Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You'll Be Okay!

Are you at risk?
Will you be okay?
I don't know if it will be this week, but you will be okay.
Many Americans are seeing first hand how ugly things can get in Washington. It's a sad truth.
Most of our elected officials have absolutely no background in economics, finance or business. They can tell you what you'd like to hear about law, but their knowledge on the economy is lacking to say the least.
I imagine CPAs and bankers across this country are shaking their heads when thinking about the attempts to educate the U.S. Congress on our economic problems.
That scares me more than anything. It's like someone coming to me and explaining how to do surgery and then pointing to the patient and saying, "You need to get in there and save this guy."
Many Americans know this and realize that when you put billions in the hands of the government, you can kiss it goodbye. That's why phones in Washington have been ringing off the hook with people voicing their concerns.
Of course Congress must act and they must act very soon. But, they must do what is best for you and I, not Wall Street. And we certainly don't need a bill which can be construed as Socialism.
Can you imagine the other troubled sectors in our economy running to Washington with their hand out?
"Here you go housing market."
"Hey airlines ... need some cash?"
"American auto makers - come on down!"
That's the last thing we need.
Like usual, the warning signs were there. Economists have been saying it for years, but it fell on deaf ears. Why? Again, because our elected officials lack economic knowledge.
How many times in the past week have you heard the word bipartisanship or partisanship?
More than ever, we need our elected officials to forget what party they belong to and listen to experts.
Bottom line: we need the best bill possible and we need it soon. And if you need to email our elected officials, tell them no pork, no golden parachutes for failed companies and keep the socialist rhetoric to a minimum.
By the way, if you are someone with some cash under your mattress, you might want to consider investing. It's looking more and more like a buyer's market in most sectors.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Biden Is A Gaffe Machine

Sen. Joe Biden is a gaffe waiting to happen. The more he speaks, the more feet he manages to get in his mouth.
Every time I see another mistake, I have to wonder what Sen. Obama was thinking when he chose this guy.
The other day during a rather odd conversation with Katie Couric, Biden claimed President Roosevelt addressed Americans on television in 1929.
"When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," Biden told Couric. "He said, 'Look, here's what happened."
Oops. Herbert Hoover happened to be president in 1929 and televisions were still a couple of decades off.
In a speech to the National Guard Association, Biden implied his helicopter was "forced down" by enemy fire while in Afghanistan.
"You want to know where bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me. Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down with a three star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are," Biden claimed.
Oops. Biden was never fired upon ... not even close.
Biden hung Obama out to dry and challenged him to take his guns away during a United Mine Workers of America fish fry in Castlewood, Virginia.
"I guarantee you Barack Obama ain't taking my shotguns, so don't buy that malarkey ... They're going to start peddling that to you." Biden told the crowd that he is a gun owner. "I got two," Biden said, "if he tries to fool with my Beretta, he's got a problem. I like that little over and under, you know? I'm not bad with it. So give me a break. Give me a break."
Wow. With running mates like that, who needs opposition.
There are others as well ... plenty of them. Believe it or not, the gaffes above have happened in the past week.
Obama would be smart to keep this guy under a rock somewhere because he does not help his ticket.
With the election a little more than five weeks away, there is no telling what else he may say. And don't forget, he has to debate Gov. Sarah Palin in the vice presidential debate. I wonder if Obama is worried about that?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Law Enforcement Should Use Media

Newspapers should be the single largest tool a rural sheriff's department or police department uses to convey what is happening or solicit information from the public.
Sometimes administrators may forget this or someone with inexperience may think keeping information from residents is in the public's best interest. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rural law enforcement can take tremendous advantage of the fact that newspapers are here, in part, to inform the public of crime or matters which affect them. In addition, the public can aid local departments by being another set of eyes and ears.
When a relationship is working as it should, the department and the newspaper can partner up to do a lot of good. I see it first-hand all of the time and the departments which use newspaper to their full advantage, have success due to the relationship.
When law enforcement decides it's better not to release names or keep vital information from the public altogether, it appears like either there is something to hide, or the department is not on top of things. Eventually, the public's trust of the department begins to wane.
Building a relationship with law enforcement is vital and is in the best interest of the department, the newspaper and the public.
There are many entities which use public funds to function. The governing boards of these tax-supported entities owe it to the public to disclose information, regardless of how painful it may be.
Being involved in several small towns, you see hospital boards, county commissioners, city councils and school boards elected to hopefully, govern these entities to the best of their ability.
Part of that is letting the public know where and how their tax dollars are being spent. A transparent government is one which has the public's best interest at heart.
Most of the entities we deal with are very forthcoming with information. And it is the job of the newspaper to get the reader that information in a timely matter.
As with law enforcement, the better the relationship between a newspaper and a taxing entity, the better it is for all concerned.
It's been my understanding that a transparent government works the best. The public understands when things are not going well, they just don't like to be shocked.
Small-town residents want the biggest bang for their buck. They want their elected officials to communicate what is going on and how and where their money is spent.
When elected officials abide by these simple principals, it makes all of the difference in the world.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Statement of Independence

As you've might have noticed, I'm somewhat conservative. Does that mean I'm a Republican? No. Actually, I consider myself an Independent.
I've known politicians my entire life. I stuck a cookie in the mouth of Gov. Dolph Briscoe as a boy and visited Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock in Austin because I thought he was brilliant. Both were friends of my grandfather, the late Morris Higley, a newspaper publisher from Childress.
Sen. Phil Gramm helped me get a dorm at Texas A&M and Rep. Mac Thornberry was a pallbearer at my grandfather's funeral.
The first two I mentioned were Democrats, the second two Republicans. I consider them not only skilled politicians, but good men. They served or are serving us well.
I have always admired Gov. Ann Richards and consider James Carville brilliant.
I've always thought Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts should have stayed in office and I appreciate the humor of Dennis Miller.
Richards and Carville are Dems while Watts and Miller are not.
Michael Moore may be one of the biggest jackasses in world history followed closely by Pat Buchanan.
I consider Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan the greatest U.S. presidents of the last century.
Why am I disclosing this? I think it's fair for the readers to know it.
We live in a very cynical time on both sides of the aisle and it has become borderline ridiculous. I hate to break the news to you, but there are good people in both parties and there are some who deserve to be ousted.
Currently, President Bush has an approval rating of 32.7 percent and a disapproval rating of 64.7 percent.
By contrast, Congress, which is controlled by Democrats, has an approval rating of 20.3 percent and a disapproval rating of 72 percent.
It looks to me like the vast majority of Americans are a bit fed up with both parties and the entire process.
For me, my biggest concerns tend to be rural issues. Are our farmers being protected? Are the state and federal governments paying attention to the needs of rural schools? Are we getting strong representation form our elected officials? Do we have the best law enforcement for rural residents? Is our health care adequate?
Simply put, we have issues which are either put on the back burner or never addressed at all and it is killing rural America. It's not a Republican issue and it's not a Democrat issue. It's because it takes population centers to get elected to office and that's one thing small towns don't have.
There are great Americans in both parties and there always have been. The trouble starts when members stop reaching across the aisle for the good of us all.
This election season, demand that whomever you vote for begin paying attention to the 80 million Americans who live in small towns. If enough of us do that, the issues affecting us might start getting the proper attention.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Two Sons

I wonder what the world record is for children producing sound? What ever it is, I think my two sons have a shot at shattering it.
Jackson, age 5, and Sutton Hawk, soon to be 3, have become very proficient at the art of making noise.
Jackson likes to whistle while he works ... that is when he's not yelling and screaming. Sutton Hawk likes to sing ... when he's not yelling and screaming.
By "yelling and screaming" I don't necessarily mean at each other. Sometimes, they just like to get rowdy.
My wife Sharon says they get this volume from me, but I'm almost sure she has no proof ... despite occasionally walking in on us going crazy.
On second thought, I guess their seemingly never-ending crescendo is my fault. However, I'm happy to report that their lungs seem to be in terrific shape.
Sutton Hawk has decided he likes to use colorful words. Not only will he occasionally use them, he knows how to use them.
Again, I plead innocent in this matter as my language continues to improve. However, Sutton is subjected to others who may frequently use descriptive words.
Luckily, he deserves a PG-rating rather than an R. We're working to get him back down to a G-rating.
Speaking of G ratings: Is it not ridiculous how few wholesome movies and shows there are out there?
The major studios (both TV and movie) want to work adult humor into everything. I guess that's okay for some families, but my kids pick up on the off-color humor and quickly use it to their disadvantage.
That leaves me in the position of telling them they can't say that which leaves them confuses because they got it from a "children's" movie.
Very few "children's" movies actually garner a G-rating. Most end up PG. I guess the studios figure they will try and entertain the adults who have to sit through the show with the kids.
My children don't know this, but I take great pleasure in watching them. For some reason, I think it's fascinating to watch them play - both individually and together.
It's fun to watch them attempt to solve their own problems and govern themselves.
Most of the time, they do a pretty good job. Jackson is not too overbearing to his little brother and Sutton Hawk is not too much of a pest.
As much as admitting this will jinx me, I'm happy to say their is currently harmony in the Blackburn Household.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Techno Revolution Rolls On

So much technology all around us.
In 20 years, we've gone from VHS tapes to hand-held computers/phones/cameras ... all-in-one. It's unbelievable.
I got my first cellular phone in 1992 and it was a Motorola phone about the size of a shoe box. You would roam as soon as you left the city limits and dead air dominated the landscape.
Today, there are phones everywhere. Scan a crowd next time you're out and count the number of people using a hand-held device. It boggles the mind.
I currently have a BlackBerry. It's a fine instrument and I will honestly say, I haven't a clue what all it is capable of. It is doing plenty for me, so I'm content.
My sister has an iPhone and it may be the coolest thing I've ever seen. Just as they did with the iPod, Apple continues to revolutionize the digital age with an incredible piece of technology.
Years ago - technology would seem to speed along then slow down. A few years later, there'd be a new product.
I remember when the first VHS recorder came out in the 1970s. Man was it neat to record television. Of course, that spawned the tape rental industry.
The poor old VHS tape was then chased by the laser disc and DVD and now Blu-Ray and High Definition products are available for all of these high tech televisions they are making.
When we finally pulled the trigger on that awesome flat screen we wanted, we realize another company has advanced the technology by doing this and that to it and ours is obsolete. It used to take a decade for things to become obsolete and now it takes a year or two.
New televisions, phones, digital devices, games, etc...
So where does it all end?
Until our current existence changes (war, famine, disease, etc.), I'd say it doesn't end. We're probably seeing just the tip of the iceberg. As the world economy broadens, the competition becomes greater. Really makes me wonder what things will be like after the next 20 years.
In some ways, it also makes me wonder what our technology is doing to us physically right now. With Alzheimer's and Autism rates continuing to climb, do all of these things being beamed from one place to another have an effect on us?
Of the things I have within 20 feet of me which emit something I count:
• Cell phone
• Remote control television, DVD, VCR, etc.
• Dish Network
• Microwave Oven
• Home Phone
• Computer
• Dog (an odor)
Are these things harmful. Hopefully not. Unfortunately, that is one of those things which will emerge in hindsight as with mesothelioma and asbestos.
I remember my first set of walkie-talkies and my first remote-controlled car. Man, I thought that technology was really amazing. Now, they're just antiques. Then again, so am I.
Each year I feel the need to write something about September 11, 2001.
What a horrible day for this country. I found myself watching a show on 9-11 on the National Geographic Channel Sunday and to this day, I can still feel the pain I felt on that day.
Deep down, I don't care if it's been luck, great police work, national security intelligence or what, I'm thankful we've not been hit again.
Love him or hate him, President Bush has traversed a horrible storm and kept the ship afloat.
I don't know the percentages, but I imagine nearly all of us thought 9-11 was the beginning of many attacks on U.S. soil. Thank God the attempts have been thwarted. And, like him or not, Bush, his policies and personnel should be given credit.
Back on that dark day, I would have given anything for the piece of mind security brings. Now I wonder if we take it for granted.
I was single on September 11, 2001. Now I'm married and have two sons. Priority number 1 for me is security. I don't want my family blown up. Regardless of which candidate is elected president, that priority will not change.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin - Great Political Timing

We now know who all of the players are. Either way, history will be made.
With a 24-hour news cycle and a camera on what was believed to be all potential prospects for vice-president, Sen. John McCain pulled the trigger on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. The move is being hailed as one of the most surprising in recent political history.
So far, the move can also be hailed as one of the most successful.
According to the polls, the Obama-Biden ticket received no bounce from the Democratic National Convention. Estimates last Thursday evening put an expected bounce at between 10 and 15 percentage points. However, the announcement of Palin less than 12 hours after a historic speech by Obama, resulted in virtually no bounce for the ticket.
"The convention and particularly Obama's speech seems to be well-received," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "And the selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP running mate, also seems to be well-received. So why is the race still a virtual tie? Probably because the two events created equal and opposite bounces assuming that either one created a bounce at all."
Truth is, the move by the McCain campaign improves his shot at the White House ... by a ton.
Friday morning, pundits were busy telling the world it would take a major mistake by Obama in order for McCain to have a chance. By noon Friday, all bets were off and the focus turned from Obama's speech in front 80,000 party loyalists and a huge world-wide audience to Palin and her acceptance speech.
Over the weekend, much was made of the Palin selection and several made the claim that is was nothing more than a political ploy and would not have happened had Obama selected Hillary Clinton.
Had Obama picked Clinton, would that not have been a political ploy as well? In other words, the entire process is a political ploy. You pick your VP candidate to give yourself the best shot at winning.
But did he?
Now comes the news that Palin's 17-year-old daughter Bristol is pregnant and she will marry the father. How do both camps respond to this?
Palin preaches abstinence and is staunch in her pro-life conviction. After all, she gave birth to a baby with Down Syndrome and knew about it well before giving birth. But, her preaching of abstinence has backfired in her own backyard.
Frankly, the media needs to stay away from the daughter. Nothing is more sickening than going after the children of candidates. By all means, let the candidates have it, but keep away from the kids.
It may not happen, but it would be refreshing if the race came down to merit. However, with the country seemingly split in half, the 2008 campaign will likely be a bloodbath.
With two months remaining before the election, it will be fascinating to watch the drama unfold. What ads will people respond to? What truths will be uncovered concerning the candidates? How will the debates go?
Regardless of what happens in the election, you have to admit, the timing and the selection of Palin got the GOP ticket on the map. Politically speaking, it was a stroke of genius because if nothing else, it took the focus off of Obama and kept him from jumping way out in front.
What happens now is anyone's guess.