Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Time To Submit

Dear Reader,
Thank you so much for reading my column. I appreciate it.
As you may or may not know, I have several newspapers covering these great communities: Benjamin, Childress, Estelline, Floydada, Gould, Okla., Hollis, Okla., Knox City, Lakeview, Lockney, Memphis, Munday, Post, Rochester and Wellington.
I know you want your newspaper to reflect your community and there are several ways you may be able to help in that endeavor.
With the amount of technology available to us today, it should be possible for nearly every event happening in your respective town to receive coverage. Not necessarily by us, but by you, the reader.
I'm asking those of you with digital cameras to take them with you to different events, take photos, get identification for said photos, and email it to us.
From Boy Scouts to family reunions - we want it all. We need it all in order to give you the product you deserve and show a true reflection of what is going on in your area.
Timeliness is key. We want you to get home after the event and get your photo, information, club news minutes, etc.. to us while it's fresh on your mind. That will help us get it in the next issue and keep everybody happy.
Listed throughout this edition are contact numbers and email addresses. Let's begin a dialogue between reader and newspaper which will serve everyone and help us give you a better product.
As I've said many times, don't assume we know everything. We don't. It is important that the names are correct and the identification is in order. Also, be sure and tell us your name so that we can give you credit for your efforts.
For those of you who are in the routine of submitting news items and photos for publication, I applaud you. Some of you have been doing this for years and it's people like you who are the backbone of so much. It takes a consistent effort to keep doing what you do and I appreciate it.
The bottom line is this: The more information submitted to the local newspaper, the better that publication is going to be.
You have several sources to receive national and state news, but just one to obtain the local news you deserve. Please help us get that news to the public.
Chris Blackburn

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Living Longer

Longevity ... is it in you?
Do you ramble around your house wondering when it is all going to head south?
Are you going to be self sufficient at age 70, 80, 90 or 100?
Lately, I'm thinking 60 might be a reach. I guess when you're ill or banged up, it makes you wonder a little more about reaching these milestones.
By the middle of this century, six million people are predicted to be living in their 100s on this planet.
By the end of the century, and perhaps much sooner, the life expectancy in this country could end up much older. Of course, that's without something cataclysmic happening.
Today, there are 340,000 over 100 years old on the planet with the highest concentrations in the U.S. and Japan, according to the latest Census Bureau figures. Their numbers are projected to grow at more than 20 times the rates of the total population by 2050, making them the fastest growing age segment.
Genetics along with medical advances and improved diets, which have reduced heart disease and stroke, are the reasons people are living longer.
Throw in cutting edge technology and the fact scientists are making incredible findings regarding the aging process and who knows how old some of us may end up being.
Months ago, while checking out some show on aging, more than one scientist spoke about humans being capable of living 150 or 200 years within the next 50 years.
Can you imagine living 200 years?
I suppose it would be fine, if were talking about quality years. Of course, you might have to have all of your organs replaced (grown at an organ farm) and your bones and muscles would probably need a significant upgrade. And none of us would want to live that long without being sharp mentally.
Japan, with its low-fat staple of fish and rice, is expected to have the most centenarians in 2050 — 627,000, or nearly 1 percent of its total population, according to census estimates. That's incredible.
Japan has a thriving industry which caters to their advancing population. Personally, I think the Japanese treat their elders better than we do as well. They seem to give the proper respect to their elderly population and not cast them aside as so often happens in the U.S.
Here, centenarians are expected to increase from 75,000 to more than 600,000 by 2050. Those hitting and passing the milestone will mostly be baby boomers.
Guess we better get Medicare and Social Security fixed.
That many centenarians also means considerable growth in nursing homes, assisted living centers and retirement centers.
When I moved here after college, I lived with my grandfather. He was 82 and sharp, as he'd always been. I actually did not realize that he was rare in terms of being that age and getting around as well as he did. He lived another three years and outside an ongoing battle with congestive heart failure, was in good health and stayed sharp mentally.
On the other extreme, my father is only 66 and he's completely dependent on care givers for everything. My mother died at age 63.
I don't know what that says about my future, but I sure hope my dominant genes come from my grandfather if you catch my drift.
One thing I'm sure of: Regardless if you live to be 60 or 160, the days get shorter the older you get and the end will be here before you know it.

Copyright 2009 by Christopher Blackburn

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cap and Trade

Of all of the topics in the news over the past couple of years, the one people have urged me to weigh in on the most is Cap and Trade.
Before offering my opinion of this piece of legislation, some of you may need an explanation of how Cap and Trade works.
The Cap and Trade system involves trading of emission credits, where the total number of credits is strictly limited or 'capped' by the government. A regulatory authority establishes the cap which is usually considerably lower than the historic level of emissions.
Basically, it is a method for managing pollution while at the same time providing for expansion of "green" energy.
Like many liberal ideas, Cap and Trade is a great idea on paper. It's when you get into the substance of the matter that the perfect plan begins to show huge holes and all Americans are faced with more money coming out of our pocket books which wasn't before Cap and Trade.
That's really the problem with the mechanism. Instead of allowing a free market to evolve toward a greener world, which could easily be done with tax breaks for companies investing in such technology and not cost you and I a dime, we are faced with regulation forced on energy producers which will effect YOUR cost for energy.
Under a cap and trade system, the government sets a cap on how much pollution will be allowed and reduces that amount yearly until their reduction numbers are complied with.
Companies are issued credits, depending on how large they are. Heavier polluters will get more more credits but face a "cap" on their credits (the amount of their emissions).
If a company comes in below it's "cap" it can "trade" (sell) those credits to companies needing more.
Here's the bad part. The companies are going to pass the cost of their credits directly to the consumer. And since we're talking about oil, gas, natural gas, coal, etc... almost every single facet of U.S. energy, which Texas and Oklahoma are vital to, will be hurt. That is very, very bad news.
We'll get hit at the pump, at home and at work. Prices will go up for nearly everything you buy because it now costs more to make.
More damage: Manufacturing companies will continue to locate to countries trying to grow their economies, namely China and India.
By the way - China and India are not touching Cap and Trade with a 10-foot pole. They know how much money they stand to gain as our government continues to crush U.S. energy and industry.
Why can't the government play fair with U.S. corporations? Did the greed of such a small percentage of our corporations poison the minds of Americans.
Does the average citizen believe American companies are evil?
If so, not only does that show brainwashing on a monumental scale, it's the most ignorant thing I've ever heard. Here in rural America, we can appreciate some things because so many of our towns are struggling to stay around. We know what we've lost and we'd dearly love to have them back.
Cap and Trade will have the whole country feeling like these small towns do.
"Where did everybody go?"
"Some of 'em went to China ... the rest of 'em went to India. You know, where all the good jobs are."
As with attempting to reform health care during an economic crisis, Cap and Trade is very detrimental to an awful U.S. economy.
I hope Americans begin to shout loud enough to be heard regarding these most important things. Democrats and Republicans around the country need to get on the same page and let our elected officials know while good on paper, Cap and Trade is a little ahead of it's time in terms of the amount of damage it will do to the American family.
Clean energy is coming and that's great. Let it come and make it compete for it's place atop the throne of energy. That's what a free market would do. That's what needs to happen now.

Copyright 2009 by Christopher Blackburn

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Common Senseless

Michigan, along with most of the states, is bankrupt. The unemployment of the state is also spiraling out of control and may now reach 20 percent
California has a $26 billion budget shortfall.
Currently, forty-one states in the U.S. are facing budget shortfalls.
Welcome to Europe.
I wonder if it's a coincidence that the states in the worst financial shape are big-time union states and impose a state income tax?
Right to work states which are more friendly to workers, corporations, land owners, etc..., are faring much better than their counterparts.
However, as job seekers finally leave states like Michigan, you can bet they'll be headed all over the place looking for jobs, which will raise the unemployment level of other states.
Meanwhile, we have Congress and the White House spending more money than ever while also borrowing more money than ever. And when I say more money than ever, I mean in the history of man kind.
What good is it doing?
People in towns experiencing growth of any kind should be on their knees thanking God and praying it continues. No one knows how this will play out, but I suspect growth of any kind while maintaining reasonable unemployment rates is impressive.
With the economic gloom hanging around and the government breaking it's neck trying to "fix" everything, questions are finally being asked about support for small businesses. As a small business owner trying to keep his head above water, this interests me greatly.
While everyone agrees that small businesses are "the backbone" of the economy, they've only been mentioned at a minimum by the Obama Administration.
Outside of some interest-free loans from the Small Business Administration, many of these businesses, which are usually not in the business of wanting or needing government assistance, are just as deserving as the larger business up the food chain in which they depend on.
In other words, if your business makes GM specific auto parts and Government Motors is no longer buying from you because of measures THEY took, what recourse do you have?
Government intervention in the business world has repercussions we'll be feeling for decades. Talk about a lack of an exit strategy.
Anyhow, back to small businesses: the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) originally had $700 billion appropriated. Of that amount, the SBA has the authority to provide $17.5 billion in loans for 2009. Through June, the SBA had loaned $6 billion.
Of course the vast majority of small businesses have received no funds and will probably never receive any. Many may not want it.
What most small business owners are concerned about is taxes on their bottom line. That's certainly what will help determine the number of employees I have.
Businesses are taxed in a variety of ways. With the overall tax burden on a small business as high as it is, it evaporates the profit margin. Throw in large jumps in the minimum wage and a poor economy, and something has to break.
In 2005, a study concluded that individuals and businesses spent an estimated 6 billion hours and $265 billion dollars complying with their tax obligations. Compliance costs are predicted to grow to $482.7 billion by 2015.
As more Americans turn to entrepreneurship to start a new career or to boost their incomes, our 3.7 million word tax code is brutal for small businesses and home-based enterprises that operate on thin profit margins.
Which brings me back to my original thought: A huge government really does not solve much. It is expensive and continues to get in the way of itself.
Right now, at this moment in history, what we need is a thrifty government which operates lean and efficiently and sees a smaller tax burden as a sound investment leading to job creation and lower jobless rates.
Officials try and blame lack of oversight as one of the problems leading up to the collapse of the economy. I don't think it was a lack of oversight. It is probably because imbeciles like Barney Frank were doing the overseeing.
Democrats continue to Blame President Bush for the economy. That's fine and dandy. But, they have been in power in both the House and Senate since 2006. If Bush is to blame, so are the parties in power.
I think it's times like these where common sense is supposed to prevail. I'm guessing the one who coined that phrase was probably thinking the majority of our national elected officials had some to begin with.

Copyright 2009 by Christopher Blackburn

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Greener Pastures For Palin?

Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin is moving on to establish a voice for conservatives is sounds to me.
In a discussion with a friend who is a Palin fan and was more than a little hacked about her decision, I provided a possibility for her decision which eased her pain.
Since we really don't know her future plans other than the general statements she's said, I told him the jury was still out on her decision.
Consider this: since Palin and other conservatives face an uphill climb against the House, Senate, President and mainstream media, what if Palin's goal is to tell her story in a couple of books?
She is reportedly working on a book right now. Love her or hate her, that will be one best-selling book.
Now consider this: she may be considering a talk show. How ironic would it be if a Palin talk show, which is guaranteed a huge audience, was picked up by a major media outlet such as ABC, CBS or God forbid, NBC?
What speaks louder to the CEO's of these companies, their own personal agenda which they've been shoving down the throat of all Americans for years now, or the revenue of the most watched watched shows on television?
I'd say greed will win the day.
Of course she may not even wind up with a show, but she'd be a fool not to.
Having her own bully pulpit to lay out her vision and message would be huge for the GOP which has admittedly lost their voice. I can't think of a better way to begin restoring said voice.
Palin has become a formidable foe for those on the left. Why else would liberals stay on the attack? Never has the Equal Rights Amendment fallen so quickly as is has with Palin. Can you imagine the outcry from the left in this country had one of their beloved candidates had a teenage daughter cruelly ridiculed by a rape joke by David Letterman. Odds are he would have been fired had the politics of the matter lined up.
Palin has been a victim of a double standard since shortly after accepting the nomination for vice-president. It was then the the bellowing on the left began. "Hick," "Dumb," "Inexperienced," "Old-Fashioned," etc...
I'll be the first to say the McCain team handled her poorly. It was a result of mismanagement rather than Palin's brain power. Palin is smart and and she comes across as undaunted about her feelings on matters.
The jury is still out with Palin concerning a candidate. However, the fact she may be more dangerous concerning sensitive topics such as abortion and gun control certainly makes her intriguing to both sides.
Palin in the limelight weekly is would be a network dream and a liberal nightmare. And since she's so used to being attacked, why not give it a shot?

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009


When I was young, it sure seemed like vacations were easy. I just hopped in the car and in a few hours, we were there.
They're not easy when you're on the parenting end.
To be gone a week takes planning and timing. Never mind all of the things you have to do at home and work to get ready for a trip ... the actual trip can be pretty rough.
Going to Colorado was a virtual breeze last week.
Coming home Sunday was a nightmare.
This side of Raton, N.M., is a stretch of highway from there to Clayton I like to call hell. It was there five years ago I hit a deer at 2 a.m. on the way to Colorado.
This year at the same place, we got caught in a severe rain storm with 70 mph winds. The tarp over the bed of my truck was nearly blown off forcing me out in the elements (when I finally found a safe place to pull over). In all, I had to stop in the rain three times to secure the thing and I got as wet as a human can get. Not good when you have six hours left and finding dry clothes would take an hour to get to then repack.
Anyhow, we got to Amarillo at 8 p.m. and were heading to eat when I had a blowout on the trailer I was pulling. It was then I discovered my lug wrench was too large for the trailer tire.
My wife made a phone call to a friend and an hour later, we were at restaurant.
Between Memphis and Childress, I thought I saw a UFO. It was a glowing stationary light above the horizon to the south and it was off in the distance. Turns out, it was either a star or planet (I'm going to research to be sure) because it rose slowly finally started looking at what you'd expect a star or planet to look like. Very bright however, which I think is strange.
All-in-all, the trip was great. It's so fun getting that special family time with no distractions. I firmly believe little boys need rugged outdoor fun and my two sure got it.
I damaged my arm on the first day we were there when I was helping Jackson, my 6-year-old, fish. I lost my footing on a dam and when I caught myself, I guess I did something to a nerve. Feels like I hit my funny bone all of the time as my hand is numb and tingly and my fingers and thumb don't work right.
i also punctured a hole in my left heal. I stepped off a ladder onto a steel object and it went right through the skin. Good thing my own personal Florence Nightingale was on the scene. My wife would have made a good doctor or nurse. She is not afraid to administer pain (no offense to any real nurses or docs out there).
One of the neatest things about the trip was the fact I got to bond with my niece Samantha, 1. By the end of the week she was letting me lover on her pretty good and she was giggling the whole time. Like I told my wife, I can always get the cuties ... sometimes it just takes a little time.
In big towns and small, we live pretty busy lives in the U.S. When you take away work, computers and cell phones and have the opportunity to totally focus on your family and yourself, it helps put everything into perspective. That's a great thing.

Copyright 2009 by Christopher Blackburn