Mt. Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon. As they battled heavy snow and howling winds during their descent, Kate Hanlon, Christina Redl, Matty Bryant and his dog Velvet — who were all roped together — slipped off an icy ledge. The remaining five hikers, unable to locate their companions, called for rescuers and settled in to wait.

Nearly 500 feet away, Matty, Christina and Kate, who luckily had cell phones, GPS equipment and Mountain Locator Units, called “911 on the hour and every half hour,” they told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Despite their high-tech equipment, a rescue team was unable to locate them until Monday morning because conditions and visibility were so poor. Luckily, however, there was Velvet. She sprawled across the hikers’ bodies during the night to keep them warm, effectively saving their lives. The group was rescued by a brave and fearless team on Monday morning, but Velvet is the real hero in this tale.

For being man and woman’s best friend, and in this case more valuable than all the high-tech gadgets one can find, Velvet is the Noble of the week.

Knave: The House ethics reforms that don’t actually work.

Immediately upon gaining control of Congress, Democrats attacked ethics reform with the voracity of starving vultures. In a 430-1 vote, the House passed a bill that ostensibly prevents members from receiving gifts from lobbyists, be they meals, vacations or cold hard cash. After campaigning hard under the guise of making the 110th the “most ethical Congress in history,” they were obligated to tackle the issue right away.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was one such campaigner. But wait, isn’t Mr. Hoyer’s vacation to Rio Mar Beach Golf Resort and Spa in Puerto Rico in May being paid for by lobbyists? It is, and it’s completely legal.

Lobbyists can donate as much money as they want to a congressman’s political action committee. Because there are very few regulations on how PAC money can be spent, using lobbyist donations to fund a vacation for Mr. Hoyer is completely kosher, as long as it’s technically the PAC that pays for it — a real-life example of the notorious loophole in the ethics reform bill.

Mr. Hoyer, and the unnamed lobbyists staying in 137 rooms already booked at the resort, ought to have a great time at the “PAC fundraiser.”

Yes, it’s legal, but it doesn’t look good, especially for the House majority leader who ought set a better example.

For providing loopholes that render it useless, the House ethics reform bill is the Knave of the week.

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