Any Should Mean “Any!”

But that’s not what it means to Subway Sandwiches.

Despite its well known advertising campaign championing the $5 Footlong sandwich, Subway has decided to use its newfound popularity in another way…with deceit!

If you haven’t caught the message, Subway is not only advertising its usual catalogue of $5 footlong sandwiches, which includes staples such as the chicken breast, ham & cheese, meatball marinara, tuna and other classics, but now Subway has a limited promotion that says “any footlong” can be bought for $5.

Now, when I hear the word “any”—especially in song format—I am inclined to believe that “any” is indeed what I’m being offered. However, upon going to a local NYC Subway while at my freelance gig last week, a co-worker and I became the products of false advertising.

Having come to Subway to test out this $5 “any footlong” special, I came in and observed the menu. Now, not even I really expected every sandwich to be available for $5. I knew a Philly Cheesesteak or some other premium sandwich would not be available, but I knew of a sandwich that I had seen on the commercial that should have been available to me. So I ordered that sandwich, the Chicken Bacon & Ranch footlong, expecting to pay $5 plus NYC sales tax. However, when I got to the register, I was in for quite the surprise.

They rang me up for $7 and some change!

Now, I was no math major, but I knew NYC sales tax wasn’t so high that it could turn a $5 purchase into $7 rip-off.

I asked the woman what was going on, and they said the Chicken Bacon & Ranch was not included in the promotion. Right with me, my co-worker ordered the Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, and he was greeted with a total of $10+.

This was one hell-of-a-surprise. I had been harboring that sandwich all morning long, probably more for its price than its taste, but in one swipe of the debit card, they ruined all of my excitement. You can believe I squabbled with them, because I couldn’t believe that such a simple sandwich was not in the “any” category. Nevertheless, they refuted me. And yes, I still bought the sandwich, because that’s what I really wanted, but you can rest assure I wasn’t happy about it.

When I got back to my computer, I checked out the Subway website to see what they were offering, and of course, the Chicken Bacon & Ranch was up there. That means this was a huge oversight by the particular Subway franchisee I went to. I won’t mention the place’s location (852 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10019), but you can rest assure they’ll never win another battle with me.

Anyway, if you take only one thing away from this post, let it be this: there’s no such thing as a free lunch…even if it cost you $5.

NY Times Gives Endorsements

On January 24, 2008, the New York Times Editorial Board announced the two candidates that they are endorsing in this year’s Presidential Primaries.

On the Democratic side, the oft-liberal paper selected Senator Hillary Clinton as their choice to win the Democratic nomination for the general election this fall. In their published endorsement of Clinton, the editorial board called her “brilliant,” and seems to be of the mind that she is experienced in both foreign and domestic affairs that could lead this country out of this mess, which President George Bush has created, better than any of the other Democratic candidates. In the process of anointing Hillary, they patted Barack Obama on the back and dismissed John Edwards as basically a flip-flopping candidate.

The NYTimes choice for the Republican Party nomination was John McCain. In their endorsement of him, the say that he is the only “Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe.” However, the “endorsement” actually only focuses on McCain for the first three paragraphs, and then immediately goes in to Rudolph Giuliani bashing. Posing the question to themselves as to why they, a New York-based paper, are not backing Giuliani, they essentially say that he is not the man he used to be.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find it preposterous that these big producers of mass media find it necessary to fully endorse a candidate for the President of the United States. And don’t fall for the “it’s the editorial board endorsement, not the paper” excuse.

That’s bologna!

You and I know that if the major figureheads at the head of any major paper were adamantly against the endorsement of a particular candidate or any candidate at all, that it just wouldn’t happen. And if you want to sell your endorsement as being the opinion of just a few select people from part of your staff, then don’t put it on the front page of your newspaper; otherwise, I have to call a spade a spade.

Is this really okay though? This is an extremely liberal paper in democratic-based environment, yet it feels the need to tell the readers whom to endorse, and it even goes as far to use selective reasoning as to why to vote for their choice.

What ever happened to objectivity in media? Did Rupert Murdoch by the NYTimes, too?

The NYTimes (or their editorial board) should stick to just giving us the facts and diversity of opinions on the issues pertaining to the race, where the candidates stand, and why or why not one individual writer is in favor of a particular candidate. I don’t want to know what candidate a multi-million dollar company with a fiduciary responsibility to its owners wants to endorse. Just give me my news and opinion and save the vote tampering for Super Tuesday.

“Crank That Soulja Boy”…Great Business Platform or New Aged Blackface?

I was one of those who thought that the term “Crank that Soulja Boy” would immediately mean the end of the Black race as we knew it.

Many performances in the history of entertainment in America have been at the expense of a black person’s self-respect and/or a black person’s sensitivities to being a part of such a marginalized social grouping. From blackface to coonery, and from token stereotypical black characters in early white sitcoms, to black sitcoms making fun of us on their own, entertainment has long been a platform to disrespect the race.

And when I first saw “Crank That Soulja Boy” on youtube.com, I didn’t know what to think. The video itself was pretty interesting and there was no real problem with it by itself. However, I was quickly directed to an instructional video, followed by dozens and then hundreds of videos with people dancing to this beat, doing outrageous things like picking up guns, and doing stereotypical things like popping collars and pointing to their shoes, and I honestly thought to myself:

“Black people might not be able to live this one down.”

But with “Crank That Soulja Boy” so engrossed into today’s pop culture, I’m not sure how to judge it. Afterall, it is a song, dance and video, that has made a young 17-year old man, artist and Creator “Soulja Boy”, into at least a “well-off” individual. His song is now the highest selling digital song ever. “Crank That Soulja Boy” was #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks. It has sold 3 million ring tones, and has produced 600,000 album sells. It was nominated for a Grammy, and sells over 100,000 digital versions (iTunes, Zune, etc.) a week. And then there is their web space traffic, where they have multiple videos tallying over 25 million views, and a litany of homemade videomakers performing the “Crank That Soulja Boy” dance.

So is “Crank That Soulja Boy” just a modern day blackface performance, or nothing more than cult phenomenon for loves of dancing and music?

Given its business success, one might be tempted to say that it is nothing more than entertainment and that its acceptance by the masses is evidence of that. However, Black minstrel shows were popular and profitable, too, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t come at one’s detriment.

I personally think that the video itself is fine. Its catchy beat, innovative dance ancillary, and digital focus are the makings of great entertainment and business initiatives. The song, of course, is very typical of a young rapper. Its self promotional, and uses unbecoming and stereotypical language. From “why me crank that Roosevelt” to “superman dat hoe”, the language just does an injustice to the race by promoting every negative term you can find on urbandictionary.com. The lyrics and video together promote violence and demeaning behavior, and have inspired many adults to teach their kids to dance to these lyrics. You can find countless people on YouTube dancing to this, while unbeknown to them, they are rebroadcasting black stereotypes and looking quite silly.

It’s embarrassing, and yet I can’t blame someone who is old enough, smart enough, and responsible enough, for appreciating the catchy beat and creative dance, because in the end, it’s just a song. So when I see common sensed, learned people dancing to this, I have no problem. It’s the young, ignorant and stupid that scare me everytime I hear “crank that soulja boy.”

Editor of Golfweek Gets the “Axe” for the “Noose”…Sort of

As many people know, Golfweek Magazine published its January 19th issue with a noose on the cover. The illustration was for an article on Kelly Tilghman’s statements about Tiger Woods that used the word “lynch” (discussed here on The Sports Watchers Radio Show).

However, as of January 18, 2008, Golfweek “replaced” Dave Seanor, the editor deemed responsible for okaying the noose illustration, and the Turnstile Pushing Co. president, William J. Kupper Jr. had this to say:

”We apologize for creating this graphic cover that received extreme negative reaction from consumers, subscribers and advertisers across the country…We were trying to convey the controversial issue with a strong and provocative graphic image. It is now obvious that the overall reaction to our cover deeply offended many people. For that, we are deeply apologetic.”

Quite frankly, I am glad they did replace former editor Dave Seanor. It was irresponsible of the editor to place a noose on the cover!

I will be honest with you, I am a young man, 23-years old, and seeing a picture of a noose does not invoke visions of hatred and the racist atmosphere of America’s past for me.

However, I am quite aware of the origins of the noose and the hatred that it stimulated and provoked throughout the better part of the 20th century, mainly 1882 to 1968 (from Tolerance.org). The noose was used in lynches, mainly in the South, and many southern black victims were hanged by this weapon of choice for bigoted individuals and organizations. It is said that over 4,700 people were murdered in this fashion, with the majority of them being black.

So I think it should be understood by an educated professional like Dave Seanor that a lot of people would have a “negative reaction” to this type of illustration, especially when it comes across as a marketing ploy that is taking advantage of an issue that once had grave repercussions for a generation of people that are still alive and present. Placing a picture on the cover of the magazine would have been like placing a gas chamber on the cover of a Nazi publication. It’s just not right, and reprimanding Dave Seanor was the least the Golfweek could do.

Nevertheless, don’t let president Kupper’s statement full you. He and the magazine should also be held responsible. Never should there have been any such an illustration on the cover of magazine. One only has to look back to last October to see the effects hanging nooses had on society when Jena 6 was in the news. However, I do not expect the president to suspend himself, but a deep reconfiguring of the editorial/publishing process at that magazine should be underway.

As for Dave Seanor, I would never promote the firing of a hard-working, middle-class person to lose part of their pay, never mind their job. But perhaps his next reporting assignment should be to educate the office on the day’s lunch specials from the café down the street from the office.

So What Exactly Did “Fifty” Mean By “Magic Stick”…?

Is there a drug that can make you rap or sing better? Probably not. Nevertheless, that has to be the first comical thought that comes to your mind when you hear that the Albany Times-Union leaked a report that found Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Timbaland on a list of alleged customers involved in a steroid/human growth hormone ring.

Does the idea that 50 Cent takes steroids really bother anybody? One wouldn’t think so. Afterall, steroid use helped bring major league baseball into public favor by increasing the overall entertainment level of the game via an increased production of homeruns. The same effect could be attributed to 50 Cent if he indeed did use steroids. Obviously, steroids and H.G.H. did not help 50 Cent rap any better, but the benefit would seemingly be to increase his sex appeal, or larger than life iconic image. I can’t remember the last time I saw an album cover or video of 50 Cent’s that didn’t involve him taking off his shirt and flexing his muscles.

However, 50 Cent is not the first non-athlete entertainer to use steroids to gain some type of advantage in the entertainment industry. Oh, no! This goes back deep into the 20th century. Who knows where the current Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, would be right now had he not used steroids to amass that gigantic body that lead to a Mr. Universe crowning and a lifetime worth of fame. In addition, there are dozens of other actors who I could speculate on but wouldn’t dare publicly accuse (just think multi-sequel boxing movies and I guy named Rambo).

While we can understand while a hardcore rapper like 50 Cent, and others “Aftermath” rappers like Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes might have a reason to use the juice (allegedly), but it’s harder to understand why Mary J. Blige’s name was found on this list of alleged steroid customers.

Steroids and H.G.H. do have the possibility of acting as an anti-aging agent, but the jury is out on whether or not they actually do slow the aging process. Even if Blige saw them acting in that matter, is the bad press she could get from using steroids worth a few years of delayed aging? Maybe it is in the world of a female entertainer, whose entire career could end the day some agent decides she has one too many bags under her eyes.

Nevertheless, steroids and H.G.H. are illegal, and if these entertainers obtained them through illegal methods, that’s even more trouble. But personally, as long as the kiddies aren’t inspired to use steroids, I’m okay with these ladies and gentlemen juicing up. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll concoct a designer steroid that helps enhance the performance of one’s vocals chords…?

The AMT is DOA

By Uzo Ometu

The Alternative Minimum Tax has been sticking it to American taxpayers for years, but on December 19, 2007, Congress finally decided to do something about it.

The House of Representatives voted on a measure that would relieve 21 million tax payers of their responsibility to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for the 2007 tax year. In fact, they voted for this bill emphatically, with a 352-64 outcome.

The AMT was created in 1969 in order to prevent the “rich” Americans who were paying virtually no taxes because they were using a plethora of deductions and loopholes to get around paying income tax. The AMT is a form of back up tax enforcement that requires people of specific income brackets (those who are “rich”) to pay a minimum tax should their original tax filing result in owed-taxes that are below the AMT. Thus, if a taxpayer does his or her taxes in such a way that they end up owing no income taxes (or taxes below the AMT), then they have to pay the AMT which taxes at a rate of either 26 or 28 percent.

The AMT has been obliterating the incomes of millions of middle-Americans since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan and Congress elected to make some major changes in the tax system that would result in the average person’s deductions being effectively negated by the AMT. Also, since the AMT’s induction in 1969, there have been no changes to it that have accounted for inflation, thus creating all sorts of problems in using it in an economy that is almost 40 years removed from the one the AMT was created under. Because of those factors, Americans who aren’t rich and who fall into the middle and upper-middle class economic categories have been paying more than their fair share of taxes.

Had Congress not enacted this measure before the tax year was over, approximately 21 million Americans would have paid an average of $2,000 or more on their taxes. Some of these people make as little as $30,000 to $50,000 a year, and an additional $2,000 in owed tax money could represent as much as 6% of their income.

However, there is the question of how on Earth this $2,000 from 21 million people is going to be replaced? This is a question that the 64 people who voted in opposition of this measure were trying to raise via their votes. That’s over $42 billion in potential tax earnings that the government is essentially rejecting, and there is no provision in the measure voted on today that will replace that amount of money. As if our national deficit wasn’t big enough, now we’re instituting provisions without regard for how we are going to pay for them.

It was a good effort by Congress, and it was the right thing to do. But it would help if the nation’s most empowered politicians could demonstrate a little bit of skill and give me more than just good intentions.

Should We Reverse Urbanization?

It is official, over half of the world has been urbanized- meaning that there are more people who live in cities than in rural areas. According to United Nations Population Fund report, by next year, more than half the world’s population will live in towns and cities. That’s over 3.3 billion people. That number is expect to balloon to almost 5 billion by the year 2030.

Such an outcome can have dramatic effects on our futures. For centuries now, the move from rural areas to suburbs and inner cities has been the social movement. However, with more people officially living in cities, is it plausible to think that this whole thing could reverse itself over the next few centuries?

Some people look at the city as a negative phenomenon. Citing the city as a place filled with pollution, poverty, and lack of space. But in reality, is this really the cause of the city, or just a misunderstood correlation? Afterall, is it better for a poor person to live out in the woods and to try to start a life of agriculture and self-sustaining with little or no capital? Of course it isn’t. Besides, the GDP per capita is much greater in cities than it is in rural areas. Yes, a lot of that can be attributed upper class, but most of it is because the people in the middle class are result of the increased economic mobility that cities allow for.

Is pollution really greater in a city when you account for the pollution caused per person, and the fact that things are created in mass quantities thereby eliminating much of excess waste that can be derived from creating for one’s individual family, or even just themselves?

Moreover, as for a lack of space, that is a choice that people make, and it is a choice with way more benefits than detriments. Being confined to live in more dense communities forces people to interact more, and interaction is the root of creation, which is what has allowed developed nations to become what they are.

So you must ask yourselves, are the trivial non-issues really worth declining the sizes of cities?

Some people will argue that we will have no other choice.

There are those who see the Baby Boomer era that forced residents into cities, as something that will reverse itself, citing that it is a simple case of what goes up most go down.

As Robert Brugemann of the University of Illinois at Chicago notes, “In virtually every affluent nation on Earth, the old 19th century industrial cities have exploded outward, allowing densities [of cities] to plummet at the core as residents move further out into low-density suburbia…The city of Paris today has a third fewer residents than it did in 1907.”

Is it that simple though? What could possible cause people across the world to leave the cities to back into rural areas and spread out? Can people, especially in America, give up modern day entertainment, retail, and companionship? In the days of the Internet where people from across the world can connect, is that enough to replace the relationship that one has with their next-door neighbor, their co-workers, or even just the regulars of everyday life. Will America really revert to a society that is centered solely on the family?

I don’t think so. I think that creation, innovation, relations and forward movement relies on the fact that people live in proximity with one another. The very idea that two people who do not know each other can work together everyday in order to produce and contribute to the sustaining of the economy is vital to the way of the world. Yes, it would be nice if every family could fend for itself. But what price do we pay when we no longer rely on one another?

Classist Fool Displays Classless Rules

In an article by Michael Lewis, of Bloomberg News, Lewis discusses his thoughts on why “finance is one thing you should never engage in with the poor.” Obviously, when he says finance, he is referring to investing in the “poor” market, such as with subprime mortgage loans. And when he uses the word “poor”, he is referring to “anyone who the SEC wouldn’t allow to invest in my hedge fund. And maybe if he was just referring to the subprime market with his reasoning being that the entire non-traditional lending movement did not work, his statement would not be so ridiculous. But Mr. Lewis did not stop there.

In fact, Michael Lewis had several more points to address in his dismissal of poor people, (which is really the lower-middle class and below for him) as something to invest in. Unfortunately for Lewis, his points were no less shaky the very subprime mortgage itself.

Lewis point #1: “[The poor] are masters of public relations.”

Under this point, Lewis describes his investment in the subprime portfolio as an act of philanthropy, and says that because people who invested in the market are being ripped by the media his charitable actions have been turned against him. As his statement above denotes, he clearly thinks that poor people have intentionally made him out to be the bad guy in order not to place the blame on somebody. Well, sorry Mr. Lewis, but as you said, you “bought [subprime stock] at a discount,” and you did that because you were okay in using your money to charge outrageous interest rates on “poor” homeowners. Karma, baby. Karma.

Lewis point #2: “Poor people don’t respect other people’s money in the way money deserves to be respected.”

Not even mentioning his labeling of the poor as “schlubs”, Lewis goes on to pretty much say that the “poor” simply just waved their hands in the air and defaulted on their loans in order to get out of the obligation…as if they had a choice! Come on, the people who defaulted are the one’s who could no longer afford their mortgages once ARMs sent their monthly payments into orbit. Yes, Lewis does make a good point here when basically faulting those who were not aware of the hike their mortgage payments could incur, because those people should have done everything they could have to understand the terms of their mortgage. However, it has been clearly documented that there are many lenders who violated all ethics and did not make such information clear, if they brought it up at all when at the negotiating table.

Lewis point #3: “I’ve grown out of touch with poor culture.”

Yes, you have, Lewis. Yes, you have.

Lewis point #4: “Our society is really, really hostile to success. At the same time it’s shockingly indulgent of poor people.”

This could not be further from the truth. When describing this point, Lewis talks about how the government is trying to “bail [the poor] out.” What he really should be noting is how the government is trying to take advantage of this for political gain. The “poor” are the one’s that get people elected, and pandering to them is the government’s way of saying, “you scratch my back, and I’ll say I’ll scratch yours.” Lewis also makes mention of turning the poor into a circus, a statement that can only be defined as elitist, insensitive and classist. Not to mention classless.

Leis point #5: “I think it’s time we all become more realistic about letting the poor anywhere near Wall Street.”

In this point, Lewis finally defines what “poor” is according to him, which is “mainstream.” So he has been talking middle-class America throughout his piece, just as I noted before. But his point about not letting mainstream anywhere near Wall Street is nothing but a pipe dream, because unfortunately, Wall Street is based 100% on the ongoings of the mainstream culture. It is based on what we buy, what we like, what we cherish, and what we want. Business make money on Wall Street buy upping the price on what we must have so that investors can see higher and higher returns.

To end, Lewis calls the “poor sharks,” but if you have ever seen someone in the likes of Michael Lewis, then you really know what it is like to see a fish out of water.

Interactive Marketing Is the Hit of the Advertising World

With consumers looking down on traditional advertising methods more and more, the business world has been forced to get a little creative.

People no longer want to deal with pop-up ads, so everyone and their momma has a pop-up-blocker installed on their computer.

Forget television commercials. With Tivo and DVRs, people record those and skip right through them.

Screw all of that signage in they gym, airport and other commercial buildings, I’m turning on my IPod so I don’t have to pay attention to that stuff.

Even with Internet giants Facebook and Google, people don’t want the ads that are being forced upon them, they want the pictures that they are browsing through or the organic search results that fit their needs.

However, there are a few methods out there that companies are taking to improve their chances of getting your attention.

Facebook for example, is taking aim at getting a better ROI for their advertisers by introducing a their Fan pages application, which allows advertisers to set up a “MySpace like” page where facebook users can pledge their affinity for the company or product, and advertisers can reach out to those “fans” through targeted call-to-action promotion.

Google has implemented YouTube into their Adsense/Adwords programs, thereby finally making that big step into making YouTube a valuable marketing device.

BMW has taken advantage of all of those signs you see in the airport by place short-codes (5-digit numbers) on them, allowing mobile device users to dial-in the number and download a BMW application that shows BMW videos and ushers consumers to dealership.

Then there are the new street promotions, that involve replicating a company’s website into a “fair-like” atmosphere, where usually kids, and sometimes adults, can partake in a bunch of interactive activities. There is also the “fake-protests” idea by Naked Juice, where people in fruit costumes voice disapproval to being “butchered.”

Several fast-food restaurants are also placing short codes on their food products (the containers that is). This turns a traditional medium into an interactive advertisement, and it also allows for increased segmentation and measurement of a company’s marketing efforts.

All and all, companies are trying to change the way consumers get their advertisements. With TV viewership dropping, click-through rates falling and a declining economy, advertisers know that they have to do something to get this generation’s buying power to fixate on their products. So they are trying to get those consumers who have found their way around consuming traditional advertising.

Of course, there are those pesky DVD commercials prior to the menu screen that I still can’t figure out how to skip.

Buying Your Business’s Commercial Property

In planning and running my own business, I’ve always tried to think of a lot of different ways to be creative and safe with my money. I came across a really interesting idea as I thought about the best ways to go about getting my business’s first office space. That idea being to purchase my commercial property personally, and not with my business.

In reading about starting, growing and expanding a business, there are all kinds of reading materials in print and on the web. And when they address the top of acquiring office space, many of them point toward taking out relatively long leases or purchasing properties with the company’s money.

However, even assuming you have the money to do those things, I do not think they are the best routes to take. The problem with taking out a lease is that you don’t see any of that money. That is a complete loss every time you add it up. And as a business person, you certainly are not about taking losses.

And then when you have your business entity purchase your place of business, the mortgage payments are not deductible. Thus, you end up paying taxes on money you don’t have. Once again, that is something no business owner wants to do.

So what’s my proposal? Well, I’m not suggesting by any means that I am some type of financing genius, or that I am the first person to come up with this solution. But I have researched the topic a lot, and there is very little mention of my answer to this problem, especially in mainstream publications.

The answer for a business owner in acquiring their first or new office space, as I said before, is to buy it personally. This allows the business owner to then lease the property to their business. In turn, the business plays business owner rent, and rent is deductible from one’s taxes.

I really do not see how this solution can be trumped. Obviously, if you are a mega corporation, a business owner being the owner of the property would be an issue of compliance for the other major contributors to the company. But if you are the sole owner, there are no legal issues that can be brought to your attention in renting out a property to your business, so long as you offer a “fair and reasonable” monthly renting fee. And yes, you can make a profit off of your business.

My number one suggestion is that you form a separate entity, preferably a Limited Liability Company (LLC), have a 100% stake in the company, and purchase the house with that. That way, your rental to your company can in no way be misconstrued as anything other than a legitimate business transaction, and making a profit can certainly be considered business. Because anytime you do business with real estate, you always want that extra shield of protection, even if your customer is yourself. And make sure to classify your LLC with an S-corporation tax status, so that you don’t get double taxed.