Friday, January 18, 2008

Enjoying the Civility

You know, Virginia Republicans (bloggers in particular) seem to have really learned something from last year's GA Primary season. The vitriol, anger, and bitter fight for control of the heart and soul of the party seems to have subsided.

Now, there seems to be a genuinely different tone about this year's Senate primary between Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) and former Governor Jim Gilmore. A good example of the change in tone comes from an area that is home to one of the most bitter grassroots battles in recent memory, the SWAC-lands (Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta County), the epicenter of last year's nasty 24th Senate District primary between Sen. Emmett Hanger and businessman Scott Sayre.

For instance, see SWAC Girl's post on Marshall-backer (and former RPV spokesman) Shaun Kenney visiting the SWAC-area GOP's Breakfast. She posts a picture of herself, Kenney, Augusta GOP Chairman Kurt Michael, and Chris Green (who you all know as Spank That Donkey). She notes in the photo's caption that 2 of them are Marshall backers (Michael and Kenney), the other 2 are Gilmore backers (herself and Green). She also states that, no matter the winner, they will back the GOP candidate.

In the comments section of the post, an anonymous poster points out the Hanger/Sayre which SWAC Girl swiftly replies "Hanger vs Sayre is over. We have moved on."

Another example of the change in primary climate is the spirited debate between the Bloggers 4 Bob Marshall and Bloggers 4 Jim Gilmore. While they debate the pros and cons of their respective candidates, the general direction is still debating their candidate versus the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, former Governor Mark Warner. This unity will help Republicans as they move beyond the primaries and into election season.

Basically, two very encouraging trends can be taken from the current GOP primary season in Virginia.
- A lack of "piss and vinegar" running through the veins of opposing sides.
- An engaged, lively, intelligent debate about the pros and cons of each candidate.

Kudos to Virginia's conservative blogosphere and the grassroots in general in really doing a superb job in promoting their respective candidates in the best manner possible.

Proof That We're Almost Out of Iraq the Right Way

The Iraqi army may be able to take control of all 18 provinces by the end of the year.

Iraq's army and police could be ready to take over security in all 18 provinces by the end of this year as the U.S. military moves toward a less prominent role in the country, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

"We look at it every month. We make recommendations. I think that if we continue along the path we're on now, we'll be able to do that by the end of 2008," Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said when asked when Iraqi forces could take the lead in all provinces.

He said that a joint operation under way led by Iraqi troops and supported by U.S. troops against al Qaeda militants in the northern city of Mosul was a model for the future.

The Iraqi army is already controlling security in 9 provinces, and this spells good news as President Bush is looking to withdraw 20,000 troops permanently sometime this summer. As we see, the surge is working and things are finally going the way they should be. Now, the only real hurdle to complete success is getting the Iraqi government on task.

Fortune Magazine Calls Hillary's Housing Propsal "Dumb"

Jon Birger rips into Hillary Clinton's proposal to fix the mortgage problem in the nation.

Hillary Clinton is no dummy. Even her detractors know that. And yet in last night's Democratic presidential debate in Nevada, Clinton floated what is perhaps the dumbest solution to the current mortgage mess I've heard from a top presidential contender.

And why...?

Where Clinton goes awry is her proposal to freeze mortgage rates for five years, which is essentially a much broader version of a deal President Bush recently hammered out with lenders to assist some subprime borrowers. If Clinton's only goal were to bail out homeowners facing steep rate resets on adjustable mortgages, her plan would work just fine.

For everyone else though, such a freeze would be disastrous. Interest rates on new mortgages would skyrocket - perhaps past 8 percent, as the mutual funds, pension funds and other investors who typically provide capital to the mortgage market shift their money into other investments where the government isn't impairing returns. With higher mortgage rates eroding buying power, the downward pressure on home prices would only increase. Lower home prices would lead to even more defaults, as more folks who'd lost the equity in their homes choose to walk away from their mortgages.

Ouch. So Hillary's plan would hurt investments of various kinds, including my 401k. Birger continues, comparing the other Democratic frontrunner's plan.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, wants to require better disclosure by lenders (of low teaser rates, for example) and, like Clinton and Edwards, proposes a government fund to help borrowers transition from unaffordable adjustable mortgages to lower-rate fixed ones.

That's smart and at least sensible. What is interesting is that not even liberal economists find Clinton's idea as sensible policy.

However, when I discussed Clinton's plan with a more sympathetic economist - one who'd worked for Bill Clinton - his reaction was much like mine and Duncan's. "This is an ugly correction, but it's a necessary one," says Jared Bernstein, senior economist with the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute. "This kind of an idea is a little bit of untying your shoes with a buzz-saw."

Hillary need for on the job training in the White House, because plans like this will definitely keep her out of it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Today In History: The Seeds of The Podium are Sown

January 17, 1983

One day after the Washington Redskins secured NFC Championship by walloping the Dallas Cowboys 31-17 at RFK Stadium, we switch our attention a few miles north of the site of the historic win.

The place: Washington Adventist Hospital - Takoma Park, Maryland.

It's the coldest day of the year in the area. A Dutch-Irish firefighter and a Brazilian immigrant welcome into the world a healthy, happy baby boy.

This baby boy was born on the same day that events such as the Northridge Earthquake, the start of Operation Desert Storm, "Cold Sunday", and the debut of Popeye the Sailor Man.

This baby boy celebrates a birthday with many famous people.

- legendary gangster Al Capone
- actor Jim Carrey
- boxing great Muhammad Ali
- former Va. Governor and Mayor of Richmond, Doug Wilder
- actor James Earl Jones
- comedian Andy Kaufman
- guitarist Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones
- NBA superstar Dwayne Wade
- rock star Kid Rock
- rapper Lil Jon
- talk show host Maury Povich
- actress Betty White
- comedian Steve Harvey
- former Redskins and Cowboys Quarterback Eddie LeBaron
- Michelle Obama, wife of presidential candidate Barack Obama
- dancehall reggae star Shabba Ranks
- actress Zooey Deschanel
- cosmetologist Vidal Sassoon
- hockey star Jeremy Roenick
- Playboy and Reality TV star Andrea Lowell (Lowell even shares the same birth year)

However, this day should be remembered for one of the greatest moments of all mankind. One that symbolizes the anniversary of the day the world changed forever. The birth of the savior of sanity, the paragon of virtue, and the voice of reason.

Today is my Birthday. :)

Am I modest, or what? LOL. Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mitt Romney Wins in Michigan GOP Primary

With many projecting a possible Romney loss in his native state of Michigan, and ultimately the final blow to his campaign, Mitt Romney pulled out a very solid win in the Michigan primary yesterday.

Romney won with 39% of the vote, John McCain finished second with 30%, Mike Huckabee came in a distant third with 16%.

This was, in many minds, Romney's "must win" state to continue his campaign. It also further muddles up the GOP primary picture, as McCain and Huckabee were beginning to separate from the pack.

Hillary Clinton was the only major Dem contender on the Michigan Democratic Primary ballot...and still only pulled 56%. However, the primary was meaningless as the Democratic Party stripped Michigan of all of it's delegates to the Dem National Convention as punishment for moving up the date of the primary.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An Apology

Posting will be light this week. A combination of nothing much going on and the lovely fact that I'll be halfway over the hill on Thursday :)

I'll post anything of real note, such as thoughts on the Michigan primary.

Harrisonburg's Urban Exchange

Looks like Harrisonburg is another step closer to rejuvenating it's downtown area.

Plans for the Urban Exchange were recently unveiled, and it's quite an impressive structure. It will house 196 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartments and condos, as well as lease space for commercial purposes. It will be situated at the corner of Market and Mason Streets, space that is currently occupied by the old Easterns Auto Mall and the Southern Electric Company.

The project will soon be presented to the City Council, and if approved, should be completed by the Summer of 2009.

Being a former frequenter of Harrisonburg, I've always seen potential in the downtown area for stores, restaurants, and general nightlife. This, along with the new restaurants planned for downtown, is encouraging news for citizens of "The 'Burg", as they will have a very nice area to live, shop, dine, and entertain themselves.

(h/t hburg news)

Monday, January 14, 2008

More on BoA's Acquisition of Countrywide

The stock market's slump over the past few months has largely hinged on fears of a recession, buoyed by the subprime mortgage crisis and the housing slump. Bank of America recently announced it's plans to acquire the biggest symbol of the housing/mortgage debacle, Countrywide Financial.

The question is...will this be the "saving moment" of the housing slump? There have been small signs of encouragement lately, including some reports of increased building of new homes. Also, BoA's purchase of Countrywide actually prevents the FDIC from ordering a bailout of the troubled company. With Bank of America's large pockets saving Countrywide Financial, could we see a more stable mortgage industry?

Maybe so. These little signs here and there, plus a big acquisition such as this one, may mean that the worst could be over for the housing market downturn. Cautious optimism would be the best way to go when looking at this situation.

Primary Schedule for the Confused...

With so many states being thrown around, it's easy for the average person to be a bit confused about what state takes place when. So, for your reading convenience (and bookmarking pleasure), here is the Presidential Primary Schedule for 2008, and the winners of each race as they happen...

January 3
- Iowa (caucus, both parties, winners - Huckabee/Obama)
January 5
- Wyoming (caucus, GOP only, winner - Romney)
January 8
- New Hampshire (winners - McCain/Clinton)
January 15
- Michigan (winners - Romney/Clinton)
January 19
- Nevada (caucus, winners - Romney/Clinton)
- South Carolina (GOP only, winner - McCain)
January 26
- South Carolina (Dems only, winner - Obama)
January 29
- Florida

February 1
- Maine (GOP only)
February 5 (Super Tuesday)
- Alabama
- Alaska
- Arizona
- Arkansas
- California
- Colorado (caucus)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Georgia
- Idaho (Dems only)
- Illinois
- Kansas (Dems only)
- Massachusetts
- Minnesota
- Missouri
- New Jersey
- New Mexico (Dems only)
- New York
- North Dakota (caucus)
- Oklahoma
- Tennessee
- Utah
February 9
- Louisiana
- Kansas (GOP only)
February 10
- Maine (caucus, Dems only)
February 12
- District of Columbia
- Maryland
- Virginia
February 19
- Hawaii (Dems only)
- Washington
- Wisconsin

March 4
- Ohio
- Rhode Island
- Texas
- Vermont
March 8
- Wyoming (Dems only)
March 11
- Mississippi

April 22
- Pennsylvania

May 6
- Indiana
- North Carolina
May 13
- Nebraska
- West Virginia
May 20
- Kentucky
- Oregon
May 27
- Idaho (GOP only)

June 3
- Montana
- New Mexico (GOP only)
- South Dakota

Democratic National Convention is August 25-28
Republican National Convention is September 1-4