Category Archives: business news

Herring rumbles persist

I keep hearing the rumbles from up yonder on the Texas Caprock about a landmark structure in downtown Amarillo.

It’s the Herring Hotel building. I need to add the term “building” because it hasn’t been an actual hotel since the 1970s. It has been rotting for decades.

Along comes a firm that is trying to market it to investors. One of my spies in Amarillo tells me the firm specializes in historic hotel structures. It is working, my snitch tells me, on the Le Meridian in Fort Worth. The theme of whatever happens to the Herring will be to honor the heritage of the region.

OK. Let’s see. That would be cattle, railroads, oil and natural gas exploration. Let’s throw in medical research and development, along with nuclear weapon assembly and disassembly, and — oh, yes! — with aircraft manufacturing and assembly.

That’s a varied history, don’t you think?

The Herring used to be the place to see and to be seen. It was the site of extravagant parties and was a gathering place for the rich, famous and those who aspired to be, um, rich and famous. These days it’s a place where homeless people seek shelter from the frigid Panhandle winter.

I want life to return to the Herring. The city has turned several important corners in its efforts to revive its downtown district. It has restored old buildings (turning two of them into hotels), built a baseball park, welcomed a glitzy new hotel near City Hall.

I am not going to predict that the Herring site is going to turn into shiny new jewel that towers over the north end of Amarillo’s downtown district. However, the rumbling just won’t stop. It leads me hope there’s something to what I suspect might be about to occur.

Looking for evil intent?

The right-wing goon squad that is on the hunt for evil intent involving President Biden and his son, Hunter, are going to stop at nothing to concoct some nefarious plot that — as I look at it — defies logic.

Hunter Biden went to work years ago for a Ukrainian energy company, serving on the board and raking in a lot of dough for doing, allegedly, nothing to earn it. I get that it doesn’t look good for someone to trade on his famous parent’s name for considerable profit. Hey, it happens; e.g.: Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.

What about dear ol’ Dad, though? Are we supposed to believe that a man who has spent virtually his entire adult professional life in public service is going to throw it all away with an obviously careless and corrupt practice? The right-wingers want us to believe that President Biden himself profited from Hunter’s association with the energy firm.

Yes, that the president of the United States of America hauled in cash and fattened his own bank account. How does someone with half a brain even think he can get away with such a thing when the public is watching his every move?

Joe Biden served for eight years as vice president in the Barack Obama administration. Prior to being elected VP, he served for 36 years as a U.S. senator from Delaware. Prior to that, Biden served on a county council as a Democratic representative.

I did the math: That’s 52 years of public service. 

And yet the right-wingers want us to believe that a man who’s been under the public’s prying eyes would be stupid enough to take money while his son is working as a board member for a foreign-based energy firm.

One more point. During the first impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s quest for a political favor from Ukraine, a prosecutor in that country declared categorically that neither Joe nor Hunter Biden committed any crimes.

Still, the hunt goes on. To what end? To seek to destroy the career of the man who defeated Donald Trump.

My heart fluttered … but wait!

This morning brought a bit of a surprise that I thought initially might mean a huge announcement involving a downtown Amarillo, Texas landmark-turned-community eyesore.

It appears my hopes are a good bit premature.

I refer to the Herring Hotel, the long-abandoned structure on the northern end of the downtown district.

My preliminary snooping this morning revealed a website;

Herring Hotel – Amarillo Investment (

It appears to be the creation of an investment firm that is looking for people to sink money into rehabilitating the Herring Hotel site. The site has lots of pictures of the structure as well as photos of other downtown hotel projects that have succeeded in other communities.

Does any of this signal the pending rebirth of the once-grand hotel? Not necessarily. Then again, lightning could strike.

I also reached out this morning to Bob Goodrich, who has owned the site for many decades. He pays the tax bill every year on it and has been doing what he can to entice someone — anyone! — to buy it from him. On at least two occasions over the years I have known Goodrich, he has told me of a pending sale only to see it fall apart.

I cannot speak passionately enough about how I want to see the building revived and brought back to life. It stands vacant and, truth be told, time has not been entirely kind to it.

Here’s the good news, though, for those of us who want a brighter future for the Herring: The Barfield Building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street — which was actually uglier than the Herring — has returned to the world of functionality. It is now a boutique hotel. I haven’t seen it yet in its newfound glory; maybe one day soon.

Meantime, I will continue to send good vibes and karma to the Herring in the hope we hear of an announcement soon.

Jobs piling up, unemployment low … huh?

The U.S. Labor Department each month gives us a snapshot of where the nation’s economy stands. It comes in the form of its jobs report.

What did the Labor stats show us this month? Oh, that private non-farm employers added 428,000 more Americans to their payrolls and that joblessness remains at 3.6%, or at the same level it stood prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, and this just baffles me to the point of confusion: President Biden keeps getting pilloried because the economy — according to the critics — is “in the tank.”

Is it? Not really. Actually, the economy is humming along fairly well.

Now, I will acknowledge the obvious “elephant in the room,” which would be inflation. I don’t like paying more for eggs, bread, milk, veggies and meat any more than the next red-blooded American. Nor do I like shelling out huge piles of dough for motor fuel. Is that totally within the president’s control? No. It isn’t even close.

We have this war erupting in Ukraine, which produces a lot of the world’s grain. Russian oil has been all but cut off from the rest of the world. Demand for all of that is high; supply is low. Hmm. High demand and low supply? What does that mean? We pay more for goods and commodities.

Biden is trying to help stem the rise in fuel prices by ordering the tapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He wants the SPR to ship 1 million barrels of crude oil each day for six months to help boost the supply of oil.

I am not going to criticize the president’s handling of the economy. He was dealt a bad hand when he took office in January 2021. The pandemic crippled the so-called “supply chain.” We are working our way through that crisis.

Meanwhile, we keep adding hundreds of thousands of jobs each month and the unemployment rate remains just about at rock bottom.

What in the name of realism is wrong with that?

Pro-business policy? Hah!

Let’s see. How does a politician who belongs to the political party that calls itself a “pro-business” organization justify a policy that stops shipments of goods and commodities and threatens so many businesses in the state he governs?

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has pulled back his enhanced-inspection order on the state’s border with Mexico. He said he was looking for human traffickers and their “cargo” of individuals who were being smuggled into the United States.

Then he worked out agreements with two Mexican state governors and lifted the inspection protocol at crossings involving the states of Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua. The delay in delivery of food and other goods has crippled businesses across the state.

Now he’s called off the inspection crackdown. The damage has been done to many businesses in Texas … and to what end?

Greg Abbott has pulled off yet another political stunt. It’s not a business-friendly stunt at that!

SPR stands by as a weapon

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve came into being at a time when the United States was being held hostage to the whims of oil-producing nations that sought to deprive this country of the fossil fuels it needs to function as the world’s most advanced nation.

We dug huge caverns and filled them with petroleum to hold in case we faced existential threats.

Well, we are facing them now with Russia going to war with Ukraine and with the price of energy skyrocketing to levels never before seen. President Biden has announced a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil each day into the marketplace for the next six months to help Americans fight the rising cost of energy.

I believe the time is right for such a move, even though in the past I have been skeptical of plans to use the SPR as an inflation-fighting weapon.

Those of us depend on fossil fuels to power our vehicles are feeling an incredible squeeze on household budgets. Will the SPR release make a huge difference? Probably not immediately. My own sense always has been with energy price spikes is that fuel prices zoom upward only to creep ever-so-slowly back down. Oil companies seek to boost profits quickly and are reluctant to let go of them even after they rake in the cash caused by the excessive costs they pass on to customers.

The Russians do produce a lot of oil. That supply is being jeopardized by the U.S.-led economic sanctions enacted after Russia invaded Ukraine. Thus, if we have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve standing by to use in case of emergency, then by all means we ought to use it.

To that end, President Biden is seeking to deploy a powerful weapon at his disposal.

Long-term solution needs attention

The immediate impact of the world’s current crisis in Ukraine has been profound and powerful with the skyrocketing cost of fossil fuels — the gasoline and diesel we pour into our motor vehicles to get us from place to place.

It is affecting our plans here in North Texas, forcing my wife and me to rethink our travel plans as we move through this challenging year.

With that I want to offer a brief look at how this nation ought to deal with the immediate crisis. We ought not worry ourselves sick over immediate solutions but look ahead farther down the proverbial road at longer-term fixes. I refer to “green energy.”

We still consume a lot of oil-based products we pump out of the ground. That energy source is finite. There’s only so much of it we can remove from beneath Earth’s surface. Once it’s gone, it’s gone … forever.

Texas, though, has taken the lead on renewable energy sources, along with continuing to be among the world’s leaders in producing fossil fuels. We are continuing to invest in wind energy and in solar energy.

As far as I can tell, that old wind is going to keep blowing until the end of time. Take it from me, as someone who spent 23 years on the West Texas Caprock, I am well-acquainted with the power of wind and the potential it brings to keep the lights on. Any kilowatt hour we can generate from a wind turbine takes away what we need to produce from fossil fuel.

The Russians keep talking about cutting off oil supplies to Europe and beyond. The United States still imports some oil from Russia. If the Russians make good on a threat to cut us off, too, then the price is going to skyrocket to even higher levels.

The climate-change deniers debunk green energy as the stuff of washed-up hippies. Baloney! It is a serious alternative to the way we fuel our current lifestyle. Is there a short-term repair to the damage we are feeling at this moment? Not really. If we look at the longer term, we can keep our eyes on the bigger prize, which is the harvesting of energy from endless sources.

Lefty tells truth, then walks it back

Phil Mickelson has me officially puzzled. The Hall of Fame golfer known as Lefty to his fans and fellow golf pros, wants to do business with a nation he described in an interview as “crazy motherfu**ers” who kill people who disagree with their politics and scorn those who are gay.

Now he says his context were “taken out of context” and published without his consent. He apologized to Saudi Arabia, which has launched a pro golf tour that is going to compete with the PGA; Mickelson wants to join the Saudis, even though he said those astonishing things about them.

Which is it, Lefty? Are you in with those folks?

I guess I am left to wonder two things. Why would Mickelson, a six-time major golf tournament winner and one of the best ever to play the game, do business with those he scorns in the manner that he did? Moreover, in this social media age, doesn’t Mickelson realize that virtually nothing is “off the record” and that anything he says now is considered fair game?

This is not Mickelson’s finest hour. He has drawn harsh criticism from fellow golf pros, the PGA … not to mention the Saudi government.

Here’s the thing, though. Mickelson told the truth about the Saudis. As the saying goes, however, many times the “truth hurts.” In this case, it has hurt the guy who spoke it.

Will Trump take Fifth? Hmm?

You might recall the several times Donald Trump has declared that “innocent” people have no reason or justification to fall back on the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the one that protects citizens self-incrimination.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we might get the chance to see if Trump really and truly believes it. You see, a judge has ordered the former POTUS, his oldest son Don Jr. and daughter Ivanka to testify — under oath — about their financial dealings that are under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney.

So, Trump will take an oath to tell the truth. If he has nothing to hide from investigators, he’ll talk. Isn’t that right? I don’t that’s going to happen.

His company already is under indictment for assorted felony accusations, such as tax fraud.

The walls appear to be closing in around Trump and his family. His son, Eric, already has hidden behind the Fifth Amendment, invoking it hundreds of times during questioning by prosecutors. Do you wonder what Daddy Trump told Eric after he left the conference room? Might he have called Eric a “loser”?

The smart money, based on what I have heard on the news, suggests that Trump’s lawyers will tell him to “not say a word.” His only option, therefore, is to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

But … hey. C’mon, Donald. An “innocent” man should be able to speak freely. Right?

You want inflation? Try this!

Once in a while I get reminded of how I remember life as a youngster and how the cost of doing routine business bears no resemblance to what I used know in the good ol’ days.

I went this morning to McDonald’s to buy some breakfast for my wife and me. I ordered an Egg McMuffin meal and a Sausage McMuffin meal. The cost of my order came to $15.98.

No big deal, right? Right!

Except that as I pulled away and drove back home, I recalled a transaction I made in 1968.

I was working at a McDonald’s in Portland, Ore. It was in late May of ’68. I was at the counter taking orders and a couple of young people with “Robert Kennedy for President” buttons on their shirts walked up to me and ordered 100 hamburgers.

Yep. One hundred hamburgers!

We served them the burgers and they paid $18 for all of ’em.

That order today would cost $109 … plus tax!

Just sayin’, man.