Thursday, September 28, 2006

Honeycrisp

The Star Tribune has an interesting article about the Minnesota State Apple. The honeycrisp apple is without peer in taste and texture. The best thing about fall is apple season--meaning apple pie, apple crisp, and caramel apples.

We're Not the Problem

National Review has a good response to the recent intelligence leak that believes the war in Iraq will fuel terrorist recruitment. In one of the best lines in the article Goldblatt writes, "we must get past the idea that a suicide bomber is just a peace-loving Muslim who, if we hadn’t set him off, would be growing figs and building sandcastles."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Harkin Says What Liberals Are Thinking

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin said yesterday what most liberals are surely thinking about Hugo Chavez's UN diatribe--even though they might say otherwise. He is quoted as saying,

"Let me put it this way, I can understand the frustration, ah, and the anger of certain people around the world because of George Bush's policies... We tend to forget that a few days after 9-1-1 thousands, thousands of Iranians marched in a candlelight procession in Teheran in support of the United States. Every Muslim country was basically on our side. Just think, in five years, President Bush has squandered all that."

Harkin evidently didn't get the memo that most everyone else did, including Jesse Jackson, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Rangel, Chuck Schumer and others.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reflections on Home Ownership

I am of the age where many friends and acquaintances are buying their first home—some of whom are single. I took the first leap in home ownership myself in the summer of 2004, and again in the spring of 2005. I am certainly not an expert in home ownership, but I am probably more experienced than many my same age. I have purchased two homes and sold one of them, so I have seen all sides of home ownership. Every time I hear of a friend buying a home, I get excited, but I also cringe at the uncertainties they are getting into.

Once my first house was listed for sale I felt obligated to share my home ownership experiences with others to ensure all facts are known and to avoid mistakes. Home ownership is never a simple thing. The first time home buyer can be lulled into thinking that it can’t be that different than renting—but the two are incomparable.

Before buying a house, especially singles, ask yourself these questions:

Are you ready for a mortgage?

Most first time home buyers do not have money for a down payment and must finance the entire cost of the home. This is not necessarily bad, but it does increase the risk when selling the house. Selling a home isn’t just a matter of giving two months notice. It costs money—a lot of it. Selling fees without an agent commission will be two to three thousand dollars, depending on the value of the house. Using a real estate agent to sell the house will cost another four to seven percent of the sale price of the house.

A house payment almost always costs more money than renting when you include things like taxes, insurance, and association dues if applicable.

What is the minimum amount of time you’ll own the property?

Those not committed to owning the house for more than a few years take upon great risk when buying a home. Financing the entire cost of the house, interest only mortgages, or worse—both will increase risk significantly. Mortgage payments are front-loaded with interest payments. This means that after five years paying a mortgage, one will have paid five times as much in interest as principal.

For example, after two years of mortgage payments on a $200,000 mortgage will only net approximately $10,000 in equity, depending on interest rates. If the housing market is stagnant or declines over those two years, selling the house could cost a great deal of money.

Beware of Adjustable Rate (ARM) and Interest Only Mortgages!

Adjustable rate mortgages offer the buyer more flexibility in buying a more expensive house than could be afforded on a fixed 30 year mortgage. But once the fixed term is over, the rate will likely go up—along with the cost of the mortgage.

Interest only mortgages are even more speculative and risky. Selling a home with no equity leaves the seller in a position where the home needs to sell for more money to be profitable than a seller with equity stored up.

The two together create an extremely risky endeavor and are to be avoided under most all circumstances.

How much can you afford to pay each month?

How much financial flexibility do you have? Stretching your budget each month to make a mortgage payment is an unwise decision. It will cramp your lifestyle and leave you vulnerable. Renting can be wiser than buying. Save money for a down payment before buying—it will save a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Singles should avoid any situation where one must rely upon rent checks to make a mortgage payment each month. This too will save a lot of anxiety and avoid undue risk.

Can you afford closing costs?

Closing costs will generally cost approximately three percent of the value of the home. This is simply what it costs to have the honor of becoming a home owner. These are all “sunk costs” and cannot be recouped. Wrapping closing costs into the mortgage requires the home appraisal to exceed the value of the mortgage or mortgages. It will also increase the mortgage payment. This means the buyer may have to pay the original closing costs when selling the home, if the sale price does not exceed the purchase price.

Can you do home repairs yourself, or afford to pay someone else?

Are you a handyman? Do you know one? Will that person be willing to help you—perhaps at a moments notice? If not, then be prepared to pay a professional at great expense. Even newer homes can, and will have problems. Be sure to have enough money left over each month to be able to pay to fix any potential problems.

Disingenuous Democrats, Part II

The Democrats, disingenous? Again? Democratic Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Congressman Charles Rangel have lambasted Hugo Chavez for his speech yesterday at the United Nations.

Why, one might ask do I believe them to be disingenous on this? Pelosi and Rangel waited until today denounce Chavez. If they were truly outraged, as I clearly was, they would have denounced this yesterday.

Pelosi and Rangel are right, Chavez is a "thug" and Chavez's speech should not be tolerated, but for them to rise to the defense of the President a day late reeks of opportunism and CYA.

Disingenuous Democrats

House Democrats voted 192-4 today against requiring identification for federal elections. The bill passed because Republicans voted 224-3 in favor. The bill is a result of the bi-partisan Commission on Federal Election Reform. This is not the first time Democrats have opposed this type of legislation.

Why don't Democrats want to require identification? Is it truly because they believe it "would place an insurmountable burden on voters and infringe upon their voting rights?"

Democrats oppose the bill because their constituencies are full of illegal aliens, dead people, and imaginary people. It is that simple. Their argument is fallacious, specious, and outrageous.

Not surprisingly, Democrats have compared the legislation to "segregation-era measures aimed at disenfranchising Southern blacks." Typical.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This Madness Must Stop

The United Nations is a ridiculous and morally indefensible institution that today has once again outdone itself. It allowed a scoundrel like Hugo Chavez refer to the President of the United States a "the devil."

When we this nation awaken to the fact that the United Nations--an institution which can only exist through our support--should be dismantled? When will we stop funding the United Nations? When we will send the ambassadors, diplomats, and dictators packing? When we will terminate the lease on the United Nations' buildings?

The time has come. This is too much. They have long since worn out their welcome. The U.N. must go. Now.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Greg Boyd Again

Woodland Hills pastor Greg Boyd was back in the news over the weekend. This time the Minneapolis Star-Tribune covered Boyd and his new book The Myth of a Christian Nation. Boyd, as many know is a generator of controversy.

Boyd's book is one more attempt for the political left to reclaim moral authority from the Christian right. On the surface, Boyd's book looks like a fair and even-handed critique. Yet this quote gives insight into the nature of the critique and makes me suspect of Boyd's motives:

"Chuck Darrell, communications director for the Minnesota Family Council, said he sees flaws of logic in Boyd's book... "I am concerned that his book, perhaps unintentionally, demonizes government and the Christian right by associating their efforts with Satan, the slaughter of Native Americans and slavery," Darrell said. "This kind of sensationalism, spread by an obliging media, is exactly the kind of 'power-over kingdom of the sword' the book seems to abhor."

The Star Tribune also has an interview with Randall Balmer, professor of religious history at Columbia University. Balmer has also written a book entitled Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament.

The Star Tribune seems all too eager to promote the hip notion that one can be a political liberal and traditional evangelical Christian. When a liberal paper like the StarTrib promotes evangelicals, one should use greater care in reading them than would be customary.

Hilarity

Not often will one find comedy in the 9/11 attacks, but I can't help but giggle in delight at the news of Bill Clinton and former administration officials being upset at how they are portrayed in ABC's upcoming 9/11 movie.

Clinton is finally getting a taste of what it is like to be a conservative. Does anyone remember the CBS movie on Reagan that made him look inept?

The truth is that 9/11 could have been avoided had the Clinton administration done more to capture bin Laden and fight Islamic terrorism.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Cute Niece


For those of you that have not already heard, I am now the proud uncle of a cute little girl.

My brother has a new photo blog with pictures of his daughter Anna Katherine, who was born on August 11th.