Category Archives: business news

'War on Christmas' is a media myth

Dan Radmacher used to work as a journalist back east, most recently as editorial page editor of the Roanoke (Va.) Times.

He wrote a wonderful essay in 2006 bemoaning the so-called “war on Christmas,” which he said — correctly, in my view — is a trumped-up creation of right-wing talking heads who populate the Fox News Channel.

Here’s the link to what he wrote:

I offered my own take on this idiotic “war,” noting that the real war is being waged by Black Friday shoppers who battle with each other — literally — in the toy aisles at stores across America.

Dan’s column, though, does contain a passage worth noting here. He wonders why the conservative media hounds keep harping on retail employees wishing shoppers “happy holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Here’s part of what Dan wrote: “I’ll admit that I find it silly to refer to ‘holiday trees.’ However, those who pride themselves on being good Christians might realize that the Christmas tree is pagan in origin, and that the Bible criticizes the practice: ‘For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not’ — Jeremiah 10:3-4.

“But what’s so wrong with ‘Happy Holidays’ as a season greeting? The word holiday, after all, is derived from holy day.”

The only thing “wrong” with it is in the closed minds of those who keep beating the drums on the trumped-up “war on Christmas.”

Let’s remember, too, that the federal government closes on Christmas. Banks are closed. Wall Street shuts down. Students are home from school.

A war on Christmas? It’s a figment of TV talking heads’ own bias.

Don't bet on OPEC

It’s gratifying to me to see the United States and Canada standing up to other oil-producing regions in the ongoing battle to control the price of fossil fuel.

According to an analysis on, the North Americans are winning the fight.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries recently declined the opportunity to reduce production. The non-action sent Brent crude to new low prices. According to MSN: “The Saudis appear to be spoiling for a fight, trying to find out exactly how cheap oil must be to force surging U.S. shale-oil production to seize up like an unlubricated engine.”

The gratification comes in the knowledge that North Americans finally seem to understand the need to conserve energy and to use alternative sources of energy. Yes, the production of shale oil in North Dakota and Montana also is helping boost oil supplies that have been outstripping demand; the result has been the plummeting prices we’ve seen across the country.

Shale oil is less expensive to produce than when it first came onto the oil-production scene, according to MSN.

Add the falling production costs of shale oil and the growing use of alternative sources — wind, sunlight and hydropower, to name just three — then OPEC’s influence on world oil price becomes diminished.

We’ve come a good distance from the days of the Arab Oil Embargo, correct?


Welcome to Black Friday

One of the many nice aspects of my part-time job at Street Toyota/Scion is the interaction I have with interesting customers.

Two of them came to our service department this morning. They are foreign-born. I asked them, “Where do you come from?”

“The Philippines,” the wife said.

We chatted a few moments. I asked them where they live; they reside in a small town north of Amarillo. She’s a medical professional, he is a contractor.

I asked them about the service we were doing for their vehicle. The gentleman told me they brought their truck in for a recall and some other maintenance. “Oh, do you think it will take some time?” I asked. He said “Yes, I think so.”

I told them we could transport them wherever they want to go if they didn’t want to wait.

Then the conversation got rather entertaining.

Husband: “Well, we were thinking about going to the mall, but it’s closed today, correct”?

Me: “Ohhh, no! It’s open. It’s been open for some time. Probably before the sun came up this morning.”

Husband: “Really? I thought today was a holiday.”

Me: “No, no, no. Yesterday was the holiday. We celebrate Thanksgiving every year at this time. Today is the start of the Christmas shopping season. (Westgate Mall) is quite crowded today.”

Husband: “Oh, OK. Well, I didn’t remember that.”

I then sought to explain to his wife the meaning of Black Friday. I believe she understood how I explained that businesses look to make a sizable profit today from sales of items. She asked if there would be “lots of price cuts.” I said, “Quite possibly, yes.”

With that, they walked across the street to a sporting goods store to do some shopping. They returned about an hour later, informed me that “It wasn’t too crowded over there,” then said they wanted to go to the mall.

I flagged down one of our drivers, Mark, and told him where they wanted to go. “Don’t tell me the mall,” Mark said, laughing loudly.

The couple stood up, walked out with the driver and the wife turned, smiling broadly, and waved good bye.

“What’d I tell ya?” I said. “Good luck.”

Welcome to Black Friday.


War on Christmas? Who's waging it?

Conservative media are fond of saying at this time of year that there’s a “war on Christmas.”

They point to supposedly “liberal” business owners who instruct their employees to wish customers “happy holidays,” or protests by civil libertarians over Christmas decorations on public property.

So, they’ve declared there to be open war on Christmas.

It’s malarkey.

In my mind, the first shots of the real war on Christmas will be fired on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when mobs of shoppers — thousands of whom across the country have been camped out for days — will stampede into retail outlets in search of the perfect gift.

There will be violence. Fist fights will erupt. Arrests will occur. The cops will break up melees in the toy aisle.

Will any of this happen here, in Amarillo, the self-proclaimed “Buckle of the Bible Belt”? I have no clue. I cannot predict what will happen in specific communities. Nationally, though, I’m quite certain we’re going to read accounts of such mayhem as Americans rush to find the one-and-0nly gift for their loved ones.

If you’re going to pinpoint the combatants in the war on Christmas, look no further than at The Mall, or at any major department store. That’s where it’s being waged, on the ground.

And yet …

We keep hearing from those who insist that Christmas should remain an exclusively religious holiday. Christians celebrate the birth of a baby who Scripture tells us was born to save the world. The holiday, over the centuries, has morphed into something quite different from a mere birthday party.

Please, conservative media. Spare me the blathering about your perceived war on Christmas. If you have barbs to sling, aim them at those hooligans who’ll get arrested Friday morning fighting for the last Elsa doll in the store.


Ancestral homeland climbs back

Greece is the land of my ancestors … all of them.

My mother’s parents emigrated to the United States from Turkey, but they were Greeks through and through. My father’s lineage goes back to the southern peninsula of Greece.

So, when news of Greece is bad, I ache a little bit more than I would if the news were about, say, Sweden or Poland. The Greek economy has been in the news a lot lately. And when the news is good, such as when Greece played host to the spectacular 2004 Summer Olympics, my pride swells.

My heart is gladdened just a bit with news from Reuters News Agency that the Greek economy — you’ll remember, when much of Europe was trying to bail them out with cash — has come back.

Reuters reports: “Seasonally adjusted figures showed the euro zone weakling posted three consecutive quarters of growth this year, even though it had only been expected to exit what the government has
called Greece’s ‘Great Depression’ in the third quarter.”

What has pulled the Greek economy out of the ditch? Some economists have suggested tourism has given Greece its heft. The country has discounted lodging prices and the country continues to be a magnet for tourists looking for a little culture, sunshine, beautiful landscapes and a walk through some of the grandest antiquities on the planet.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting my ancestral homeland three times and I plan to return. My wife, who’s made the trip with me said, “Of all the places we’ve been, this is the one place I want to see again and again.” That, folks, is high praise.

So I’m glad to read about the good news about Greece that has gone largely unreported. The media were certainly quick to tell us about the gloom and doom.

According to Reuters: “The news is a boost for Greece’s government, which has been promising austerity-weary Greeks better times ahead.”

I hope to read more about those “better times” when they arrive.



'Net neutrality' becomes latest political football

Who would have thought that something called “net neutrality” would become subject for a fierce political debate?

Not me.

I’ll stipulate that I’m not well-versed in the technicalities involving the Internet and control over access to broadband services.

So, when President Obama lined up in favor of net neutrality, I could not have anticipated the fearsome response from Republicans in Congress and throughout the country.

Here’s how The Associated Press describes the issue: “‘Net neutrality’ is the idea that Internet service providers shouldn’t block, slow or manipulate data moving across its networks. As long as content isn’t against the law, such as child pornography or pirated music, a file or video posted on one site will load generally at the same speed as a similarly sized file or video on another site.”

Netflix has backed the president’s call for net neutrality. Yet cable providers are far from thrilled. AP reported: “‘We are stunned the president would abandon the longstanding, bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the Internet and calling for extreme’ regulation, said Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the primary lobbying arm of the cable industry, which supplies much of the nation’s Internet access.”

If the issue is to prevent Internet providers from blocking data, then I’m for it. Part of the president’s stance is for the Federal Communications Commission to regulate Internet providers, and would prevent so-called “data hogs” such as Netflix from being charged more to move their content.

Obama has come down on the side of consumers who want more information as quickly as they can get it.

This has created a firestorm? I’m still trying to figure it out.



Jobs report due; get ready for unfounded griping

The Labor Department reported today that claims for unemployment benefits fell to a 14-year low.

This comes on the eve of its monthly jobs report, due out Friday.

So, what will happen? Usually, when the jobless claims dip as they did this week, it means a glowing jobs report is sure to follow.

I’m not going to predict any numbers here, because I have no clue what they’ll be. I’m thinking, though, the job growth in the private sector will match the recent trend, which has been very good.

So, how will the Obama administration’s critics react to this latest bit of sparkling economic news?

They’ll say, “Oh well, the Christmas buying season is almost here and retailers are hiring temporary help to assist with the boost in business.” They’ll pooh-pooh the numbers as a seasonal aberration. Big deal. Where’s the beef? The economy is still in dire straits. Didn’t the mid-term elections just prove that Americans are uneasy about the economy and the direction the country is heading?

This goes to show what politics does to reality.

The reality is that the economy has come back. It’s getting even stronger.

I heard an oil-and-gas analyst today suggest that lower fuel prices are going to give consumers more disposable income to spend at shopping malls across the country, suggesting a booming holiday shopping season that commences with Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving.

Oh, but that’s all smoke and mirrors, the critics will say.




Why is economy such a drag on election?

Some things I just don’t get, such as why polls keep showing that the economy remains such a worry for Americans.

Incumbents from both parties are sweating out the election that takes place Tuesday because the economy, for crying out, is on voters’ minds.

I keep seeing the numbers and I actually am heartened by them. Joblessness is down; job growth is up; retirement accounts (such as mine) are up; budget deficits are down; energy production is up; energy consumption is down; home construction is up; auto sales are up.

Who’s badmouthing the economy? Oh, I keep forgetting. It’s foes of the Obama administration in Congress, on talk radio, on cable news shows and a smattering of right-wing economists who keep saying that the economy is in mortal danger of collapse at any minute. They grabbed Americans’ attention when the government enacted aggressive stimulus incentives in early 2009 to try to rescue the failing economy and haven’t let go.

It appears from my vantage point that the economy has been in full recovery mode for about a year, but the doom-and-gloomsayers keep instilling this fear in us that it’s all about the collapse.

OK, it’s not rosy in every corner of the country. As the link attached to this blog notes, some governor are taking it on the chin because job growth isn’t what it should be. Other governors, such as the one in Texas, are crowing about superior growth and are taking all the credit they deserve — and even more than they deserve — for that growth. That’s all fine.

So help me, though, while I might be slow on the uptake a lot of the time, I fail to understand how the economy continues to strike such fear across the land.


Price goes up … then comes back down

Update: I thought for a moment I had been hallucinating earlier today when I noticed the price of gasoline had jumped 20 cents per gallon during the night. But nope. I saw it.

Then I noticed a competing convenience store chain had kept its prices the same as the day before, $2.79 per gallon of unleaded gasoline. Lo and behold, the two stations I noticed the big jump had rolled the price back to $2.79 during the day, and then dropped the per-gallon price a penny more by the end of the day.

Could there have been, shall we say, a gasoline pump trial balloon sent aloft this morning?


A mystery of economics has been made even more mysterious as of this very morning.

While completing an errand a few minutes ago, I noticed the price of regular unleaded gasoline jumped 20 cents per gallon overnight.

It’s still under $3, but it’s now at $2.99 at one local gasoline station. It’s a local chain, so I’m betting I’ll see a similar spike at other corner gasoline stations later this morning when I trudge off to work.

The mystery is this: I keep reading stories in the media about the plummeting price of crude oil and the accompanying decline of gasoline — which is a product of aforementioned crude oil. Then I witness this upward spike in prices here in West Texas, which supposedly is one of the centers of the domestic oil production boom that I thought was helping drive the price of energy down.

What in the world am I missing here?

I get the supply-and-demand drivers that fuel the economy.

News reports keep telling us that our supply is outstripping our demand. Production is up, demand is down. Thus, prices are supposed to come down. Isn’t that how capitalism works? It’s kind of basic.

Now the price of gasoline here in Amarillo, Texas, has shot back up — by a lot!

It’ll take some time for the price to trickle back down. That’s how it works. What jumps up quickly comes down at a snail’s pace.

I’ll be waiting and watching.

Footballer gets goofy underwear endorsement deal

Joseph Randle, who plays football for the Dallas Cowboys, gets accused of trying to steal underwear and cologne from a Frisco, Texas, department store.

Then he gets an endorsement deal from an underwear maker, which then supplies him essentially with a lifetime supply of skivvies.

So help me, I don’t whether to laugh, scream or see a shrink.

The underwear company is MeUndies, which agreed to pay Randle enough money to pay him back for the fine levied against him by the Cowboys for getting caught trying to filch the goods from the Dillard’s store in Frisco — allegedly.

A MeUndies official said this about the deal: “Joseph felt the need to turn a negative situation into a positive and teamed up with MeUndies to give back to his community and help families in need.”

Negative into positive?

The negative is that he’s been charged with a misdemeanor. The positive is that he’ll be paid for it?

Someone needs to explain this one to me … please.