Friday, December 26, 2008

A Mess Out Of Our Control

Why does the federal government think they can buy this country out of hard times? Correct me if I'm wrong, but they are at fault - at least in part - for the current problems.
Some 500 people in this country are elected to govern the rest of us. Those individuals should be held accountable for so much, yet they never will be.
Blame Bush you say? Sure. But, seems to me Congress has plenty of votes to disagree with the president once in while. Instead they march lock-step, throwing good money after bad ... making a bad situation worse.
Today, many companies are opting for a handout instead of using normal means to save themselves. However, I don't blame the corporations seeking billions. I blame the government for opening up this Pandora's Box.
Ask yourself this: If someone said you qualified for $1 million at nearly zero percent interest, and really didn't consider how you would be able to pay it back, would you take it?
People need to understand that things don't always go up. There is an evolution to business. Simply put, some are destined to die or become something else.
Does the government really expect us to believe GM can fix itself by March? It can't. It's impossible. They've bought themselves time for one of three things: 1. Ask for more money; 2. Get bought; 3. File for bankruptcy on their own terms.
What really boils my blood is that the president, president-elect and all of Congress know there is no way some of these companies will survive yet they are willing to throw our money into this abyss.
Wonder what the government would do if every citizen decided to stop paying taxes? I imagine they'd just keep printing more money. Who cares about the value of the dollar anyhow.
When I see these jokers on television, it drives me crazy. They are no longer held accountable for any of the terrible decisions they make on a daily basis. The mainstream media, who is supposed to serve us in this one capacity, has lost it's way. Maybe it has decided that Congress can do no wrong. More likely, they are in bed with the media and the media likes the privilege.
Contact members of Congress and tell them to turn the money-faucet off. It is only making things worse and it is placing way to large a burden on future generations.
Or, tell them to annex Canada and Mexico and sell it back to Americans and the rest of the world to raise enough money to bail us out of our $10 trillion national debt.
Really, I'm shorting the debt. The actual national debt as of this week is $10,611,892,686,306.43. The estimated population of the United States is 305,328,096. That comes to $34,755.70 for every man, woman and child in this country.
By the way: Congress is getting another raise - over $4,000 next year.
Raise for what? Running the country into the ground?

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Feeling Lost This Year

I feel kind of lost this year. Many of you have been through it as well.
I lost my mother in February and my father resides in an Alzheimer's unit and has no idea who I am. My grandmother passed in January.
Dad was pretty bad last year, but we managed to have a nice Christmas. We will this year as well, but I find myself lost with the thoughts of Christmases past.
My mom worked hard at Christmas. She worked hard on the house, food, presents and everything else. She made it very special.
I remember coming in the house and the incredible smells there to welcome anyone who entered.
Despite the usual holiday stress, Mom was happy. Actually, the holidays were the time she was the happiest.
Dad was always in a good mood around the holidays as well. He liked to play little tricks. One time he bought a baseball glove for himself and wrote on the card, "To: Bill - From: His Secret Admirer." Pretty clever guy.
My wife and I were talking about how our children seem to make this first Christmas without my parents okay. The joy of their experiences have a way of helping with the pain and emptiness left by those who've passed.
There are other joys as well. Simply finding a quiet time to remember exactly what we are celebrating puts things in perspective. I'm still amazed at the humble nature of the birth of Jesus. It's astounding and moves me.
Doing something for others also has a way of helping ease the grief. There are many who need the aid of a friend or the goodwill of those of use better off.
Still, this Christmas will be difficult at times... Really, it already is. Just this past weekend I tried to count the number of phone calls I would have received from my folks on the weekend before Christmas in the past. I'm sure it would have been at least six. Strange ... half of the phone calls probably would have annoyed me in some way. Man, I'd love for that phone to ring right now...
For those of you who've lost loved ones this past year, my heart goes out to you and your families. Fill your homes with love and let those sharing your pain know how much you love and care for them.
For those of you with families intact, give them an extra hug and kiss this year and take just a second and think of this special time without them. Then go ahead and give them another hug.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Classy Champion

Sometimes nice guys do finish first.
In a "me first" society, how refreshing it is to see someone with the character and strength of Stran T Smith win at the highest level.
If you had to go out amongst the people of Childress and select the best ambassador to represent us all, you could not go wrong with Stran. Thankfully, he already does a fantastic job in that regard as he's been putting us on the map for years.
As Stran told me yesterday, only 320 people on the planet have ever won a gold buckle in the PRCA's 50-year history. He is one of a very elite club.
Stran and wife Jennifer have teamed up once again to let the world know that if people like them live in little old Childress, we must have a pretty good place here.
It is a thrill to watch Stran rope and Jennifer interview during the NFR each year. This year was different however. This year we had the pleasure of seeing the two of them in the moment. A moment which will last in our memories for the rest of our lives.
The Smiths are a strong couple. Like most of us, they've endured the ups and downs of life, they just have the misfortune of being very high profile while doing it. It is something they handle with class and dignity.
In Stran's rodeo career, he's nearly been killed in a tragic wreck which took the life of his best friend, he's been seriously injured and he's suffered a stroke, after which he was told he'd never rope again.
Just as he's done his entire career, Stran got up from each setback, dusted himself off and got back in the saddle.
All week Stran flew under the radar. The commentators spoke of this roper and that roper having a shot at the championship, but Stran's name was rarely mentioned. I guess he had them right where he wanted them.
Stran roped well during the NFR putting himself in great position to win the average and finish in the top three in the world. But what he needed to win the whole thing was a heck of a time Saturday. He did just that, finishing second with a 7.2 to put him on top. It all fell into place for him in his tenth NFR.
Stran is one of those people who makes us all feel like winners when they win. We hope and pray for him, cheer him on and feel great when he wins. But this is different. This is huge. Stran is the very best in the world and he's coming home to Childress to share that title with his hometown.
Congratulations to Stran T on a job well done. And thank you for representing Childress in a way we can all be proud of.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008

Large Newspapers Struggling

You may have heard on the news that America's largest newspapers are in serious financial trouble. In fact, don't be surprised to see several begin to close their doors.
On Monday, the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, filed for bankruptcy. The New York Times Company followed by saying it might mortgage its beautiful headquarters - a building by Times Square - to reduce debt.
The San Francisco Chronicle has been losing $1 million a week for some time. Mid-size newspapers such as the Amarillo Globe-News and Lubbock Avalanche Journal are feeling it as well.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, put it like this: “Good journalism does not come cheap. And, therefore, you’re not going to find a lot of blogs or non-profit websites that are going to build a Baghdad bureau.”
Thankfully, the market for smaller newspapers like the one you are reading are not facing the same economic hardship.
Let's face it, in today's world, the need for 130 pages in a newspaper simply does not exist ... particularly at $1.50 or more per issue. The Internet and the duplication of news by several sources (weather, Washington, D.C., major stories) has helped in placing these newspapers in peril. The poor economy is sending them over the edge.
The government should not even consider helping these institutions out and I'd be shocked if it were ever seriously considered. That would be a disaster. The last thing we need is newspapers under the control (even if it is merely financial) of the U.S. government. Anything being perceived as a state-controlled media as terrible. See Iran, Russia and China as an example of countries in which the government controls the media.
Nor should the government bail out companies such as GE, which owns NBC. Again, such a bailout could be seen as the government getting involved in media. In my eyes, it's a clear violation of free press.
Anyhow, the way information has been collected and disseminated to the vast majority of Americans is changing by the week. The day of giant newspapers having reporters across the globe is quickly coming to an end.
I foresee a time when newspapers in Dallas, Houston, Denver, etc. cease to exist at all in the form we see them now. We'll continue to see an evolution of them until they are completely online. In the meantime, you'll see many more smaller newspapers rise up and take their place. Why? Because people can afford them and they still want to see their children and grandchildren participating in events. You'll continue to have the Dallas Morning News replaced by weekly or twice-weekly newspapers in Rockwall, Grand Prairie, Flower Mound, etc... News about Dallas can be found online at home or at work, but the story and photo about the local team can only be found in the local paper.
Don't get me wrong, it is wise for the smaller markets to develop online editions as well, but the need for major cutbacks and a complete overhaul is not there. When you're a giant, with a dozen offices and a couple of thousand employees which are in various unions, and much of what you do faces competition from ten other sources, it's plain to see what's coming. The fact that many of the largest newspapers in this country put off massive change will be their demise.
Meanwhile, small-town newspapers will quickly streamline and continue to produce an efficient product. It's ironic that us small guys can continue to plug along while the grand old ladies go to pasture. Usually, the massive corporations continue to grow while the small guy suffers.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Building A Cabinet

In case you haven't been keeping up with current events, President-elect Barack Obama continues to fill his cabinet positions. I'd say the review by those in "the know" have been favorable.
For those fearing Obama would line his cabinet with liberals, that has not been the case. The appointment of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates should speak volumes to conservatives.
Gates, a Republican and the former Director of the CIA, was fine in his position as President of Texas A&M University. To many Aggies, he is the best president in the school's history. While there, he declined the nomination to serve as the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security when it was created following the September 11, 2001 attacks. He also declined the position as Director of National Intelligence in 2005.
However, following the exit of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2006, Gates accepted the appointment to lead the defense department.
I think what has happened in Iraq since Gates took over speaks for itself. Simply put, we've gone from losing the war to nearing it's completion. To those that know him, Gates is considered a soft-spoken genius.
Time Magazine named Gates one of the year's most influential people in 2007 and he was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report in 2008.
Without a doubt, Obama was very wise to let Gates continue in his position and will probably leave him there as long as he will stay. He will be one of the few men to serve a president from each party in this position.
When all of the dust settles on this piece of history, Gates will go down as one of the very best Secretaries of Defense we've ever had.
Back to Obama's Cabinet: Other members, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce, are viewed as centrist.
So far, Obama seems to be siding with experience in his picks.
The authority to appoint Cabinet members is grounded in Article II of the Constitution which stipulates that the President "may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments."
The first Cabinet, appointed by President George Washington, had just four members, but take a look at the four: Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson; Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton; Secretary of War, Henry Knox; and Attorney General, Edmund Randolph.
If you're not a history buff, you'll have to trust me that those four individuals would make any president a hand.
Over time, the Cabinet expanded to its current membership of 15 officials plus the Vice President. Additionally, each President may give "Cabinet level rank" to other members of the administration. All appointees are submitted to the Senate for consideration where they must receive a simple majority vote for confirmation.
The list of President-Elect Obama's Cabinet members, those either announced or under serious consideration based on recent reporting, is as follows:
Secretary of Treasury - Timothy Geithner
Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton
Secretary of Defense - Robert Gates
Attorney General - Eric Holder
Secretary of Homeland Security - Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Health & Human Services - Tom Daschle
Secretary of Commerce - Bill Richardson
Ambassador to the United Nations - Susan Rice
Secretary of Agriculture - ?
Secretary of Education - ?
Secretary of Energy - ?
Secretary of Housing & Urban Development - ?
Secretary of Interior - ?
Secretary of Labor - ?
Secretary of Transportation - ?
Secretary of Veteran's Affairs - ?
With the exception of Eric Holder and Tom Daschle, I'd say Obama would get high grades from most with his appointments. Holder and Daschle are another matter entirely.
It will be interesting to follow the remaining appointments. Conservatives are saying the rest will be liberal. The liberals are a little ticked claiming the ones already appointed are no where near liberal enough. My bet is that he will continue to side with experience and pick mostly good ones with a couple of duds.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008