Lucky Number Three: Festively Soaring Up, Up and Away

Lucky Number Three: Festively Soaring Up, Up and Away

Kent Couch’s 2007 Balloon-Powered Lawn Chair Flight

In 2006, Kent Couch had to parachute out of his lawn chair, after having popped too many balloons. And in 2007, he flew 193 miles to the sagebrush of northeastern Oregon, which was a little bit short of his goal. After the 2007 flight, Couch stated, “I’m not stopping till I get out of state.”

Television Report: The 2007 Balloon-Powered Lawn Chair Flight

The 2007 Balloon-Powered Lawn Chair Flight

Lucky Number Three: Soaring Up, Up and Away

This was Kent Couch’s third balloon-powered lawn chair flight. Riding in his lawn chair that was supported by a rainbow array of more than 150 helium-filled party balloons, Couch took off last Saturday in his third attempt to fly from central Oregon all the way to Idaho.

Couch kissed his wife and children goodbye, and patted their shivering pet Chihuahua, before his ground crew gave him a push so that he could clear surrounding light poles and a coffee cart. Then, clutching a big mug of coffee, Couch rose out of his gas station’s parking lot into the bright blue morning sky, cheered on by a crowd of spectators.

Using his trusty BB gun to help him return to Earth, the 48-year-old gas station owner flew his lawn chair powered by helium-filled balloons more than 200 miles across the Oregon desert, landing in a field in Idaho. Couch created quite a sensation in the tiny farming community of Cambridge, Idaho, as he touched down safely in a pasture where he was soon greeted by dozens of the town’s residents.

Crouch Makes Preparations for His 2008 Lawn Chair Flight

Television Report: The 2008 Balloon-Powered Lawn Chair Flight

Lucky Number Three: Festively Soaring Up, Up and Away

Good Morning America Interview After the Successful Flight

Music Audio: The Fifth Dimension/Up, Up and Away:

Lucky Number Three: Festively Soaring Up, Up and Away

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Talk about Whether Larry Craig Should Stay or Go: A Discombobulated Debate

Larry Craig: I am NOT GAY.  Remember, I’m NOT GAY.  NOT GAY.

Senator Larry Craig (NOT GAY-R) of Idaho: The Toe-Tapping Bathroom Menace

The slogan of the Idaho Hall of Fame, which Larry Craig will enter next Saturday, is “Idahoans on Loan to the World.” Nobody really wants to be installed next to Craig, but two fellow inductees will find the ceremony especially awkward.  Gov. Butch Otter has been waiting six weeks to name Craig’s successor.  He released a long list of all the Idahoans who’ve expressed interest in the job and had reportedly settled on a replacement just in time for Craig’s announcement that he’s not resigning.  Another inductee, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, desperately wants Craig’s seat and will soon announce his intention to run in 2008, even if Otter doesn’t nominate him.

The Idaho Hall of Fame was right to worry that the concept of “real life heroes has been lost,” although when it set out to find inductees with “pages of life experience to inspire our up and coming generations,” Larry Craig’s pages weren’t exactly the kind it had in mind!  It’s organizers were looking for achievements denoting fame, not actions smacking of infamy.

And the Senate Republicans just can’t seem to catch a break.  The colleagues they hate to lose are retiring, and the one guy they desperately want to retire and go away isn’t budging.  John Ensign, who has the unpleasant task of heading the Senate Republican Campaign Committee for 2008, doesn’t mince words: “Senator Craig gave us his word.… I wish he would stick to his word.”  Like most Idahoans, Craig’s colleagues in the Senate take his backtracking personally.  If a man’s word is his bond, it’s time to call the bounty hunter.

The Hardball Debate: Should He Stay or Go

Chris Mathews’ “Hardball” panel members recently debated whether Senator Larry Craig (NOT GAY-R) of Idaho made the right decision in choosing to continue the rest of his term in the Senate.  The debate entailed what must be one of the more confused, bewildering discussions to appear on television in recent times.  Who is saying what about whom and why and on what grounds, etc., etc.  Just see h0w long you can follow the simulated logic in this one:

“Hardball Debate” about Larry Craig:  Should He Stay or Go?

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Senator Larry Craig (NOT Gay-R) of “Brokeback Bathroom” Refuses to Leave Senate

Senator Larry Craig (Not Gay-R) of Idaho

Senator Larry Craig (Not Gay-R) of Idaho Now Refuses to Resign from the U. S. Senate

After being charged in an airport men’s room gay sex sting, U. S. Senator Larry Craig announced last month that he intended to resign Sept. 30. Then said that he’d stay in office pending the legal proceedings he’s initiated, now says that he’s going to remain in the Senate until the end of his term in January 2009. The newest statement from Craig, posted on his Senate Web site, came on the very same day that the judge in Minnesota rejected Craig’s request to withdraw his guilty plea in the Minneapolis airport men’s room incident.

Craig said that he was “extremely disappointed” by the judge’s ruling because, despite the fact that he pleaded guilty to them, “I am innocent of the charges against me.” Craig says he’s going to “continue to explore” his “additional legal options” and that he’s going to “continue to serve Idaho in the United States Senate.” There has yet not been much word from the Senate leadership, which will be hard-pressed to backpedal on Craig at this point, since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had already previously declared Craig’s conduct “unforgivable.”

Senator John Ensign of Nevada, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, demanded that Mr. Craig keep his pledge and leave the Senate. “The type of behavior we are talking about here is not exactly something that I think a senator should be engaged in,” said Mr. Ensign, who again raised the possibility of public ethics committee hearings into whether Mr. Craig had brought discredit on the Senate, which could be grounds for action against him. The leaders of the ethics panel said that a complaint filed against Mr. Craig by the Republican leadership in August, when the news of his guilty plea initially became public, remained an open case, given his decision to remain in office.

Arresting Officer Reviewing Details of Charges with Senator Craig

(Audio: At the Scene of the NOT-GAY actions)

Larry Craig’s Mug Shots

The ethics committee has already signaled it is reviewing the facts of Craig’s case, taking the step after the Senate Republican leadership requested it. Craig’s decision to stay and fight raises the strong possibility of public hearings, virtually certain to be televised live, centering on the issue of gay sex. When the charges first surfaced, Craig had said he would resign by Sept. 30.

Senator Larry Craig’s Resignation Statement (September 30)

Senator Craig of Brokeback Bathroom Fame: I’m Not Gay, I’m Not Gay, I’m Not Gay!!

From the opening line of that statement, Sen. Larry Craig was in trouble. “Thank you all very much for coming out today,” he began. “Coming out” was at the very least not the best phrase for a guy who had pleaded guilty to some rather un-senatorial conduct in an airport men’s room, and who now stands accused in his home-state newspaper of a gay encounter at Union Station in Washington, D. C.

Let me be clear: I am not gay. I never have been gay,” Craig said. Evidently, Craig did not think this was clear enough, because moments later, he explained why he kept the arrest a secret. “I wasn’t eager to share this failure, but I should have anyway, because I am not gay!”

The Associated Press rushed out a bulletin: “Sen. Larry Craig says, ‘I am not gay.’ ” CNN put up a “Breaking News” banner announcing, “Sen. Craig: I am not gay, and never have been gay.” The Drudge Report went with the headline “Brokeback Bathroom.”

As the Craigs departed, somebody in the crowd that had gathered called out after the senator: “Hey, what if you were gay?” Heckling the disgraced lawmaker at that moment seemed a bit unseemly, but the question actually was a reasonable one. Craig hadn’t gotten into trouble for being gay. He got himself into trouble because he “engaged in conduct which I knew or should have known tended to arouse alarm or resentment.”

Craig Tries to Have His Guilty Plea Withdrawn

After the news of Mr. Craig’s plea was first disclosed on Aug. 27, Senate Republicans leaned heavily on Mr. Craig to leave, concluding that his acknowledged offense disqualified him from remaining. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, called it unforgivable and the party stripped Mr. Craig, a popular lawmaker at home before this episode, of his committee leadership slots.

Republicans were also eager to quickly dispose of another scandal in light of the acknowledgment by Senator David Vitter of Louisiana that he had been involved with an escort service under police investigation for prostitution, and the problems of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, who is under investigation in a federal corruption inquiry.

However, Larry Craig was beginning to have other ideas. “I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away,” he said, blaming this on his failure to hire a lawyer. “I have now retained counsel, and I am asking counsel to review this matter and to advise me on how to proceed.” The decision that Craig ultimately made was to return to court and attempt to have the written guilty plea that he made in August to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct withdrawn. He said he would stay in office at least until a judge ruled on that bid.

Craig Plans to Attempt Withdrawing His Guilty Plea

Court Denies Craig’s Request to Withdraw His Guilty Plea

Craig’s attempt to have his earlier guilty plea withdrawn failed. Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter wrote, “Because the defendant’s plea was accurate, voluntary and intelligent, and because the conviction is supported by the evidence … the defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea is denied.” Minnesota law allows a plea to be withdrawn if a “manifest injustice” occurs, but leaves it to judges to define that. Porter ruled that none had occurred in Craig’s case. “It is not a manifest injustice to force the defendant to be bound by his plea bargain and the waivers and admissions which he made in conjunction with the execution of that bargain,” Porter wrote. He also wrote that Craig hadn’t produced any “newly discovered evidence” that would clear him.

The Court Rules that Senator Craig’s Guilty Plea Stands

But Senator Craig is Staying Put!!

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