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make-sure-your-seo-is-wearing-a-white-hat.jpgThe New York Times piled some fairly harmful media attention on JC Penney over the weekend by questioning how the behemoth U.S. retailer was able to consistently turn up first in line on Google’s search results for a large number of seemingly unrelated keywords. From “bedding” to “blue jeans,” the JC Penney name popped up as the top spot inGoogle, which prompted the Times investigation.

What the newspaper suggested was that Penney’s was employing “black hat” search engine optimization techniques, which I and others — including Google — consider cheating.

I’d be willing to wager that one red flag prompting closer inspection was a Times Google search for the term “Samsonite carry-on luggage” which ranked Penney’s website ahead of Samsonite’s own home page. How on earth is that possible? The newspaper’s research also turned up links to Penney’s women’s dresses on sites that primarily focused on dogs, disease, diamond-bit drills, online games, travel and snoring.

So how did Penney’s accomplish such prime search engine results? In the case of Google, its search engines judge the importance of a website partially by the number of links that come into the site, as well as the quality of those links. In other words, if your motorcycle repair shop has six links coming into it and your competition has 60, the competing business should — quite logically — rank higher in Google’s search results for the search word “motorcycle.” Read the rest of this entry »

It’s been the biggest problem of the recession — small business owners aren’t doing much hiring. That started to turn around last year, but a new Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index poll shows there is now big pent-up demand for workers.

In the study, more than half of entrepreneurs said they hired new workers last year. But more tellingly, among those who added staff, 42 percent reported hiring fewer workers than they really needed.

What does it mean? It appears we’re at an inflection point.

Business is picking up as the recession frost finally thaws, but owners are still scared to make a hiring commitment. Asked to list all their reasons for not hiring, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they feared sales wouldn’t justify more hiring. Another issue: 70 percent said they’ve got cash-flow or payroll problems.

Really fascinating note for the unemployed: 62 percent of the owners surveyed said they couldn’t find qualified people to fill positions. More than half were worried about healthcare costs, too. Read the rest of this entry »

by Paul Krugman, NY Times

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and Read the rest of this entry »

By Thomas Sowell | The biggest myth about labor unions is that unions are for the workers. Unions are for unions, just as corporations are for corporations and politicians are for politicians.

Nothing shows the utter cynicism of the unions and the politicians who do their bidding like the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act” that the Obama administration tried to push through Congress. Employees’ free choice as to whether or not to join a union is precisely what that legislation would destroy.

Workers already have a free choice in secret-ballot elections conducted under existing laws. As more and more workers in the private sector have voted to reject having a union represent them, the unions’ answer has been to take away secret-ballot elections.

Under the “Employee Free Choice Act,” unions would not have to win in secret-ballot elections in order to represent the workers. Instead, union representatives could simply collect signatures from the workers until they had a majority.

Why do we have secret ballots in the first place, whether in elections for unions or elections for government officials? To prevent intimidation and allow people to vote how they want to, without fear of retaliation.

This is a crucial right that unions want to take away from workers. The actions of union mobs in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere give us a free home demonstration of how little they respect the rights of those who disagree with them and how much they rely on harassment and threats to get what they want.

It takes world-class chutzpah to call circumventing secret ballots the “Employee Free Choice Act.” Read the rest of this entry »

subway1.jpgEverybody knows Subway is a successful franchise chain. But did you know last year it cracked 33,000 units and should shortly hit 34,000? The fresh-sandwich chain passed McDonald’s to take the top fast-food franchise crown — the Golden Arches have just 32,000 restaurants. This may seem like a big-business story at first, but Subway and McDonald’s have made their brand one locally owned franchisee at a time. The chains are essentially huge conglomerations of mom-and-pop restaurants.

The tale of how Subway overtook the longstanding leader in their sector has many lessons for small business owners everywhere. Here are some of the factors that let Subway move ahead:

1. Tell a great story. When Subway found the original Biggest Loser, then-student Jared, the company had the sense to jump on the story and keep it growing. Subway could have just had a motto along the lines of “our food is lower fat and healthier than our competitors,” but it wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling as ”Hey, look at me — I ate exclusively at Subway and lost tons of weight!”

This could have been a one-season marketing arc, but instead Subway kept it growing and fed Jared fans a steady stream of new information for many years. The corporate website still has a whole tab about Jared that goes back to his very first commercial. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s quite the touchy subject, which we, frankly, try to avoid, but economically speaking, does Puerto Rico have a chance at being independent or are they destined to become an official part of the union?

What do you mean “we”?

Posted on March 01, 2011 12:10 PM

I’m at a hearing of the immigration subcommittee, and the pseudo-congressman from Puerto Rico is going on about how “we” are a nation of immigrants. “We”? Puerto Rico is a foreign country that became a colony of the United States in 1898, no different from the French colony of Togo or the British colony of Uganda (or the U.S. colony of the Philippines). Congress granted residents of the island U.S. citizenship during World War I, but Puerto Ricans remain a distinct people, a distinct nation, with their own (foreign) language, their own history, their own culture. Like other remnants of late-colonialism (like Belize, Djibouti, Comoros, etc.), most Puerto Ricans don’t want independence at this point, because it would end the gravy train. But that’s not our problem — we need to end this unnatural situation and give the nation of Puerto Rico an independent state as soon as practicable.

Just What Does the National Review & Krikorian Mean – Puerto Ricans Are U.S. Citizens

By Rafael Rodriguez

New York City, NY [CapitalWirePR] March 8, 2011As an American and a conservative, I take great offense at the venomous darts fired by Mark Krikorian in his recent National Review Online post titled “What Do You Mean We?” in which he questions the right of Puerto Ricans – beginning with that of our sole representative in the United States Congress – to consider ourselves a part of the United States.

Whether Mark Krikorian likes it or not, Puerto Rico is a United States territory and Puerto Ricans are natural born U.S. citizens, just like citizens born anywhere else under the glorious banner of the Stars and Stripes. I know you would like to, Mr. Krikorian, but sorry – you cannot – turn back the clock.  Sending African Americans back to Africa was not a practicable solution to the evil of slavery in the 19th century, and forcing independence on the disenfranchised American citizens of Puerto Rico is not a practicable solution in the 21st.

I will agree with one important, salient point made by Mr. Krikorian.  In practice, the island’s current territorial status is essentially colonial in nature, and the perpetuation of that status is indeed unnatural and unworthy of the most basic principles of the American Republic.

What Mr. Krikorian fails to take into account, however, is that for almost 60 years now our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico have lived under a territorial constitution, which expressly declares American citizenship and their loyalty to the Constitution of the United States to be “determining factors” in their lives, both collectively and individually.  Sooner or later, the only natural destiny for citizens such as those, Mr. Krikorian, is the citizenship equality that only statehood can provide.

Once statehood wins the support of a decisive majority of the island’s electorate – and the time will come when it will – what our Nation should do is face its past and its principles, and facilitate an orderly, long overdue transition to statehood for Puerto Rico.

Furthermore, in view of Mark Krikorian’s well-known anti-immigration postures, it is worth underscoring that because of the way Puerto Rico was acquired in the expansion of the United States, Puerto Ricans have never been immigrants.  But we are indeed part of a nation of immigrants.

The vast majority of Americans are, in fact, descended from immigrants who came to this country for a better life, made ours a better country, and now, along with Puerto Ricans, define what it is to be an American. Krikorian himself is descended from some of those very immigrants.  Interestingly, as a matter of fact, as the grandson of Armenian immigrants, Mark Krikorian is descended from people who have been Americans for a shorter period of time than Puerto Ricans.

Mr. Rafael Rodriguez is President and Founder of the Center for Puerto Rico Equality and Advancement in New York.

By Marshall Kirby, Public Policy Analyst

Do you own a business based in the rural economy?  If you do, there have been two really great articles recently.  Whether you own/operate a farm, shop, or a service related to business in small towns across the country, you have probably recognized that you are the driver of economic growth and employment for your town or county.

This article details some trends and forecasts to expect in the coming months of 2011.  A couple key points from the article include the following. Farmers’ roles in society are quickly changing.  People are becoming more interested in knowing where their produce and meat is coming from and are paying attention to how it is grown/raised.  This can pay dividends for farmers seeking to connect to more customers and new supply chains.  Additionally, there has also been more attention paid to local businesses in rural areas, which can lead to growth and expansion opportunities.  On a related note, with tourist projections for 2011 being very promising, operators of businesses in small towns should pay more attention to attracting out of town visitors.  Additionally, the article mentions that this means that rural businesses need to begin to spend more time using social networking and other forms of advertising as small towns are catching up on the use of Google and other review sites to find and review businesses.

What else can we expect?  Well there is some troubling news ahead for businesses in rural areas.  With budget shortfalls affecting so many states, counties, and towns, individuals and business owners in rural areas may begin to feel the effects of budget cuts trickle down to them.  The article warns business owners to be aware that the budget shortfalls could mean that school consolidations and closing of post offices lay in store for many small towns.  Also, the article mentions the Health Care Reform law passed last year.  Some new things will be kicking in which will affect small businesses, including a 35% tax credit available to small businesses offering health insurance to its employees.  Very important to rural areas, there will also be an increased payment structure to rural medical centers and doctors, which will help to keep pace with increased demands for service. Read the rest of this entry »

By Brendan A. McGrail and Matt Robinson

March 8 (Bloomberg) — Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory that reduced its budget deficit by more than a third since 2009, is selling $250 million of debt after its first credit-rating upgrade since Standard & Poor’s began coverage in 1986.

S&P yesterday boosted the commonwealth’s general-obligation rating one level to BBB, the second-lowest of 10 investment grades, because of improved tax collections. Puerto Rico is graded BBB+ by Fitch Ratings, one level above S&P, and A3 by Moody’s Investors Service, two levels higher.

Puerto Rico is more reliable because Governor Luis Fortuno, who took office in January 2009, has cut spending and controlled debt, said Richard Larkin, director of credit analysis at Herbert J. Sims & Co. in Iselin, New Jersey, which manages about $1 billion.

“I’m not surprised about the upgrade,” Larkin said in a telephone interview. “What he’s done could be a model for other governors.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted March 7, 2011 at

Standard & Poor’s gives Island’s credit its first upgrade in 28 years; Business Monitor International improves its economic forecast for Puerto Rico

In what constitutes yet another endorsement of the Government of Puerto Rico’s management of its fiscal and economic agenda during the last two years, credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has upgraded its rating for Puerto Rico’s general obligation debt improving it from BBB- to BBB, Governor Luis Fortuño and his economic and fiscal team announced today.

This is the first upgrade S&P has given Puerto Rico’s credit in 28 years.

“In our opinion, Puerto Rico continues to face significant fiscal and economic challenges. However, in the two years since his inauguration, the administration of Gov. Fortuño has made fiscal stability a priority…The fiscal measures adopted by the Fortuño administration, represent, in our opinion, a factor that lends near-term stability to the credit of the commonwealth, and that could yield the projected results by fiscal 2013 if the economy stabilizes and expenditure discipline is maintained,” states S&P in its report issued today. Read the rest of this entry »

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