June 2009

South Carolina’s Republican governer Mark Sanford late yesterday solved the mystery of his wherabouts for the last several days by admitting at a press conference that he had been in Argentina visiting his mistress.

Sanford whose five-day absence sparked rumors of his mental state among other things will go down as having performed one of the most bizarre cloak and dagger operations of an elected public official in recent memory by completely disappearing off the grid and leaving his staff and family to try and explain his behavior.

The governor’s admission of an affair comes on the heels of last weeks admission by Sen. John Ensign of Nevada of a similar indiscretion and will surely end his political career even if he remains in office for the rest of his term.

Voters can be somewhat forgiving of personal indiscretion but couple that with the mystery trip out of the country and Sanford can kiss any future political ambitions goodbye.

The real problem though is Repblicans like Ensign and Sanford have portrayed themselves as moral politicians  and then they turn around and violate their marriage covenenants and betray the public trust.  For Sanford it was even worse as he is the chief executive of a state and left the country without turning over power to anyone in case of emergency.

Even though I have never been a big fan of Sanford I thought he was a smart guy.  I was obviously wrong as he badly bungled his attempt to cover up his affair even with the vast resources at his disposal.

The GOP was already acting like the walking wounded after bruising election defeats in 2006 and 2008 and the actions of potential standard bearers like Ensign and Sanford only dig a deeper hole for the party.

President Obama was said to have removed one potential rival in former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman when he posted him to China as the ambassador, but it seems that all this jockeying is unnecessary as the Republicans can implode just fine on their own leaving them with a very thin field in 2012.

At this time Sanford has no intention of resigning which means his ego is still intact, but every day that he continues to serve will only hurt the Republicans and conservatives and give the Democrats a larger target to shoot for in 2010.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that homeowners in Austin, TX are now facing the additional burden of a mandatory energy audit on their homes before they can sell.

The audits which are targeted at less energy efficient (read older) homes can include checks on a home’s air-conditioning and heating systems and insulation and air-tightness and normally costs $200 to $300 on top of the repair cost which can run into the thousands.

With home sales in Austin down as they are in much of the country- April’s figures show an 18% slide compared to last year at the same point in time the law has homeowners and real estate professionals howling about the potential effect on future sales.

To top it off sellers who refuse the audit can be charged with a misdemeanor which one city councilman said was to show that the city was serious about the measure.

The city for its part says the audits are necessary to help keep Austin from having to build a new power plant by 2020 and that out of more than 300 audits conducted so far the average home was found to have leaking in their duct systems that was double what was recommended and attic insulation that was six inches thinner than ideal.

There is little doubt that power plants are expensive to build and operate and that saving energy is a worthwhile goal.  And I’m sure there are homebuyers who desire a more energy efficient or airtight home but generally make their purchase decisions based on other factors such as location, schools, shopping etc… Although I have read stories about people buying energy efficient or green homes I personally don’t know anyone who has made that a priority when looking for a home. Just look at Al Gore.

At this level home sales don’t have much further to go before they come to a grinding halt and adding this law at a time of economic distress seems dumb to say the least.  In their zeal to go green the city council has discounted the potential effect on sales which directly affects tax revenues which I doubt the city can afford to see shrink more than they already have.  Oh, wait a minute they are in line for stimulus money for doing so and that makes it revenue neutral even though the stimulus money comes from- the taxpayers!

Austin may call this an energy audit but it is really nothing more than a stealth energy that should be repealed before it spreads across the country and wrecks local economies.