Category Archives: business news

Signs of life at project …

I am happy to report that I see signs of life stirring at the site of a massive apartment complex construction project here in little ol’ Princeton, Texas.

The project got stalled when the general contractor and the developer got into some kind of snit. The contractor either walked off the job or was fired. I don’t know which thing occurred. Work has been shut down since April.

However, if you drive by the site on U.S. Highway 380 just east of Wal-Mart you see (a) an open gate, (b) stacks of newly placed building materials and (c) pickup trucks with hard-hatted men walking around.

That tells me they have a new general contractor.  At least that’s what my City Hall snitch has told me.

I am glad the work will continue. Perhaps they’ll get it done soon, get the site cleaned up and made presentable.

They had me worried … but just a little.

What is the point about these vehicles?

I hereby offer a stern and sincere pledge, which is that I won’t belabor the point I am about to make in this brief blog post.

That commercial for the pickup that drives itself is giving me the creeps. You ask: Why? Here goes.

When I get into a motor vehicle, I do so intending to take — and retain — control of it. I want to drive the vehicle. Which means I want my hands on the steering wheel and free to manipulate the transmission (if it is of a manual variety, of course).

The last time I posted a piece on this subject, I was called down by those who suggest that driver-less vehicles are safer than those operated by human beings. I am not going to quibble and quarrel over that. I know next to nothing about the technology or the test results that suggest such a thing.

It’s just that I cannot fathom the need to push some “auto-pilot” button and then let go of the steering wheel. What do I do with my hands? Read a book? Talk on my phone? Send text messages to hither and yon?

Oh, I know! I can clap like the actors in the commercial.

Sheesh …

Driverless vehicle? No thanks!

I have been having a fascinating social media discussion about the safety of those “driverless” vehicles that have become a rage among those who want to turn driving over to a computer.

I posted a note on Facebook that I never will sit in a vehicle that is being “driven” by a computer. It drew some response from friends out there who contend that the technology is nine times safer than motor vehicles with human beings operating the steering wheel.

Allow me to stipulate this fact about myself: I am old-school when it comes to motor vehicles.

The hard truth is that I prefer to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission. Why? Because I long have had this fascination with actually manipulating gear shifts levers. It goes back to when my mother taught me to drive her 1961 Rambler, which had a three-speed manual transmission … “on the stick.”

Mom offered me many pearls of wisdom. One of them was that “if you learn to drive with a manual transmission, you will be able to drive anything.” Mom was right. I pride myself on my ability to operate any sort of vehicle with a manual transmission.

I served for a time in Vietnam as an aircraft mechanic and then as a flight operations specialist. The Army then sent me to a transportation company with the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fort Lewis, Wash. I was assigned duty driving a five-ton cargo truck. No sweat. I picked it up immediately.

Therefore, I stand foursquare behind my belief that driverless vehicles ain’t my bag, man. I simply do not trust these machines to ensure that vehicles stay in their lanes.

It’s just me … I guess.

Biden tax strategy makes sense

Joe Biden drew a few lines in the sand today with his budget proposal, but I want to look at just one of them with this brief post: tax policy.

The president has dared congressional Republicans to oppose his notion that those who earn $400,000 per year should pay more in taxes than those who earn less than that. Interestingly, that is the amount of money that Biden earns annually as president of the United States; that amount, plus first lady Jill Biden’s teaching salary and the assorted other income he receives puts him in the rich folks’ tax bracket.

Middle-class Americans won’t pay more in taxes, Biden said.

Fine. I’m all for that. As an American on a fixed income who makes a little scratch each year writing freelance articles for a weekly newspaper group and for a public radio station in North Texas, I don’t want to pay any more in taxes than I do already.

Too many uber-rich Americans perform the Houdini act of not paying taxes. Ditto for corporations, according to the president.

Joe Biden has positioned himself as being “for the average American” and has positioned his political foes — namely Republicans in Congress — as being in the corner of the “rich and powerful.”

Hmm. Which side am I going to take? Oh, wait! I am one of those average Americans for whom the president says he is fighting.

Hillary and others were right? Uhh … yeah!

“It proves that Hillary Clinton was right all along Nancy Pelosi was right all along; Chuck Schumer was right all along; the Democrats were right all along. Reporting from The New York Times was right all along; the Washington Post, too, was 100% correct all along. Donald Trump was not under audit. Donald Trump was lying. He was desperate to hide the truth from Americans.”

So said a TV host today in comments relating to the former president of the United States and his stubborn refusal to release his tax returns for public review.

The host is Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC and her point off the top is that Donald Trump never was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service as he insisted as the reason why he couldn’t release his returns.

So … he lied? Wow! Who woulda thought that was possible?

Some of us — such as this blogger — noted long ago that Trump never even produced any proof that the IRS was auditing his returns. For its part, the IRS said its rules prohibited it from commenting on specific cases. The agency, though, did say that audits do not prevent anyone from releasing the returns.

Back to the returns that finally have been turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee, they haven’t yet revealed everything about Trump’s business dealings, but it has shown has been a doozy so far.

They show that Trump had negative income in four of the six years covered by the release of the returns. What does that mean? Well, I believe it means that Trump’s continual bragging about his business brilliance was — to borrow a phrase — a bald-faced lie.

This information reveals him to be the business fraud that many of us suspected of him all along. Just think, therefore, of the phony claim of business acumen being used as a campaign ploy to get him elected POTUS in 2016. Wasn’t that part of the carnival barker’s alleged “charm” to voters?

The public has a right to know the details of a president’s finances, regardless of what politicians might say. Now the public is on the cusp of knowing a great deal about the fraud who presented himself as the world’s most astute business executive on his way to being elected to the world’s most powerful public office.

Let the chips fall.

Trump tax returns to go public

Republicans blasted the decision to release the returns, warning that the move will usher in a new era of disclosing personal financial documents as a “political weapon.”

What you see in the preceding paragraph comes from The Hill newspaper, quoting Republicans who are critical of a decision to release Donald Trump’s tax returns, turning them over to public inspection.

They are wrong to fear the weaponizing of tax returns.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee today voted along party lines to release six years of Trump’s taxes. The ex-president fought their release. He didn’t want to disclose to the public what previous presidents and presidential candidates had done since 1976.

So, what in the world should GOP officials fear now?

House Ways and Means Democrats who voted to release the tax returns now will give the public an inside look at the tax burden — or lack of burden — the one-time president had to bear while he was demanding that you and I pay our taxes.

It’s fair game.

Clean sweep: guilty on all counts!

Donald J. Trump’s life just got a whole lot messier than it was just a few days ago … if that is even possible.

A New York jury today delivered the news that the Trump Organization — Donald’s cherished business “empire” — is guilty on all 17 counts of various forms of tax fraud.

To be sure, Trump himself isn’t going to prison for the crimes committed by his organization. His former chief financial officer, Alan Weissenberg, already has pleaded guilty to some of the charges leveled against the Trump Organization.

This just spells trouble with a capital “T” for The Donald.

The trial that concluded only after a few days centered on how the TO monkeyed around with its assets to seek favorable loans and to avoid paying taxes. The company overpaid its top executives without paying taxes on their income. It lavished gifts on them in the form of luxury lodging and motor vehicles.

What is so very weird about all of this is how Trump himself has managed — so far — to stay above the fray. Why is weird? Because Trump is known to be a mega-micromanager of his business dealings. Nothing gets done, no transaction is completed, no money changes hands without Trump’s personal knowledge or even his imprimatur.

Trump is sure to denigrate the judge and the jurors. He is certain to lay waste to the prosecutors.

He will not be able to expunge the record of what the jury found, which is that the once-mighty business empire he commanded has been revealed to be run by cheaters.

Come to think of it, the Trump Organization is the mirror image of The Donald.

Pleading for an end to this labor dispute

I won’t sugarcoat this matter: The most difficult story for me to cover as a reporter and as an opinion writer and editor over the course of my nearly four-decade-long career was labor negotiation.

Thus, I am grateful to be on the sidelines as railroad unions and rail companies are battling head-to-head over a new contract. A strike might occur in one week. Or, the government might intervene to prevent what some observers are predicting would be a virtual economic collapse.

I want an end to this dispute. Now! I want the trains to keep hauling goods and commodities to their intended destinations.

As difficult as it was to cover these negotiations, it appears to me that the unions are making a relatively simple demand of the employers. They want paid sick leave, which is what employers all over the country give to those who work for them.

I am not sure how the rail companies deny what appears to be this basic demand from the unions. They want to be able to take time off to tend to their own health, or to the health of their family members … and get paid for it!

Congress is preparing legislation that would prevent a strike. Indeed, the stakes are huge, man. We could see the cessation of shipments, making even worse the “supply chain” issues that have plagued the economy. Oh, and inflation? That, too, likely could explode if we cannot get the goods to customers.

Economists say a strike would cost the economy $2 billion each day.

Do the union and rail company negotiators really want to be held accountable for the possible collapse of our economy? I do doubt it.

Get busy, folks. Settle this dispute!

SCOTUS clears way for Trump tax return

How does the saying go? Oh, I know: Inquiring minds want to know … actually those inquiring minds need to know and have a right to know.

Know what? They have a right to know how much a former president of the United States paid in taxes. They have the right to know how much he gave to charity. They are entitled to know the nature of his business dealings. They also have a right to know whether Donald J. Trump is as wealthy as he claimed to be while running for POTUS in 2016.

The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee to get its hands on Trump’s tax returns. The court didn’t disclose any details of its decision or reveal how the justices voted on it. Now, that begs the question: Does that mean you and I will see them? Not right away.

However, given the sieve quality of Congress, my guess is that we’ll get a peek at them in due course. Maybe soon.

Why is this a big deal? It’s a big deal because Donald Trump made it a big deal in 2015 when he announced his intention to seek the presidency. He rode down the Trump Tower escalator and said, among many things, that he would release the returns as other candidates have done.

Then he backed off. Then he said he would release them when the Internal Revenue Service completed its audit of the returns. We never learned whether the IRS was actually auditing them; Trump never produced any evidence of an audit. The IRS said it couldn’t confirm an audit but said that an audit didn’t preclude someone from releasing the returns.

Then he balked again. He’s been fighting release of the returns ever since.

Many of us want to see the returns. We are entitled to see them. The man worked for us. Trump was our “employee” for four years.

He wants to run for POTUS again. He likely will bellow, blather and boast more about his wealth. I long have known that the truly wealthy among us don’t brag about it. Thus, I am suspicious of Trump’s dubious claims of fabulous wealth.

Let us see for ourselves.

California isn’t an epithet

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has picked up on the Republican mantra to suggest that Texas shouldn’t become “like California.”

His campaign ads suggest that Texas Democrat want to transform the Lone Star State into a version of California. That’s a bad thing, he suggests.

But … is it?

My bride and I have traveled through much of the southern portion of the Golden State and have gotten a bit of an up-close look at why the state boasts a world-class economy.

Now, last I heard California’s gross domestic product output would rank it No. 6 or 7 among the world economies if the state were an independent country. Texas’s worldwide ranking, as I understand it, would be No. 9 or 10; still not bad, but not in league with California.

As I looked around the Bakersfield area – which the locals call the “Armpit of California” – I am struck by the abundance of petrochemical plants, of cattle trucks tooling along the highways, of massive feedlots where cattle producers fatten up their livestock for market. Does that remind anyone of anywhere with which they might be familiar? Sure. It reminds me of the Texas Panhandle, where we lived for 23 years before relocating to Collin County in early 2019.

Oh, and I also see my share of pro-Republican and anti-Democratic bumper stickers, TV campaign ads and assorted signage along the highways.

To be sure, I am acutely aware that California ain’t nirvana. I hear tales of horrific regulatory hurdles that homeowners and business owners must endure. I also know that the state suffered through a net population loss since the most recent census as folks are leaving the state.

Before you pile on and suggest we should pack our bags and move here … don’t even think about it. We aren’t moving. We have forged a great life during our 38 years as adopted Texans.

I just want to suggest that emulating the nation’s most populous and most prosperous state isn’t the epithet that some Texas politicians suggest.