29 December 2010

A New Address for the Edward Ringwald Blog and the New Year!

Here's a quick post to remind you of a new address for the Edward Ringwald Blog!

All you have to do is to type in blog.edwardringwald.com in your browser's address bar and that will take you straight to the Edward Ringwald Blog! Of course I have also updated the link to the Edward Ringwald Blog right from my blog intro page on EdwardRingwald.com and you can also get here using that link if you would like. Just another way I make content easier for you to access here at EdwardRingwald.com.

If you have a bookmark to the Edward Ringwald Blog, you may want to update it to reflect the new blog.edwardringwald.com URL address. This is important, especially if your bookmark to this blog has the BlogEdwardRingwald.com domain name address as the BlogEdwardRingwald.com domain will be retired soon.

With 2010 winding down and 2011 on the horizon, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! In Spanish, Feliz Año Nuevo! In Slovenian, Srečno novo leto! And in German, Glückliches neues Jahr!

23 December 2010

The Ever-Increasing Anti-Thanksgiving and Anti-Christmas Sentiment in American Society

In a few days, Christmas will be here.

My Christmas gift to you is on my website! Simply click
here to go to my Christmas 2010 page; there you will find pictures of familiar St. Petersburg landmarks decked out for the holidays including the popular display at 2719 Oakdale St S. Also there you will find my greeting card to you.

The Christmas holiday season is in full swing, which started on Thanksgiving Day and it continues for a few weeks in December to Christmas Day. A week later, we celebrate the beginning of the new year – Saturday, 1 January 2011. As Christmas approaches, we see the Christmas holiday spirit everywhere we go: Christmas lights, Christmas music, the shopping malls being packed with people who are picking out gifts – you name it, Christmas is everywhere.

If you’re out and about, flip on your car radio. You’ll more than likely run into one radio station broadcasting nothing but all Christmas music. If you’re in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, as one station says,
“guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit”. It’s the holiday season: Christmas is everywhere.

However, this year I have been getting more and more concerned as to the celebration of these two important holidays which are a part of the American (and Floridian) way of life. I have been seeing more and more instances of anti-Thanksgiving and anti-Christmas sentiment mainly being played out by Corporate America as well as other entities these days.

After all, Thanksgiving and Christmas is not just a holiday like any other American holiday. Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time to be together with family and friends. On Thanksgiving day we gather around the dinner table and feast ourselves on a Thanksgiving turkey while on Christmas we gather around the Christmas tree and open our presents.

To Corporate America, Thanksgiving and Christmas are increasingly becoming a nuisance. Let’s start with Thanksgiving.

One of the many traditions with Thanksgiving is for nearly all businesses to be closed for Thanksgiving day. Being closed on Thanksgiving allows employees of a business such as a retail store to be at home with their families. To me, I am very used to that fact.

Then things changed radically. One retailer – Sears – made a major change in corporate policy by being open on Thanksgiving Day, particularly to get a jump start on sales before Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Since when retailers can start being open on Thanksgiving Day? I thought Thanksgiving was a day to be with friends and family. The idea behind being open on Thanksgiving Day is just for the purpose of making a quick Dollar before the biggest shopping day of the year.

This open on Thanksgiving Day craze is fairly new. Not only the retailers were making themselves open on Thanksgiving, even the grocery stores are making themselves open on Thanksgiving as well.

Here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, there are two supermarket chains that are open on Thanksgiving Day: Winn Dixie and Sweetbay. Are they being open for customer convenience or just for the purpose of making a quick profit on a major holiday?

At least there is one supermarket chain that has a long standing tradition of not being open on Thanksgiving Day: Publix. Every year when I go by a Publix store to pick up a few things that I need I see signage stating that Publix is closed on Thanksgiving Day, which I believe it should be. Besides, George Jenkins – the founder of Publix – I believe would not even like the idea of his stores being open on a major holiday like Thanksgiving.

Winn-Dixie’s customer service from what I have seen has been getting poorer and poorer: Rude and belligerent cashiers who treat you as a second class citizen if you don’t fall for their Reward Club Card where you have to surrender your personal information in exchange for lower prices. The way Winn-Dixie continues to treat their customers, I feel they are on their way to becoming the next Circuit City, grocery store style. On the other hand, Sweetbay Supermarket is not owned locally – instead, Sweetbay is a division of Delhaize America, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Belgian supermarket firm Delhaize Group. Remember back when we had Kash ‘n Karry, which was locally owned here in the Tampa Bay area? Delhaize came into town, bought up the local supermarket chain, and took down the Kash ‘n Karry name and rebranded them as Sweetbay as we know today. On another note, Sweetbay is known for turning people into second class citizens if they want to by exercising their God-given private property rights, guaranteed by Section 810.09 of the Florida Statutes: Give them trespass warnings for no reason.

Here’s a question: Does Belgium celebrate Thanksgiving? No, according to this Wikipedia article on Thanksgiving; besides, Thanksgiving is a legal holiday not only in America but in Canada, Liberia and the Australian territory of Norfolk Island, celebrated on different dates.

OK. Let’s move on to Christmas and the few weeks before 25 December. Not only Corporate America thinks Christmas is a nuisance, even some government agencies – including public schools – find that the celebration of Christmas is a nuisance.

Let’s start with Corporate America as far as Christmas is concerned.

Retailers have been increasingly substituting the word “Christmas” for the word “holiday”. What used to be a Christmas tree is now being marketed as a Holiday Tree. Talk about censorship by Corporate America here?

Like Thanksgiving, most businesses are closed on Christmas Day so that their employees can be with their family. Christmas is a time to be together with family and friends, not for Corporate America to make a quick Dollar by being open on Christmas Day – at least not yet.

Next, let’s get into the employer and employee relationship. Around the Christmas holidays, offices everywhere get into the Christmas spirit by hanging Christmas decorations in the office as well as having their office staff say “Merry Christmas” when answering the telephone. Unfortunately, the morale in the office begins to dwindle (if not deteriorate) around the holidays at the direction of corporate management.

It all starts when corporate management sends down a memo to everyone right at the start of the holiday season reminding employees that the expression of the Christmas season is prohibited on company time. Next, anything that is Christmas in nature is ordered taken down under the threat of termination for insubordination. Finally, any employee found to say “Merry Christmas” either on the phone, in person or through the corporate email network is immediately terminated and law enforcement is called to remove the person from the premises.

It has happened to one woman in Panama City Beach back in 2008. The woman was working as a receptionist at a property management office and she was using “Merry Christmas” as part of the standard greeting when answering the telephone around the holiday season. Unfortunately, management did not like this practice and ended up not only terminating the woman; the woman was also intimidated when management called law enforcement to have her escorted from the premises and trespassed.

Did I say terminated for no reason and trespassed? In Florida, it is very easy to do both. Not only Florida’s draconian trespassing laws allow for someone in authority to have anyone banned for life for no reason whatsoever, Florida is also an at-will employment state where you can be terminated for no reason whatsoever as well. This is management of Corporate America enforcing their God-given right of private property at its finest.

I see life in the State of Florida under the leadership of its 45th governor who was not just elected – instead, our state’s 45th governor, Rick Scott, bought the Governor’s Mansion for a big sum thanks to Corporate America and Corporate Florida.

Another great example of how Corporate America is shunning Christmas: Open up your local newspaper (like the St. Petersburg Times, for example) and turn to your newspaper’s comics page. There is a comic strip called Blondie (which is drawn by two people who I believe reside in Clearwater Beach) and when I picked up the St. Petersburg Times on Monday, 20 December 2010 this Blondie comic strip sums up this topic: The authoritarian boss, whose name is Dithers, tells Blondie angrily to stop spreading the Christmas cheer and get back to work for no reason.

Ask yourself: Is Corporate America increasingly turning its back on Christmas? I’ll let you answer that.

Now let’s turn to the public school system. You got that right, the public schools that you and I pay for with our property taxes every year.

If you have your children attending a private school where the true meaning of Christmas does exist, consider yourself lucky. In the public schools, I have seen in the media many instances of where students have been failed for completing assignments that have any kind of a Christmas theme to where students have been disciplined for anything that had to do with the Christmas season.

Just recently, an elementary school in Heathrow, Florida (not the airport in London, but a town outside of Orlando) went to the ultimate extreme and banned not only Christmas, but Christmas colors as well. I’m not a fan of Fox News Channel, but they
report that teachers at Heathrow Elementary School have been ordered by their principal to remove anything that has to do with Christmas – from Santa Claus all the way down to the colors of red and green. The rationale? According to this Gateway Pundit article, “because someone might be offended”.

Is Heathrow Elementary School still part of the United States? Or did the school become a part of another country where Christmas is not celebrated? Well, the principal of Heathrow Elementary School ought to consider what he did for his unpatriotic act of banning Christmas in America by taking down the flags of both the United States and the State of Florida that fly in front of his school for good and hoisting the flag of a nation that does not celebrate Christmas. And by the way, when you hoist the flag that you have chosen, during morning announcements over the intercom play the national anthem of the nation you have chosen at full blast. One more thing: Have your music teacher teach the words of the national anthem of the nation you have chosen to your students as well.

Speaking of flags, who has red and green? Let’s see: Mexico has their vertical tricolor flag of green, white and red with the Mexican coat of arms in the center. Bulgaria has their horizontal flag of white, green and red. Hungary has their horizontal flag of red, white and green. Italy has the exact tricolor flag like Mexico minus the coat of arms. I hear these national anthems come to mind: Himno Nacional Mexicano (Mexico), Mila Rodino (Bulgaria), Himnusz (Hungary), or Il Canto degli Italani (Italy). And by the way, these countries do celebrate Christmas.

Here’s a list of countries (thanks to Wikipedia) that do not celebrate Christmas: The People’s Republic of China, Cuba, North Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.

How about another example of how school principals increasingly shun Christmas? Well, this incident did not even happen in Florida – instead, it took place at a high school in Manassas, Virginia. According to this
10 News (WTSP-TV) article, a small group of students at Battlefield High School, calling themselves the “Christmas Sweater Club”, was spreading the spirit of the season in a dignified and orderly manner. However, that did not sit very well with Battlefield High’s principal, Amy Etheridge-Conti, and the students were disciplined.

Discipline is when a student breaks school rules, not when a student is enjoying the spirit of the Christmas season and it is being done in an orderly manner. The response to the mother of one of the students from the school administration: Students don’t want Christmas cheer.

Students do not want Christmas cheer? Come on. That statement was more than likely coached.

As for Amy Etheridge-Conti, the Principal of Battlefield High School in Manassas, VA, may I offer a few words of suggestion for your anti-Christmas stance that you have taken and forced on your students?

Take down the flags of both the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia that fly in front of your school, and replace them with a flag of a country that does not celebrate Christmas. Then during morning announcements, play the national anthem of the country you chose that does not celebrate Christmas.

If that does not work for you, and if Christmas still offends you in any way, purchase a one way airline ticket out of the United States and to another country where Christmas is not celebrated.

After all, principals sometimes control their schools much like the governments of Belarus (think Alexander Lukashenko, who did everything lately to rig his country’s presidential elections and in the process prevent the right of Belarusians of exercising their freedom of choice by turning their national police force on their people by beating and imprisoning them), Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, North Korea, or even the People’s Republic of China. Parents practically have no say in the education their children are getting, and parents are not even allowed on school property unless there is an exceptional reason. More increasingly, children are becoming the property of the local school district, usurping the authority of the parents to provide whatever is right for their children including proper discipline among other things.

Although children are out of school for around two weeks during Christmas and New Years, holiday concerts put on by public schools have to be severely curtailed so that no legal issues arise from the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Yeah right. Government offices have to do everything that does not violate the First Amendment. However, there is no reason why Christmas can be celebrated from a secular perspective.

Finally, let’s turn to government offices that you and I pay for thanks to our property taxes.

One recent instance, according to
10 News (WTSP-TV), was the banning of any display of Christmas on the Florida Turnpike, especially at the toll plazas. Apparently someone complained to the Florida DOT and the Florida Turnpike Enterprise – the Florida DOT proprietor of the Florida Turnpike system – ended up enacting a ban on holiday related items in offices, including toll booths and toll plazas.

Now here’s my take regarding the anti-Thanksgiving and anti-Christmas sentiment that is increasingly going on in America today:

1. Being a native born American citizen, I firmly and strongly believe in all the holidays that our country celebrates, including Thanksgiving and Christmas.

2. I believe in the tradition that most businesses should be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The sign on a McDonald’s Restaurant door says it all: “We rest on Thanksgiving and Christmas”. That’s the way it should be.

3. If Corporate America wants to open on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you might as well consider doing away with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Public schools might as well consider holding school on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

4. If I want something and it’s on Thanksgiving Day, I will wait until the Day After Thanksgiving and get what I need. Same thing with Christmas.

5. Finally, if the spirit of the American Christmas holiday season offends you in any way, please consider leaving the United States of America and find another country where Christmas is not celebrated and/or observed.

I could go on forever, but I can point you in the direction of a
web page written by none other than Andrew Dart (akdart.com) which has plenty of links to more articles that deal with the ever increasing anti-Christmas sentiment in American life.

In closing, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! In Spanish, ¡Feliz Navidad! In Slovenian, Vesel božič! And in German, Frohe Weihnachten!

04 December 2010

The Media Wants You Scared!

On Wednesday, 10 November 2010 (just before Veterans Day) I picked up a copy of the St. Petersburg Times from a friendly seller on a downtown St. Petersburg street corner. In the B section I found something quite obvious: Tampa Bay home values drop still among worst in nation.

This time, it wasn’t written by the St. Petersburg Times’ number one fear monger when it comes to articles about the economy, house values, the housing crisis or the credit crunch (which is none other than Jeff Harrington, of course). Instead, the article was written by Mark Puente. As I mentioned in a comment I made on this article, I think Jeff Harrington gave Mark Puente a hand in writing this article so that the St. Petersburg Times can sell more newspapers (and make a great profit, especially if the article ends up on the front page).

(After all, the St. Petersburg Times can’t sell any more newspapers using hawkers on street corners in St. Petersburg thanks to St. Petersburg’s new panhandling ordinance which, among other things, bans street hawkers from the street corners of St. Petersburg among other things. But the St. Petersburg Times can across the bay in Tampa and Hillsborough County, but hurry fast: Both the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County are considering ordinances similar to St. Petersburg’s which can put the street hawkers – not only the St. Petersburg Times but the Tampa Tribune as well – out of business.)

As you know, both the
St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 have a very strong alliance with each other when it comes to sharing stories. If you watch Bay News 9 from time to time you’ll notice on occasion that a story you see on Bay News 9 was presented with the help of their partner newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times. To me, this very strong alliance gives the St. Petersburg Times carte blanche to spread the word in an electronic medium by using the resources of Bay News 9, even if the stories written by the St. Petersburg Times are nothing more than placing fear in the public.

Earlier, on Friday, 5 November 2010, I also picked up a copy of the St. Petersburg Times only to find another article on the housing crisis plastered on the bottom of the front page, which was written to scare people about their house values. Do you think Jeff Harrington wrote that article?


Instead, it turns out that the article was written by a news outfit called
McClatchy Newspapers. I did a little research on Google on McClatchy Newspapers and it turns out that it is a media company that owns several newspapers across the United States, including The Bradenton Herald and The Miami Herald. For those of you that don’t know where Bradenton is, it is a city in Manatee County just south of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

However, The Miami Herald happens to have another alliance, as they share reporting operations on stories that come out of Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital. And do you know what that alliance is? The St. Petersburg Times, of course! So, that makes it easy for McClatchy Newspapers (The Miami Herald’s owner) to happily supply the St. Petersburg Times with articles that think will sell more newspapers. Even if it’s stories about the housing crisis or the credit crunch written to scare the public.

OK, OK. Here’s my take on how the media wants you scared, especially when it comes to the housing crisis:

The St. Petersburg Times – especially Jeff Harrington and Mark Puente – wants you scared.
Bay News 9 wants you scared.
Your county property appraiser wants you scared.
Zillow – the online home values service – wants you scared. So does RealtyTrac.

Now for a dose of reality.

If you think that, as a homeowner with a mortgage, you may be underwater as to your home’s value, the best thing to do is to get a professional appraisal done on your home. After all, professional appraisers do more research to arrive at a home’s probable value than the appraisers do in the county property appraiser’s office (after all, what your county property appraiser says what your home is valued at is for the computation of your annual property tax bill, and these appraisals are done en masse). Besides, you will have an appraisal that you have ordered in your own hand, and you can use it to refinance or when the time comes to sell your home; appraisals that are ordered by the banks as part of the mortgage underwriting process are biased towards the bank that ordered the appraisal in the first place.

Home appraisals cost anywhere in the ballpark of around $300. Talk to a few appraisers in your area and get cost estimates before you agree and check out their reputation. But believe me, it may sound expensive but it’s worth it.

If your appraisal shows that you are not underwater after all, congratulations! However, if the worst happens and you are indeed underwater, there is still hope. My blog entry on The Housing Crisis and the News Media from earlier has details on what you can do if you are indeed underwater and are at the same time struggling with your mortgage.

After all, we’re going to survive this housing crisis one way or another! The people that are really intent on prolonging the housing crisis is the news media such as the St. Petersburg Times and the way it is being reported.

And another thing…

I did a media cross check on my lunch break (using my trusty laptop) when the St. Petersburg Times article came out about the worst housing values in the country as I mentioned earlier in this blog entry by going over to
10 News (which is WTSP-TV, the CBS affiliate here in St. Petersburg). I checked 10 News’ website and found nothing about the housing crisis. Based on what I have seen, it seems like if you see an article in the St. Petersburg Times about the housing crisis written to place fear in the public, you won’t see it on 10 News. Besides, 10 News would not carry a story similar to what is in the St. Petersburg Times, again based on my research.

Oh, and by the way…

Mr. Jeff Harrington, are you reading this blog entry? And Mr. Mark Puente, are you reading this blog entry as well?