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?

21 November 2010

Rick Scott Fallout, Part One

In my previous blog entry on 3 November 2010 being a sad day in the State of Florida I outlined a list of many things to expect now that Rick Scott is going to become the 45th Governor of the State of Florida. One of these items I mentioned is the conversion of public property into private property.

You know how the City of St. Petersburg gave away the sidewalk on the northern half of 2 Av N from 1 St N to 2 St N to BayWalk, the shopping and entertainment complex in downtown St. Petersburg. Doing so was a conversion of what used to be public property into private property. You know what private property is, especially in a commercial environment? The authority of a person such as a store manager or a security guard to brand anyone, including law-abiding citizens, as second class citizens by having trespass warnings issued banning a person for life.

Unfortunately, Florida's trespassing laws do allow for this. Once a trespass warning is issued, it is a conviction for trespassing without the benefit of due process and trial. Moreover, banned for life is like a life sentence in Florida State Prison in Raiford for trespassing. Like there is no parole for anyone sentenced to life imprisonment, there is no appeal for a trespass warning issued against a person.

OK. If any of Rick Scott's ideas regarding privatization comes to fruition, it is going to mean that what used to be public property has been turned into private property. So, I drew up a sign based on the many blanket trespass warning signs found throughout Florida which I believe would have to be erected at all principal entry points into the State of Florida:

Above sign does not apply to Florida residents who are in possession of their REAL ID compliant Florida Driver's License showing your physical street address, which is a goldmine for stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators if your ID is lost and eventually found somehow. As a Florida resident, you will be expected to have your ID ready for inspection if Rick Scott gets his way with the Arizona-style immigration law which was his main campaign promise.

Just stay tuned when Rick Scott is anointed as Florida's 45th Governor on the steps of the Capitol in Tallahassee come January 2011.

04 November 2010

A Sad Day in the State of Florida

Wednesday, 3 November 2010, the day after the general election for the Governor of the State of Florida. It will be remembered as the saddest day in the history of the Sunshine State.

The players:

On the Democrat side, Alex Sink who is Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (term expires January 2011). For many of you out there, Alex Sink is well remembered for being the president of NationsBank’s (today Bank of America) Florida operations. She was elected as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer in 2006.

On the Republican side, Rick Scott who is a Florida businessman. He is well remembered for being the chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA, who happens to be the owner of many for-profit hospitals in the Tampa Bay area including Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg. Columbia/HCA was raided by Federal agents in July 1997 which resulted in criminal charges consisting of 14 felony counts, among them overcharging the United States Government for Medicare charges among other things.

Election Day, Tuesday, 2 November 2010:

Tuesday, 2 November 2010 was an important election day not only in Florida but in the United States as well. Not only governors races were being decided in Florida and several other states, Congressional races were also being decided which had the strong potential of altering the makeup of Congress. Would the Democrats retain control or the Republicans take over?

Voter turnout in Florida, especially Pinellas County, was high. Despite early voting and voting by mail, turnout at the precincts was high and there were times when polling places got congested.

Then came 7 PM, the official closing time for the polls in the State of Florida. Rick Scott was ahead a little bit with Alex Sink trailing. By 11 PM, the results were in a dead heat; by that time we would not know who would be Florida’s 45th Governor – yet.

Until sometime after 10 AM on Wednesday, 3 November 2010. I took a quick peek at Bay News 9’s web site only to find the bad news: Despite a very close race, Alex Sink conceded to Rick Scott. Upon that announcement, Rick Scott became Governor-Elect Rick Scott.

My jaw dropped at that moment. A former CEO of a healthcare company involved in criminal charges now going to be in charge of the Sunshine State?

You got that right.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010, at the moment Alex Sink conceded to Rick Scott:

Today is a sad day in the State of Florida as it will be the day we elected an individual who stole from the federal government (as an executive with Columbia/HCA) Florida's 45th governor. Considering the economy and its impact on Florida, life in Florida as we see it is going to get worse instead of better.

Here's what we Floridians are looking forward to, now that Rick Scott is going to be the 45th Governor of the State of Florida. Now those of you Floridians out there that voted for Alex Sink in the recent election, as well as those of you Floridians out there that are out of work and cannot find work, are in danger of losing your home to foreclosure, finding out that you owe more than what your house is worth and struggling to make the monthly mortgage payments, or experiencing any other crisis related to living in Florida, you got yourself a front row seat in the house as to what to expect:

Our homeowners insurance rates going up.
Our property values continuing to slide.
Foreclosures at an alarming rate (and the homelessness that results).
Our civil liberties being eroded.
The State of Florida being sold to private enterprise.
Turning public property into private property.
No prospect of the economy making a comeback in Florida.
Unemployment at an all time high with no prospect of relief.
Support for oil drilling in the Gulf.
The demise of Florida's number one industry: Tourism.
Law enforcement being turned against the people.
No meaningful education anymore in Florida’s public schools.

Speaking about our civil liberties being eroded, remember Arizona’s unpopular immigration law that was passed earlier this year? Now that Rick Scott is going to be the 45th chief executive of the Sunshine State, he is going to see to it that such a law will get passed here in Florida. Want proof of what can happen if an Arizona-style immigration law were to be passed in Florida? Take a look at my related blog entry, America slowly becoming a police state and secession!

Remember when the City of St. Petersburg turned over ownership of the northern sidewalk of 2 Av N from 1 St N to 2 St N in downtown St. Petersburg over to BayWalk? This is a great example of public property being turned into private property, paving the way for private property owners – especially shopping center and store managers – to turn ordinary hard working Floridians into second class citizens by giving them trespass warnings banning them for life. The same thing is going to happen when the State of Florida suddenly begins to sell or give public property to private interests, only on a bigger and repeated scale.

Education in a Florida public school is meaningless anymore, thanks to the state mandated FCAT test the State of Florida shoves on public school students in many grade levels right around March. Parents can no longer be involved in their child’s education as far as public school is concerned: In fact, parents are no longer being allowed on school campuses unless there is a real reason, such as parent-teacher conferences. One elementary school in Manatee County (outside of Bradenton) has taken this to an extreme – parents who even step out of their car for non-school related business are declared second class citizens on the orders of the principal by issuing trespass warnings and banning them for six months at least. (Who says picking up your children from school is non-school related business?)

With the economy on a downturn and the housing crisis prevalent with no end in sight, I think the final nail in the coffin has been driven as to the fact if Florida will survive this economic crisis. With the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, tourism in Florida tumbled downward. Remember too that the Republican Party has had a stranglehold on Florida for the past 12 years under two recent Republican governors (Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist) and the Republican Party will continue their stranglehold on the Sunshine State as long as it takes.

Rick Scott mentioned as part of his victory speech that he works for every Floridian. In my opinion, I don’t think so.

3 November 2010: A day that will be remembered as a sad day in the State of Florida. Just sit back and enjoy the show when Rick Scott is inaugurated in January 2011 and takes the reins of the highest office of the State of Florida in Tallahassee.

08 October 2010

The Tampa Bay Rays 2010 Postseason – All The Way but End of the Line

History is being made again - almost!

The Tampa Bay Rays is in the postseason playoffs, the first time since 2008 and that almost-championship season where we won both the AL East Division Title and the AL Championship then. We went to the World Series and our hopes of winning the World Series were dashed by Philadelphia.

Fast forward to 2010.

We have entered the postseason on a high note, winning the AL East Division Title. That high note seemed to sour when we began play in the ALDS Game 1 and 2 against the Texas Rangers over at Tropicana Field and – so far in both games – we lost. You got that right, lost!

Game 1, 6 October 2010: Texas 5, Tampa Bay 1. Uh-oh!
Game 2, 7 October 2010: Texas 6, Tampa Bay 0. What is going on here???

You got that right: What is really going on here?

Well, I was there just for the ALDS Game 1 (I could not make it to ALDS Game 2 due to work commitments) and I have noticed several things: Lack of a defense and the pitchers we were using. Then you had Joe Maddon (the Rays’ Manager) arguing with the home base umpire over some scoring decisions; in fact, Maddon got ejected in Game 2 right around the fifth inning for arguing with the umpire.

When I was at Game 1 I noticed that the umpires were ruling heavily in favor of Texas at every opportunity. Aren’t the umpires supposed to be fair and impartial or show favoritism towards a team? The way I look at it, it looks like favoritism from the umpires was rampant.

And we can’t forget Evan Longoria, whose comments about low attendance at Tropicana Field at the next-to-last home game against the Baltimore Orioles prompted the Rays to give away 25,000 tickets at the last home game of the season, which resulted in an almost sellout crowd (and Evan getting his wish). Evan, if you are out there reading my blog you got your wish for the last home game of the season as well as ALDS Games 1 and 2: Sellout crowds. However, why didn’t you play a great game in the ALDS and let the Rays catapult to wins instead of losses?

OK. Three more games in the 2010 ALDS Rays-Rangers matchup. If the Rays want to move on to the ALCS it has to win all three games: Two against the Rangers in Arlington, TX (a city about the size of St. Petersburg in population) on Saturday, 9 October 2010 (ALDS Game 3; Rays won 6-3!) and Sunday, 10 October 2010 (ALDS Game 4; Rays won 5-2!) and one more game over at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, 12 October 2010 (ALDS Game 5).

But at ALDS Game 5 at Tropicana Field, we thought we would make it to the ALCS to take on the New York Yankees. As I had other commitments that evening I could not make it to the ALDS Game 5 at Tropicana Field but I monitored the game on my BlackBerry and on the first inning, Texas scored 1-0. No need to worry - yet.

Then the third inning, Rays tied with the Rangers 1-1. I'd thought, we can climb out of this given the Rays' record of coming from behind.

Fourth and sixth inning, Rangers scored 1 each, making the score as we went into the 7th inning stretch Rangers 3, Rays 1. We got a problem.

Top of the ninth inning, the Rangers sealed their trip to the ALCS by scoring 2 more runs, making the score Rangers 5, Rays 1. Once B.J. Upton popped out on the bottom of the ninth it was game over.

You got that right, game over for the Rays as far as the postseason is concerned. End of the line. No reentry southbound, like the sign on southbound Interstate 275 at 4 St N (Exit 32) says. Opportunity for the Rays in the World Series denied.

Hoping that the Rays would win, I bought tickets for Game 1 of the ALCS featuring the Rays vs. the Yankees on StubHub - while the prices were low. I figured, if the Rays won the prices would go sky high. But the Rays did not advance in the postseason and I got my money back - no problem.

Why did the Rays lose in ALDS Game 5 and not advance to the ALCS? There are a lot of variables that I hear from a lot of angles. But here's what I think: Rays manager Joe Maddon I feel made a mistake in allowing Kelly Shoppach to pitch as a starter. I feel if Joe Maddon used another pitcher to lead off I think we would have went on to the ALCS. Additionally, the Rangers had something up their sleeve as far as defense is concerned in ALDS Games 1, 2 and 5.

If the Rays want to do better in 2011, it needs to do some housecleaning. First, keep Maddon as well as Upton, Crawford, Pena and Longoria - the Rays would not be the same without them. (I know, Crawford from what I hear may be leaving the Rays because his salary is high and keeping him would be out of the Rays' budget). Second, get rid of the underperforming players - I'll let you decide on that.

Now for another issue, if I may have your undivided attention for just a moment.

Right after the Rays lost to the Rangers in ALDS Game 5 at Tropicana Field, the St. Petersburg Times came out with this article written by Gary Shelton. I took a look at this article and all it contains is disappointment as well as fear that the Rays will fall back to its losing days in the Devil Rays era. At its best, the article in my opinion was poorly written so that the St. Petersburg Times can make more money selling newspapers. And by the way, Jeff Harrington, did you assist Gary Shelton in writing this article just to put more fear and worry in Rays fans?

Now I want your prediction as to how the Rays will do in 2011. Will we get to go back to the postseason and this time go all the way to the World Series?

15 August 2010

The Housing Crisis and the News Media

Several months ago I wrote a blog entry about the credit crunch and the news media. I wrote it because of the way the news media was reporting about the credit crunch in a manner that would scare the public. Now with the housing crisis in its full upswing I have been seeing articles about house values which I feel is being mishandled in the mainstream news media including none other than the St. Petersburg Times.

First of all, here’s some background on how the news media handles the housing crisis.

Like the credit crunch, the news media has turned to a kind of journalism called speculative and sensational journalism, which is intended to serve one purpose: Blood sells. You got that right; sell more newspapers and inflate the TV ratings to maximize more profit.

In the newspaper industry, what the newspapers do nowadays to report on the housing crisis is to either write stories using their own reporters (such as Jeff Harrington of the St. Petersburg Times, for instance) or use a story from a news service such as the Associated Press or the New York Times. The idea here is for a story on the housing crisis to be written in a fashion that will place fear in the general public; in other words, to get the public scared about what may happen or has happened. What is this being done for? The answer is simple: Sell more newspapers!

Here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, the St. Petersburg Times has a very strong alliance with Bay News 9, a 24-hour local cable news channel which is exclusive to Bright House Networks. (What that means for us Tampa Bay area residents, if you are on Verizon or on Knology (Pinellas County only), you are out of luck). If the St. Petersburg Times wants to spread its scare tactic stories on the housing crisis further, it can ask Bay News 9 to do so practically in a heartbeat.

(By the way, Bay News 9 has a voiceover announcer – not the one that has been there since Bay News 9’s inception in 1997 – it’s the one that does the “sponsored by” TV spots and, in my opinion, speaks rather angry and mean. If you want to believe me, tune in just before :30 past the hour on Wednesdays when this voiceover announcer is doing a sponsorship promo for a Dodge dealership in St. Petersburg. I could go on more and more, but I’ll save this for a possible future blog entry).

On the other hand, in the television news industry stories on the housing crisis are basically done in the same way as newspapers. A reporter will write a story on the housing crisis and interview people such as a bank representative or an analyst and then in preparation for putting the story on the air the reporter (along with their supervisory editor) will take statements made out of context. Don’t forget, that same story has to be written for a television station’s news web page. The main idea here is that a story on the housing crisis is to be presented on television in a way that it will place fear in the general public, just like how it would be written in the newspaper. Again, why does a television news outlet do a story on the credit crunch in order to create maximum fear in the public for? The answer is simple: Increase the viewer ratings! (And maximize advertiser profit too!)

OK. If you want the real truth on the housing crisis, here’s how I look at it.

First, the developers. Here in St. Petersburg, the developers from Miami came into town and turned apartment complexes into condominiums. In the process, these greedy developers jacked up the prices artificially high to begin with in the very first place, and it was done for this major purpose: Run the middle working class out of St. Petersburg. What that meant was to have people live somewhere far and make a 45 to 60 minute commute on Interstate 275 to and from their place of employment daily. In so doing, housing that would be closer to work would become unaffordable. These greedy developers were living the life of luxury while the working middle class had to make do with a new place to live, somewhere out in the countryside.

Second, the banks and their mortgage loan officers. While the housing boom flourished, these mortgage loan officers were told not to even consider a customer’s credit history and income in deciding whether to approve a mortgage loan or not. All these mortgage loan officers cared about was that sizeable commission check plus that all expense paid trip to somewhere in the Caribbean for closing that big loan deal.

The banks took their risk, like at a gambling casino. Then the banks lost when the housing crisis evolved. That meant homeowners were being approved for mortgages that clearly the homeowner could not afford. When the credit crunch ensued, the banks were given United States Government bailout money in the hope of loosening the credit crunch; instead, the banks hoard this money and begin treating their customers like second class citizens.

How about mortgage modifications? How about the person who got laid off through no fault of their own and is struggling to make ends meet? Banks and mortgage companies – according to what’s reported in the media – like to mess up a person’s credit report when it comes to having to modify the terms of a mortgage. In this day and age, if a borrower as a legitimate reason to have his or her mortgage modified to allow for lower monthly payments, he or she should be allowed to do so without any black mark being noted on a credit report. After all, it’s these banks and their mortgage loan officers that approved these loans in the first place, knowing that he or she would not qualify to begin with.

OK, OK. For those of you out there who fear that they may be underwater in their mortgage and if you are trying to sell your home, may I give you some words of advice?

1. Do not believe what your county property appraiser tells you what your home is worth. This figure is used for the computation of your annual property tax bill. There are two values, assessed value and market value. If you happen to have homestead exemption on your home, your assessed value will be less than your market value as your homestead exemption is deducted and there is a cap called the “Save Our Homes” cap. On the other hand, if you do not have homestead exemption then your assessed value will be the same as the market value. Besides, the property appraiser conducts appraisals based on both qualified and unqualified sales and the appraisals are done on a mass appraisal basis.

Now do you know what a qualified sale and an unqualified sale means? A qualified sale is your typical sale of a home from one person to another which takes place at the title company and that there is no undue pressure from either party. On the other hand, an unqualified sale is your typical bank foreclosure sale, but it can mean other factors as well. Unqualified sales typically tend to sell for much less than what a property is worth.

2. There is a website out there that is dedicated to house values, and that is called Zillow. While Zillow is a handy tool that can be used to gauge what house values are throughout the United States, it like your county’s property appraiser should not be believed in what your home is worth. Zillow from what I understand has two methods in determining your home’s value: First, Zillow gets its data from publicly available sources including – where else – your county’s property appraiser. Second, Zillow applies a formula which is kept secret from you and I and then taking these two elements together, Zillow comes up with what they call a “Zestimate”.

Before I go on further, let me say this: Your county’s property appraiser and Zillow are not the gospel of property values, including that of your home.

3. Hire a qualified appraiser and have him or her do an all-purpose appraisal of your home. What an appraiser does is researches the property appraiser records of all qualified sales over a certain time period in the vicinity surrounding where you live. However, the major benefit of having an all-purpose appraisal is that you have an appraisal in your hand which you have ordered, not one that the banks order as part of the mortgage underwriting process as bank ordered appraisals are often times biased. Besides, when you have an all-purpose appraisal in your hand you can show this to prospective buyers showing what your home’s value is really worth. For those of you considering refinancing, you can take this all-purpose appraisal with you to the bank to prove what your home is worth. Appraisals usually cost in the ballpark of around $300, but it is money well worth spent.

OK. Now that you have an appraisal in your hand, you can tell if you are underwater in your mortgage for real. If you find that you are not underwater, congratulations! On the other hand, if you find that you are indeed underwater, there is still hope for you.

If you intend to stay in your home but are struggling due to the mortgage payments, by all means DO NOT STOP PAYING ON YOUR MORTGAGE!!! Instead, contact your mortgage lender and ask for the person responsible for loss mitigation or a similar department. In this day and age of home foreclosures, a mortgage lender would more than likely work with you rather than commence a foreclosure action.

On the other hand, if you intend on placing your home on the market there is what is called a short sale. A short sale is where the mortgage lender accepts for less than what is owed on a mortgage. Short sales are complicated and may have financial and legal implications; therefore, consultation with an attorney is highly recommended before you pursue this route.

There is also deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure, but this is for homeowners who have had foreclosure proceedings already begun or about to begin. Again, consultation with an attorney is highly recommended.

Now for another thing, if I may have your attention for just a moment.

If you presently do your banking business with a bank, consider taking your banking business to a credit union in your area. You may be able to join a credit union in your area; some have residing in a certain zip code as a membership qualification. Call around or check their websites for more information.

Believe me, credit unions are more better to deal with than a bank as far as customer service is concerned. After all, credit unions treat you like a real person compared to these greedy banks who only treat you like a number as well as pay lip service to courteous customer service. And besides, when you are a member of a credit union you’re not just a member – you are an owner. After all, credit unions answer to their owners, which are its members, while banks answer to their stockholders.

Besides, if you are in the market for a mortgage, the better credit unions have mortgage rates that are often times lower than a bank. Qualification criteria may be a little less stringent than a bank but it always depends on your credit history and your income.

Now if you are having problems with a bank or a mortgage company that you cannot seem to resolve, consider posting your experience on a complaints board or forum out there on the Internet. RipOffReport.com is the better known forum out there for consumer complaints; it’s like creating your own website to let others know of your bad experience so that others don’t fall into the same fate. Besides, it’s free.

The last part of this blog entry will be the last part that I wrote on the credit crunch entry, so I’ll be glad to repost it here:

For the past few months I have seen a billboard on the left side of southbound Interstate 275 in Downtown St. Petersburg just before you approach the exit for Interstate 375, Exit 23A. This billboard sums it all up about the current state of the American economy (unfortunately, this billboard has been replaced since my blog entry on the credit crunch which I posted in September 2009):

“Recession 101: Quit obsessing about the economy; you’re scaring the children”.

The message is superimposed on college rule paper. A wonderful job done by the creator of that billboard.

If I could afford a billboard, here’s what I would say:

“Journalism 101: Quit obsessing about the real estate crisis and the credit crunch; you’re scaring the public”.

What the Tampa Bay area news media ought to do is to write and broadcast or publish stories in a positive manner which would bring the credibility that once was how the news media reports the news. Don’t take stories and shuffle them out of context in a way to create maximum fear and distrust in the public.

Now Mr. Jeff Harrington of the St. Petersburg Times, are you reading this blog entry?

02 May 2010

America slowly becoming a police state and secession?

This blog post is not just your ordinary blog post – instead, this blog post is a warning if you have already read the news about Arizona enacting sweeping legislation to control your freedom of movement within that state. If Arizona's newly enacted law passes constitutional muster, it has the potential to have a profound impact on civil liberties in America as we know it today. If you are a concerned American who values and cherishes your civil liberties, I urge you to please read this blog entry word for word.

Remember back in January of 2010 when the standards for getting and/or renewing a Florida driver's license got tougher? You can thank the federal REAL ID law for this, as its main purpose is nothing more than turning our driver's licenses into de facto national identity cards.

Now we have a situation which fits the phrase, "your papers please". If you have heard in the news lately Arizona just passed a new law which gives their state and local police broad, yet sweeping powers to arrest anyone who thinks that they may be in the USA illegally. Furthermore, their new law makes it illegal to go out and about without your identity papers.

Does this sound scary? I'm sorry, folks, but the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is slowly giving way to the Land of the Oppressed and the Home of the Afraid. Should Arizona's newly passed law aimed at curbing illegal immigration pass constitutional muster this is going to set the stage for life in a country where your freedom of movement is now being restricted.

Want proof? Want the facts?

Virtually in every European country their citizens and permanent residents are required to carry a wallet sized card – similar to an American driver's license – which is called a National Identity Card. Carriage of these cards is not an option – instead, it is the law in Europe depending on the country you are in. Now suppose you are stopped by the police just for the sole purpose of checking to see if you have your National Identity Card with you; if in the event you do not have it you will end up being taken into custody by being placed in handcuffs and being taken to the nearest police station and placed in a jail cell while the police check your identity.

Wikipedia has a discussion on national identity card policies by country. Even much better, Andrew Dart (akdart.com) has a well written page on The Proposed National ID Card as well with links to more information you should know.

So, if Arizona's newly passed law does pass constitutional muster this is what we are going to see, if Florida ever passes a law like Arizona's:

OK. You are at a Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field enjoying a baseball game against your favorite baseball team and you are having the time of your life. You splurged a little bit to sit in the 200 Press Level area.

During the top of the fifth inning, you get out of your seat to go grab something to eat at the Grand Slam Grill which is not too far from where you sit. As soon as you approach the Grand Slam Grill, two people – a Rays security guard and a St. Petersburg Police officer – tap on your shoulder and motion you over to the small table area next to the Grand Slam Grill. With the Rays security guard as a witness, the St. Petersburg Police officer asks you for identification.

What? Identification? You did not do anything to attract the attention of Rays security and St. Petersburg Police in the very first place!

In response to the police officer's request for identification, you left it behind in your vehicle and you respectfully tell the officer accordingly. You offer to go and retrieve your identification.

With the Rays security guard watching, the St. Petersburg Police officer places you under arrest. That's right, under arrest. Handcuffs are slapped on behind your back and you are escorted down an elevator from the 200 level to an undisclosed location somewhere in Tropicana Field.

While you are in that office, shackled to a fixed object by handcuffs, you are detained for a few hours while the police officer checks your identity. The wait is intense that you end up missing the entire game.

A few hours later, the police officer has ascertained your identity and you breathe a sigh of relief. Not so.

Not only you have missed the remainder of the game, there was a secret discussion behind closed doors between the Rays security guard and the St. Petersburg Police officer while you were shackled in handcuffs. As a result, the Rays security guard decides that you are unwanted and orders the police officer to brand you a second class citizen by giving you a trespass warning banning you from Tropicana Field, potentially for life. To add further insult to injury, you are asked to give your personal information just like if you are being booked at the Pinellas County Jail and then you are escorted out of Tropicana Field in handcuffs and the handcuffs come off once you are at your vehicle.

Did I mention trespass warnings here? Florida law allows anyone in authority – including a store manager or a security guard – to have you banned for life and neither reason nor rationale is needed. Trespass warnings are convictions for trespassing without due process and trial. If you have not already, please see my white paper on Florida's trespassing laws over at EdwardRingwald.com.

In the scenario that I just presented, this is something that can happen if a law similar to what was passed in Arizona is allowed to be passed here in Florida. This is something that can happen in a police state, especially if you are overseas and the country you are in requires mandatory National Identity Cards. After all, this is America and we cannot let this happen!

Now let's change gears here.

What Arizona is doing is completely against the Constitution of the United States. Specifically, the Tenth Amendment spells the powers not given to the United States Government to either the fifty individual states or the people:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Immigration law and its enforcement is the responsibility of the United States Government as a sovereign nation. Every sovereign nation in the world – including Canada, Mexico, Germany and even Slovenia – has laws written in its books governing who may enter and for how long people may stay, as well as laws pertaining to people wanting to take up residence on a permanent basis within their borders.

The United States of America is divided up into fifty individual states – Arizona, California and Florida as examples.

Within the framework of the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, there are powers that the State of Florida has such as the following:

Providing for education through a system of public schools, colleges and universities

Giving Florida's 67 counties the power to collect property taxes

Providing for a criminal code which meets constitutional muster, both the United States and Florida

Providing for the issuance of driver's licenses and motor vehicle license plates

Providing for the construction and maintenance of Florida's highway system including a network of Interstate highways such as Interstate 275, United States highways such as US 19, and state roads such as FL 687 (which is known as 4 St N in St. Petersburg)

Providing for a family law code which addresses family, probate and guardianship matters

Providing to foster a uniform system of business and commerce by appropriate legislation

Providing for a uniform motor vehicle code which address what you may and may not do on the roads

Now an American state such as Florida cannot have the following powers, as these powers are exclusively reserved to the United States Government:

Matters related to immigration

Matters related to our national currency (states are not allowed to print their own money)

Matters related to the movement of mail

After all, when you cross an international border you cannot cross it just anywhere you please. You can only cross an international border at a designated crossing point. When you approach an international border such as coming from the United States to Canada you are legally obligated to stop at the designated checkpoint and report for immigration and customs clearance. On the other hand, when you cross an American state line such as when you head south on Interstate 75 from Georgia into Florida you do not have to stop unless you want to stop at the welcome center on either side of the state line. In fact, you are allowed to cross an American state line anywhere you please, no official permission is required.

However, American states are allowed to have these so-called "agricultural inspection stations" at their borders but they must be for the sole purpose of enforcing state law related to what you are allowed to bring in as far as agricultural items are concerned. For instance, if you take a road trip out to California by way of Interstate 10 to Los Angeles or Interstate 8 to San Diego you will encounter two of these agricultural checks: One in Arizona on Interstate 10 when you cross over from New Mexico and another in California when you cross over from Arizona from Yuma (Interstate 8) or Blythe (Interstate 10). Besides, every American state has the right to control what agricultural products may be brought across their borders.

In the same vain American states are not allowed to set up checkpoints at their borders for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws. Immigration matters are the responsibility of the United States government and are not for the fifty individual states to enforce.

What I can say as an American – and as a Floridian – is this:

If the State of Arizona wants to control the movement of persons within their state and at the same time require persons to carry identification and allow law enforcement to stop anyone for the sole purpose of identity checks, it ought to consider doing what no American state did since the end of the American Civil War: Secession from the United States of America and let the State of Arizona become a sovereign nation.

Secession from the United States of America? Wait a minute.

First and foremost, let me type out the words of the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America; and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. (Emphasis added)

Notice that I highlighted the word indivisible. That means that America cannot be broken into fifty individual nations. However, the Pledge of Allegiance was written into its current form in 1956 when President Eisenhower (the father of the Interstate Highway System) added the words "under God" to the Pledge. The original Pledge of Allegiance – with the word indivisible already written in – was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. But did you know that there is a Tampa connection to the Pledge of Allegiance? Francis Bellamy lived in Tampa from 1924 until his death in 1931. Today there is an elementary school in Tampa named after the author of the Pledge of Allegiance and a road named after Bellamy in the northwest part of Tampa which is east of the Veterans Expressway (FL Toll 589) on Ehrlich Road.

But in this day and age with Arizona passing its unpopular immigration law and with health care reform being met with plenty of backlash from Republicans (even the State of Florida is trying to sue the United States Government over the recently enacted health care reform law which is going to cost you, Mr. and Mrs. Florida Taxpayer, plenty of money), the word indivisible in the Pledge of Allegiance these days does not matter.

Now what's going to happen if Arizona decides to secede from the Union? Will other states like Florida follow suit? Will the Pledge of Allegiance vanish into thin air?

I'll let you decide. (Just keep your replies clean as replies are moderated – any offensive and/or negative comments (such as a comment that someone wrote in reply to a Bay News 9 viewer center post I made recently – I won't tell you who wrote that comment nor what was said) will not be posted).

13 March 2010

It’s that time again – Daylight Savings Time, that is

Well, it's that time again.

At 2 AM on Sunday, 14 March 2010 the time will advance one hour to 3 AM, marking the start of Daylight Savings Time for 2010. What happens is that it will get dark an hour later in the evening; however, sunrise comes an hour later as the trade-off. What does this mean? Here's a brief history thanks to Wikipedia's article on Daylight Savings Time in the United States.

First, Daylight Savings Time was implemented as early as 1918 – during World War I. However, it did not last for long and Daylight Savings Time was abolished after World War I ended. From the end of World War I to the beginning of World War II Daylight Savings Time in America was basically a local option but it became confusing.

Right after America's entry into World War II, in 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt instituted Daylight Savings Time year round, which was also called War Time. This lasted throughout World War II, ending on the last Sunday in September 1945 after World War II ended. However, things got confusing in 1946 when states and localities began observing Daylight Savings Time throughout the summer months.

The United States Government got into the act to settle things once and for all with the passage of the Uniform Time Act of 1966. The act provided for, among other things, that Daylight Savings Time be observed every year from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. At the same time, the states were allowed to opt-out of observance of Daylight Savings Time, with Arizona being the first state to do so in 1968.

However, during the 1973 energy crisis a trial experiment was done putting America on year round Daylight Savings Time from 6 January 1974 to 27 April 1975. However, concerns about school children having to go to school in the dark forced Congress to amend the experiment, reverting to Standard Time on 27 October 1974 and back to Daylight Savings Time on 23 February 1975. After the experiment America returned to observing Daylight Savings Time during the summer.

In 1987 Daylight Savings Time was widened, starting from the first Sunday in April but still keeping the last Sunday in October thanks to an amendment to the Uniform Time Act of 1966. Twenty years later Daylight Savings Time was widened again thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which starts Daylight Savings Time on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November which we observe today.

Now how does Daylight Savings Time impact Florida?

Consider the fact that Florida is on two time zones – Eastern and Central. The boundary is on the Apalachicola River from the Georgia border to just before the Gulf of Mexico where the boundary makes a slight zigzag to the west and then finally to the south. By the way, the time zone boundary continues after reaching the Gulf of Mexico – it follows Florida's west coast all the way to the mouth of Tampa Bay, then it goes in a straight line south wrapping around Cuba.

Did I mention the Tampa Bay area? You got that right.

Practically you may not know this, but there is a time zone boundary three miles west of John's Pass. That means if you go under the John's Pass Bridge and go out for three miles, you have crossed into the Central Time Zone without you knowing about it. However, for all practical purposes all activities offshore observe Eastern Time, which is the time zone we are located in – makes sense, doesn't it?

With Daylight Savings Time being expanded over the years, our school children have to suffer in the form of getting up early and going to school in the dark. That's right, in the dark. While Daylight Savings Time gives us more daylight in the evening, we have to suffer by sending our children to school and having to commute to work while it's still dark. Moreover, if you are one of those commuters who work in downtown St. Petersburg or downtown Tampa, use a parking garage and have to walk a ways to your office that can be dangerous with it being dark in the morning.

But Florida has the right to opt-out of participation in Daylight Savings Time. All it takes is an act of the Florida Legislature to make it happen. In fact, in 2008 Florida State Senator Bill Posey tried to pass a bill that would indeed opt Florida out of participation in Daylight Savings Time but the bill did not pass unfortunately.

I feel Florida needs to opt itself out of Daylight Savings Time, at least the part of Florida in the Eastern Time Zone. Why?

First and foremost, we are sending our children to school in the dark. According to the FloridaHatesDST.org web site when we are on Daylight Savings Time in the Eastern Time Zone, at 6 AM the sun is already up in places like Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. Not in Florida, however – at 6 AM it is still dark yet.

Now realize that Florida is the southernmost state in the 48 conterminous United States, and we sit on two time zones, Eastern and Central. Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time and neither does most countries of the Caribbean due to the fact that the sun rises and sets at the same time year round. Florida's southernmost point, Key West, is not too far from the Tropic of Cancer. Furthermore, Florida is the last place in the Eastern Time Zone to see the sun rise as far as Daylight Savings Time is concerned, according to FloridaHatesDST.org.

And one more thing: Daylight Savings Time was designed to be observed from the original last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, not extended out to the point that we are sending our children to school in the dark more often.

How can we Floridians make this happen? It's very simple: Write or email your legislators in Tallahassee. In fact, feel free to print a copy of this blog and send it to your legislators along with your letter. We'll do our children a big favor, and that is not having to send our children to school while it's still dark outside.

10 March 2010

Ongoing Problems at John Hopkins Middle School

As we St. Petersburg residents have read about in the St. Petersburg Times as well as Bay News 9 and 10 Connects (WTSP-TV) recently, problems have been rampant at John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg. So far this school year, it has been reported that over 60 arrests have been made at that school and even faculty members have expressed their fears; one of them say that there is no control of the students.

Lately, the Pinellas County School District has stepped up to the plate to help curb some of the problems going on at John Hopkins Middle. Among one of these improvements include transferring the students who have serious disciplinary issues to other schools throughout Pinellas County including Pinellas Secondary School located in Pinellas Park on 66 St N. Pinellas Secondary School sits on the former site of the District Offices of St. Petersburg College. However, transferring a student from a student's assigned school to Pinellas Secondary is not an easy task for a principal as evaluations have to be done and a student's educational record has to be reviewed, not to mention that a transfer of this nature also requires the approval of the Director of School Operations in the area where the student's assigned school is located.

For those of you who do not know where John Hopkins Middle School is located, it's on 16 St S just south of Interstate 175, directly opposite Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. I had the privilege of visiting this school a couple of years ago when public hearings were held regarding the Pinellas County School District's changeover from the Choice Model (where students can pick a school within a given attendance area) to the Neighborhood Zoned School Model where students are assigned to a school based on where the student lives. You may also want to see my related blog on this topic in which sometimes close to home school is not the case.

Now let me offer you my solution to the problems that have taken place at John Hopkins Middle School, which I feel should be applied county wide:

1. Remove the students who have chronic behavioral issues from John Hopkins Middle and reassign them elsewhere, including Pinellas Secondary. This should apply to any other school county wide.

2. Students who commit a violation of the law such as battery on a school official or another student as well as threatening a fellow student or staff member among other things should be dealt with in the juvenile justice system, with no release to their parents until trial. That's the equivalent of no bond until trial in the adult system. A judge can order that the student be suspended from school until trial and expulsion can be ordered if the student is found guilty. The suspension would be from the school that the student regularly attends, as children who are confined to juvenile detention still continue their education in a secure environment.

3. The Pinellas County School District should do away with out of school suspensions - this is nothing more than a license to be away for a certain number of days. (Look at it this way: An out of school suspension is a license granted by a school principal to roam the streets for a certain amount of days). Instead, send the students to in school suspension; at least students are still in school, doing their schoolwork, and not out there wandering the streets. Remember what happened in 1988 at Pinellas Park High School? The perpetrators - Jason Harless and Jason McCoy - were students from Pinellas Park High School that were given out of school suspensions.

While the student is reassigned to Pinellas Secondary or another school, a plan of action consisting of counselors, social workers and school administration should be put into place that addresses the student's behavioral issues while at the same time emphasizing academic success. Only when a student has demonstrated true improvement over at least two semesters – both academic and behavioral – should a student be considered for transfer back to his or her assigned school or to another different school depending on the recommendations of the administration.

However, if the student was referred to the juvenile justice system due to a violation of the law and if the student is subsequently found guilty in juvenile court and sentenced to the custody of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the student would be expelled from the Pinellas County School District by court order. In that case, the student would be able to continue his or her education in programs offered by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice such as programs in residential treatment facilities if the student is committed to such a facility.

I believe in the concept that school is not just a place to learn; it is also a place where our children are taught today to become productive members of society to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Learning is something we pass on from generation to generation; this is called the gift of knowledge. After all, our children deserve a learning environment which is free of disruptions and, as a taxpaying citizen of Pinellas County, I feel the Pinellas County School District has an obligation to provide students with a safe learning environment.

31 January 2010

Are we seeing the horrors of Florida’s new driver license requirements?

A recent Bay News 9 article came across my laptop computer regarding Florida's new driver license requirements, thanks to the federal REAL ID law. The clerks who work in the Hernando County Tax Collector's office are bearing the brunt of customers who are very unhappy due to the fact that they have to produce the multitude of paperwork needed to obtain or renew a Florida driver's license.

To those people who feel frustrated when you show up to get or renew your driver's license yet get turned away due to Florida's new requirements, I feel your pain. Yes, Florida's new driver's license requirements are a pain after I have read the horror stories from articles not only on Bay News 9 but the St. Petersburg Times and 10 Connects (WTSP-TV) and the comments that were submitted in response to these articles.

I feel there is going to be a lot of people who have had enough of Florida's tough requirements. Yes, a lot of people – including Floridians – who say enough is enough of Florida's new driver's license requirements.

  1. Going to another state and getting a driver license there (at least it was done – you can read about it as a topic over at the FlyerTalk.com forum). It depends on if the state is complying with the federal REAL ID law – at least several states have plans not to upgrade.
  2. If someone moves to Florida they will keep their out of state license and renew the out of state license (which is in violation of Florida Statutes; you are obligated to obtain a Florida driver's license within 30 days of obtaining employment or placing children in public school; however, this law I feel is rarely enforced).
  3. People whose licenses are ready to expire will not even bother to renew their drivers license due to the new requirements. Again, this is a big risk – letting your Florida driver's license expire for four months or less is an infraction while if it's over four months it becomes a misdemeanor requiring a court appearance.

I have said this before and I will say it again: Florida's new driver license requirements are dangerous in that it requires your residential street address - not your mailing address as past practice - on your license; if somehow you misplace your license and a stalker or domestic violence perpetrator finds it then your license is a goldmine as to where you live.

There are plenty of Floridians such as me who do live here and have a residential street address yet have their mail sent to a post office box for security reasons. Until the new Florida requirements became effective you could have placed your mailing address on your Florida driver's license while at the same time your residential street address is also kept on file and is accessible to law enforcement in the course of a traffic stop. That's the way it has been and it is the way it should be.

There is also another item that needs to be addressed while we're on this topic. Despite a federal law long enacted before REAL ID – the Driver Privacy Protection Act of 1994 – there is the issue of the State of Florida selling your personal information including where you live to third party marketers. To make things more scarier, the state's driver license computer systems have been breached – that is your personal information in the hands of who knows who.

To me, REAL ID is a clear violation of states' rights as driver licensing in the United States is the responsibility of the individual fifty states including Florida. I have a page over at EdwardRingwald.com which explains Florida's new driver license requirements in a nutshell.

Now I want to hear from you! If you tried to obtain or renew your Florida driver's license but were unable to do so due to the new requirements please feel free to share your experience here by posting a comment. This also applies if you tried to renew your Florida driver's license online but were told that you have to go in person to renew your driver's license.