Category Archives: business news

Big Beaners goes bye bye

A brief, but still weird, story has come to a close up yonder in Amarillo. It might have an actual final conclusion, but for now the story appears to have gone dormant.

The story involves a restaurant opened by a flamboyant and flashy Amarillo personal injury lawyer, Jesse Quackenbush. It used to serve Mexican food, until the city closed it for reasons I do not yet know.

The joint got off to a rocky start, owing to the weird — and blatantly scurrilous — name that Quackenbush attached to it. He called it Big Beaners, which a number of folks in Amarillo interpreted as an anti-Latino slur.

And … it is. The term “beaner” is meant as a slur against people of Latino heritage. Quackenbush, of course, defended the name, even though in some circles the name “beaner” is nearly equal to using the n-word when referring to African-Americans or any assortment of epithets hurled at Asian-Americans.

Big Beaners is no longer open, which is just as well.

The universe is full of quirky, catchy, market-friendly names that do not hurl an ethnic slur.

Tax returns! Let’s see ’em!

OK, it’s time for an admission.

I am fixated by Donald John Trump’s tax returns, his financial record/history and whether he is as crooked as I fear.

Where did I obtain this fixation? From Donald Trump his own self, that’s where!

For as long as I’ve been aware of Trump’s existence — which goes back a good while — this fellow has been bragging his brains out about how rich he is. I’ll say that I detest braggarts. No one who is as rich as Trump says he is has to tell the world about it; nor does anyone as smart as he says he is have to brag about his or her smarts. Yet this clown has been doing so ever since Daddy Trump staked him to his business and got the boy started.

So then he announced the start of his political career. He did so with panache. Along the way to his winning the White House, Trump kept telling us about his immense wealth, his “self-made” success … and he pledged to release his full financial records as soon as the Tax Man completed a “routine audit.”

I’m going to presume that (a) the audit is now done or (b) Trump lied about the audit, given that he never provided a shred of evidence that it was being done.

So, where are the tax returns? He now is fighting like hell to keep them from us.

He is the nation’s highest elected public official. His personal records, by association, become our business. Trump helps set tax policy, he asks Congress to spend our tax money, he is commander in chief of our armed forces, he is our employee.

Trump has fought so hard to keep those records from us that he went to the Supreme Court. Hah! The high court showed him he ain’t the boss, declaring that presidents aren’t immune from prosecution, that even Donald Trump isn’t above the law.

All of this adds up to my fixation with the tax records and Donald Trump’s financial history. I want to know whether he is as rich as he claims to be, whether he has business dealings that might compromise our national security and whether he is a crook.

That’s not too much to ask. Is it?

Racism takes many forms

I am seeing this drama unfold from some distance, but given my history with Amarillo, Texas, it isn’t as far as many other communities on which commented regarding similar issues.

A local lawyer, Jesse Quackenbush, wants to open a Mexican food restaurant called Big Beaners. It has, um, drawn considerable opposition within the community. Why? The term “beaners” is perceived by many Latinos to be an ethnic slur. Some of us Anglos see it that way, too.

Quackenbush, known for his feisty and occasionally combative nature, isn’t backing down. He wants to open the joint in early July; I understand he pushed the opening date back a few days.

He said he isn’t going to change the name because he already has ordered restaurant supplies — napkins, cups, plates and such — with the name Big Beaners inscribed on them.

This story, it seems to me, is a direct result of the rising public awareness of racial and ethnic sensitivity that has been pushed to the front of our consciousness. I haven’t spoken to Jesse Quackenbush about this, although I do understand he is digging against the racism allegation.

I just would suggest that the term “beaners” is a term that has racist connotations to many of us who hear it. I wish he would rename the restaurant he intends to open.

We return to Amarillo on occasion to see family and friends. I guess I should just acknowledge that I won’t darken his door as long as the establish carries a name that I find offensive.

These numbers are mind boggling … to be sure

I always have considered the study of economics to be a fairly precise endeavor. Experts look at hard data and make determinations based on what they see as hard evidence of trends.

I also am not an expert on these matters, so take this brief blog post with a grain or two of salt if that suits you.

Thus, when economists project a jobs report that looks toward a 20 percent unemployment rate nationally and the loss of about 9 million non-farm jobs in the past month, I tend to take those projections seriously. I mean, the pandemic has slammed the brakes on the national economy.

That didn’t happen today when the U.S. Labor Department released its latest monthly jobs report.

Labor’s bean counters said the nation added nearly 3 million jobs and the jobless rate dropped from 14 percent to 13 percent in the past month.

How in the name of data-driven study did they miss the mark so badly?

If this had been done during the administration of, say, Barack Obama, we could expect to hear accusations immediately coming from, oh, Donald Trump that the numbers were cooked up. That they were phony. That the Labor Department is being run by a cabal of partisan hacks intent on feathering the president’s political fortunes.

Donald Trump, though, is the immediate beneficiary of these stunning numbers … and this stunning misreading of the nation’s economic standing.

I won’t question the veracity of this jobs report, given my own stated belief that the Labor Department is run by professionals who know what they heck they are doing. I have defended the Labor Department when Donald Trump hurled baseless accusations about previous jobs reports.

At least they know what they’re doing, um, most of the time.

However, I look forward to a thorough explanation of just how the best and the brightest economic minds in the nation missed this call by a country mile.

How about some ‘transparency,’ Mr. POTUS?

It’s the “t-word,” which means “transparency,” and it is fast becoming the latest overused term in the American political glossary of overused verbiage.

But it’s important. It means a lot to us as we look across the landscape and ponder the upcoming election for, oh, president of the United States.

The presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, Joe Biden, is facing allegations of sexual assault from a woman who said Biden attacked her in 1993. Her allegation isn’t holding up all that well upon closer scrutiny. Still, Tara Reade’s accusation needs to be “vetted” carefully, as Biden himself as stated.

He’s calling for transparency. That’s a good thing in my humble view.

Meanwhile, we have Biden’s opponent, the Republican president named Donald J. Trump. He’s got a boatload of accusations leveled against him. Have we vetted those accusations? Have we summoned those women forward to talk to us? No. Trump calls them liars and losers and other hideous names that seek to disparage them.

We need some transparency, Mr. President. He tells us on occasion that he’s the most transparent president in the U.S. history; then again, he’s the most everything in American political history.

He isn’t transparent. He hides, bobs and weaves, dissembles, and does all he can to avoid the kind of scrutiny that goes with holding the highest public office in the world’s most indispensable nation.

Oh, one more thing: those tax returns. Trump said he would release them after they go through a “routine audit.” The Internal Revenue Service said an audit doesn’t prevent anyone from releasing those returns, but Trump still hides behind that dodge.

He now vows to fight to keep them from public view. The Clown in Chief owes it to us. We need to look at this most public man’s books. We deserve to know if he is as rich as he boasts, whether he pays his share of taxes (which he demands of others) and whether there are any foreign influences on his business dealings that might have an impact on his public duties as president.

Transparency, Mr. President? Come clean on all of it.

Nice try with the one-way shopping lanes

I want to give a shout out to Wal-Mart for trying something novel in its effort to stem the infection caused by the coronavirus.

It has placed shopping lane signs on aisle floors. The signs are intended to force shoppers to observe certain traffic patterns. You can enter a shopping aisle on end, but not the other.

Well, nice try … but I don’t think it’s working, at least not in our store in Princeton, Texas.

Here’s the problem: Shoppers are too busy looking up at the shelves for the products they want to purchase; they aren’t paying attention to the signage at their feet.

At least that’s what I observed this morning when I went to the store to pick up some items.

The intent is to keep shoppers six feet or father apart in observance of “social distancing” requirements that seek to prevent the spread of the deadly viral infection.

How do they make it work? I guess they need to put bright yellow “crime scene: do not cross” tape across the top of the aisles. Whaddya think?

Wait for the next set of job-growth numbers

The way I figure it, the first Friday in April is going to be a doozy.

That is when the U.S. Department of Labor is scheduled to release its non-farm jobs report for March, which happens to be the first full month of the coronavirus pandemic that has sent jolting shockwaves throughout the nation’s economy.

The March figures likely won’t be nearly as rosy as the monthly reports have been for he past, oh, decade or so.

We’ve been adding millions of jobs annually since around 2010. Donald Trump, of course, pooh-poohed the Labor Department numbers prior to the time he became president. He called them “cooked up” figures; he said there was no way we were adding to payrolls so dramatically during the Obama administration.

It all changed when he took office in January 2017. Then the numbers became like The Gospels to him.

What will might happen on April 3 when the Labor Department releases its next set of numbers? They might reveal a net loss of jobs in March. Why? The reason is obvious: Businesses have been forced to shutter themselves as states, counties and cities issue directives limiting crowd sizes. The federal government response to date has been spotty … and that’s the kindest description I can use.

How might the president react to crappy jobs numbers in March? I am guessing he’s going to find a way to blame it all on President Obama. Or on China. Or on the Deep State. Or perhaps on Martians who landed on Earth and kidnapped employees and flew them into outer space.

I am guessing, too, that Donald Trump will go ballistic. He’ll suffer a form of apoplexy not seen since, oh, when he learned that his inaugural crowd was nowhere near the size of the one that cheered the inauguration of Barack Obama.

These are troubling times. We in for more pain before it gets better. As for the president, he’ll have to deal with the bad news that is sure to arrive.

Just wondering: Would a Bloomberg nominee release his taxes?

Let’s play a game of “what if?” for just a moment.

What if somehow Michael Bloomberg manages to win the Democratic Party presidential nomination? What if he gets the call to run against Donald John Trump, the self-proclaimed “very stable genius” and the current president of the United States?

Trump at first promised to release his taxes per the custom set beginning with the 1976 election. Then he has backed away. He is fighting efforts to obtain those records.

What if Bloomberg gets the nomination and then releases everything, per what previous nominees of both major parties have done … until Trump came along?

Bloomberg is reportedly the world’s ninth richest person. Trump reportedly is worth, well, a whole lot less than Bloomberg.

Why hasn’t Trump done what he promised to do initially and then reneged on the promise? I have a number of theories.

One is that he ain’t nearly as wealthy as he claims to be. Another is that he doesn’t give hardly anything to charity. Still another is that he has business dealings in Russia that far exceed what he’s admitted to already. A fourth might be that he has paid damn little in taxes. May I try a fifth notion? It could be that he has done a whole bunch of shady deals that could be revealed in a full public scrutiny of his taxes.

Bloomberg is far from a sure thing in the still-developing Democratic primary contest. He’s getting beaten up by his primary rivals, not to mention Trump, who’s already hung a disparaging nickname on the former New York City mayor.

If he gets the party nomination, my hope is that he releases his taxes, as other nominees have done. It won’t shame Trump into doing the right thing. However, it would stand in stark relief against the game of fiscal hide-and-seek that Trump is playing.

Voters then can make their own judgment on who appears to be keeping some important information from public view.

Businesses will come and they will go

I am sensing a touch of community and social media hand-wringing over the closure of a jazz club that opened in downtown Amarillo a couple of years ago.

The Esquire Jazz Club opened a couple of years ago with considerable fanfare as the city’s downtown revival picked up an impressive head of steam. Its owner is Amarillo lawyer and jazz musician Pat Swindell, whose band played at the club regularly, as I understand it.

OK, the club didn’t make it. It is shuttered. Is this the end of downtown’s revival? Does this mean the efforts to transform Polk Street into a new form of entertainment district won’t work?

Please. Let’s get real.

Businesses come and go. It would have been great to see the Esquire Jazz Club flourish, providing a joyful entertainment option for residents of Amarillo.

However, I feel the need to remind the worriers that there remains a virtually endless supply of businesses opportunities for the city to explore. Indeed, the downtown progress to date has been impressive.

The city has welcomed the opening of a new ballpark that officials hope will be host to many events other than AA minor-league baseball; new hotels are coming on line to join the Embassy Suites complex across the street from City Hall; Polk Street has welcomed new commercial businesses; Potter County’s Courthouse has been renovated and restored; West Texas A&M University has opened a downtown campus.

Will there be hiccups along the way? Yes! Of course!

I am not going to worry about Amarillo’s economic future. It still looks bright to my eyes.

Fire a CEO and replace him with … the boss? Huh?

There’s something about this story that doesn’t compute with me. Follow me for a brief moment.

Boeing Corp. has fired its chief executive officer, David Muilenberg, over the crisis that has grounded the once-highly touted 737 MAX jetliner, which was involved in two crashes that killed nearly 350 passengers and crew members. Boeing didn’t like the way Muilenberg handled the matter.

The company wants to restore confidence in the management, not to mention in the aircraft, the production of which Boeing has suspended.

So, who is brought in to replace Muilenberg? His boss, the chairman of the Boeing board of directors, David Calhoun, who takes over as CEO effective immediately.

I don’t know about you, but I always have presumed that a company in search of a way to rebuild shattered confidence and restoring its reputation would look outside its management structure for a fresh outlook, a new way of doing things, someone who can kick some a**.

The 737 MAX isn’t flying any time soon. The company isn’t building any new aircraft until it can fix the engineering the issues that reportedly caused the fatal crashes. The impact of this grounding has been significant right here, at Dallas Love Field, home base of Southwest Airlines, which operates a huge fleet of 737s.

Firing the CEO and then replacing him with the guy to whom he reported, it seems to me, doesn’t instill much confidence in me that the company has found the right formula to fix what has gone so terribly wrong.