10 November 2012

Is Thanksgiving in Danger of becoming Extinct?

The holidays are almost upon us.  We will be traditionally kicking off the holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving Day and the Day After Thanksgiving, commonly known as Black Friday.  By the way, not to mention the constant stream of holiday music we'll hear.
The holiday season is my favorite time of year.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are not just holidays; these holidays are time to be with friends and family.  You know what Thanksgiving is all about:  Big turkey dinners and the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, televised on your local NBC affiliate (here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, that would be WFLA-TV NewsChannel 8).
Recently, I have been noticing a lot of things going on that Thanksgiving as we know it in America may end up becoming extinct, thanks to Corporate America.  About this same time last year I wrote a blog entry on Thanksgiving, Christmas and the ever-growing Anti-American holiday sentiment in which public schools and Corporate America are increasingly shunning the holiday season in one form or another.
I recently came across a petition on Change.org started by C. Renee of Corona, California regarding Target's plans to open its doors at 9 PM on Thanksgiving Day in order to get a jump start on the Black Friday madness.  Apparently, what Target is doing is in response to Wal-Mart (Florida's trespass and ban for life happy retailer) opening on Thanksgiving Day an hour earlier than Target at 8 PM.
What is going on here?
This is Corporate America at its finest:  Shunning one of America's major holidays, Thanksgiving Day, by being open for business just to make a quick buck.  Last year Target opened their doors at 12:01 AM on Black Friday, as was reported in my blog entry from last year.
Being open on Thanksgiving Day may be convenient, but if you as a retailer decide to open on Thanksgiving Day, your associates cannot enjoy any quality time with their families on Thanksgiving Day.  Being open on Thanksgiving Day is not right.
First, I can understand that our police officers, firefighters and public safety personnel do have to work not only on Thanksgiving Day, but any holiday of the year for that matter. After all, we rely on these fine personnel to keep us safe.

However, I am miffed when I find out that a retailer – especially a retailer known for traditionally closing on Thanksgiving so that their employees can be with their families – decides to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day all in the name of making a quick buck.

Does Corporate America care anymore about America’s traditional holidays?
Here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, we have businesses that are traditionally closed on Thanksgiving Day so that their employees can be with their families. A great example is Publix Super Markets, which has had a closed on Thanksgiving Day policy from the day George Jenkins founded Publix a long time ago.

If George Jenkins ever found out his Publix stores were open on Thanksgiving, I imagine he would be very sad to see this.  This is one of many reasons I prefer to shop at Publix whenever I need groceries.

Unfortunately, two other supermarket chains have decided to practically do away with Thanksgiving and be open on Thanksgiving Day, citing customer convenience:  Sweetbay Supermarket and Winn-Dixie.  Sweetbay claims that they are open on Thanksgiving for customer convenience, but Sweetbay’s Belgian owners – Delhaize Group – apparently believes that Thanksgiving is an interruption to their business. While Sweetbay may be open as a customer convenience, in reality their associates cannot enjoy quality time with their families on Thanksgiving.
After all, Thanksgiving is not a legal holiday in Belgium, nor in the rest of Europe for that matter.  One minor exception, according to Wikipedia, is in the Dutch town of Leiden, where a non-denominational church service is held on the morning of American Thanksgiving Day, commemerating the hospitality the Pilgrims received in Leiden prior to setting out across the Atlantic in search of the New World.
Sweetbay used to be known as Kash ‘n Karry, which was locally owned here in Tampa for many years. Then Belgian based Delhaize Group came into town in 1996 and bought up the Kash ‘n Karry chain, remodeled the stores, and rebranded them as Sweetbay as we know today.
Practically the same thing is over at Winn-Dixie. Besides being open for Thanksgiving in the name of customer convenience, Winn-Dixie is notorious for poor customer service: Rude and belligerent checkout staff as well as forcing you to surrender your personal information if you want lower prices or you are subjected to substandard treatment as a customer. In other words, the person ahead of you with a Winn-Dixie Customer Reward Card gets better treatment while you, with no card (being your choice), are subjected to more harsh and belligerent treatment.   Like Sweetbay, Winn-Dixie’s associates end up paying for being open on Thanksgiving Day in that they cannot enjoy quality time with their families on Thanksgiving.
And we can't forget McDonald's, which traditionally used to rest on Thanksgiving as well as Christmas according to signage posted at the store entrance.  Today, it seems like McDonald's is slowly trying to do away with Thanksgiving by being open more and more on Thanksgiving Day; it used to start by being open for breakfast hours.
Now here's my take on Corporate America being open on Thanksgiving Day for the sole purpose of making a quick buck before Black Friday:
1. Being a native born American citizen, I firmly and strongly believe in all the holidays that America celebrates, including Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.
2. If Corporate America does not want to have anything to do with Thanksgiving, then have your corporate eons lobby Congress to repeal Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Believe me – it won’t happen; Thanksgiving is deeply rooted in tradition as an American national holiday to begin with, going back to the days when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620 and earlier when Juan Ponce De Leon landed on the Florida east coast near St. Augustine in 1513.
3. Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays to be with family and friends. As such, I do not conduct any business on Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.  Besides, I was born and raised in an era where retailers were closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas (and we knew better to stock up on things before the holidays); unfortunately, today we live in an "I gotta have it right now" era - an era of instant gratification.

4. Finally, if the spirit of the American holidays – especially the fall holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas – offend you in any way, please consider leaving the United States of America and find another country where our American holidays are not celebrated, especially a country where human rights and civil liberties are grossly violated.

We cannot let Thanksgiving as well as Christmas become extinct, thanks to Corporate America that think these holidays are a nuisance. Thanksgiving and Christmas - along with America's other major holidays - are not a nuisance; instead our nation's holidays are part of our heritage.  Besides, you have a right to express your disapproval of retailers being open on Thanksgiving Day by not spending your hard earned money at these places.

As I said last year, onward with the holiday season!

03 November 2012

Headed to the Polls on November 6th?

In a few days we will be electing a President of the United States as well as a plethora of federal, Florida and local officials.  Additionally, at the same time we will decide on a plethora of Florida constitutional amendments; in fact, the ballot is two pages long and double sided, so be ready.

Now if you have voted either by absentee ballot or by early voting, that's great!  However, if you prefer to vote the traditional way at your assigned precinct on November 6th, that's fine too!  What follows is what you will expect in Pinellas County on November 6th; for all other Florida counties the process is essentially the same as optical scan ballots are mandated by Florida law and you can read along.  You can also find this information as a topic over at EdwardRingwald.com as the Pinellas 4 Step.

OK.  Here's what you will want to do before you head out to your assigned polling place on November 6th.  The first thing you want to do is to find out where your assigned polling place will be on November 6th, and to do that you will want to head on over to the website of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.  There you can find your assigned polling place by entering your residential street address and you'll know where you need to go.

But wait! There's more!

In addition to where you will go to vote on November 6th, you can also print a copy of the sample ballot that is tailored specifically to your precinct.  Print a copy and mark your choices so that you can carry it with you and use your marked sample ballot as a reference when you fill out the official ballot in the privacy booth.

Got your sample ballot with you?  You're ready to head on over to your assigned polling place on November 6th!  But before you head over to the polls, you need one more important item:  Picture and signature identification!

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, in compliance with Florida Statutes the following types of identification are accepted:

Florida Driver License
Florida Identification Card
United States Passport (either the book or Passport Card is OK)
Debit or credit card
Student or Military ID
Retirement Center ID
Neighborhood Association ID
Public Assistance ID

Now if your photo ID does not have a signature, you will have to present another ID that has your signature.  Now what if you do not have any ID on you when you show up at the polls on November 6th?  Don't worry, you can still vote but you will have to vote a provisional ballot.

Got your sample ballot with you?  Got your ID with you?  Then let's head on over to our assigned polling place and vote!

Once you arrive, you will be greeted by a precinct deputy whose job is to maintain order in the polling place.  The precinct deputy - who is a poll worker - will direct you to a table marked Step 1.

At Step 1, this is where you will check in.  There will be an inspector - another poll worker - who will check your ID (remember to bring your ID as I mentioned earllier!) and have you sign the register that confirms your name and address is correct.  You will be asked at that point to sign the register in the space provided.

For those of you that requested mail ballots but decide to vote at the polls instead:  Bring your mail ballot with you so that the mail ballot can be cancelled so that you can receive a regular ballot.  If you forget to do so, you can still vote but a verification phone call will be made to the Election Service Center by a poll worker to verify that your mail ballot was not received.

The inspector will hand you a yellow ticket with your name attached to it.  At this point, you will be directed to Step 2.

At Step 2, this is where you will receive your actual ballot.  Before you head to Step 2, check your name to be sure everything is correct.  Now that you are at Step 2, present your ticket to the ballot distribution manager (this will be another poll worker); at this point you will fill in the oval to confirm that the name on the label on the ticket is correct and below that oval you will sign to signify that you are receiving your ballot.

Hand the signed ballot ticket to the poll worker.  At that time you will receive the actual ballot inside a red secrecy envelope plus a black ballpoint pen.  You are ready for Step 3!

Remember, as the November 6th ballot is lengthy you will receive two cards; the two cards constitute the entire ballot.

At Step 3 you will proceed to any open privacy booth where you can mark your ballot in private and in secret.  Make sure that you completely fill in the oval next to your selection.  When you are finished, review your selections and when you're ready you can head on over to Step 4 to wrap up the voting process!

Remember the marked up sample ballot from earlier?  You can use your marked up sample ballot as a reference when you are making your selections on the official ballot!

I made a mistake on my ballot card.  What do I do?

No problem!  Simply head back to the poll worker at Step 2 and request a replacement ballot.  The poll worker will give you an envelope for you to place your incorrect ballot into, simply place the incorrect ballot into the envelope, seal it up and hand in the envelope to the poll worker who will exchange it for a ballot.

Remember, a ballot marking machine - which is similar to the touch screen voting we used to do in Florida but it does not cast your ballot - is available for your use.  Just let the poll worker know at Step 2 and another poll worker will be summoned to assist you in using the machine.

Most importantly, you are allowed a maximum of three (3) ballots pursuant to Florida Statutes.  This applies whether you mark your ballot in the privacy booth or use the ballot marking machine.  My recommendation:  If you are on your third ballot use the ballot marking machine; that way, you can review and even change your selections before you mark your ballot.

At Step 4 you will see the optical scanner machine where you will feed in your ballot and cast your vote.  This applies whether you manually filled in the ballot in the privacy booth or used the ballot marking machine.  The optical scanner is manned by yet another poll worker called a machine manager who is there to resolve any problems you may have when you feed the ballots in.

As the November 6th ballot is two cards, you can feed them in any order.  Just be sure to feed in the two cards into the optical scanner.

If your ballot is marked correctly, the optical scanner will take your ballot, record your votes and deposit your ballot into the secured ballot box.  As always, if you run into any difficulties simply ask a poll worker for help.

REMEMBER:  I can't over-emphasize this enough but be sure to review your ballot selections carefully!  Once your ballot is accepted by the optical scanner and your votes are recorded, YOUR BALLOT CANNOT BE RETRIEVED FOR CORRECTIONS AT A LATER TIME!!!

After you deposit your completed ballot into the optical scanner, be sure to return the pen and secrecy envelope given to you and exit the polling place through the exit as designated.  Be sure to collect your "I Voted" sticker as you exit.

Congratulations!  You have just completed the Pinellas County Four-Step and you can be proud of yourself!

The polls open on November 6th at 7 AM and close at 7 PM.  As November 6th is the general election, expect delays when you go to vote at your assigned polling place, so plan ahead.
When the polls close at 7 PM on November 6th, feel free to tune in or log on to your favorite media outlet and watch the returns come in (a list of selected Tampa/St. Petersburg area media links is provided for your convenience):
Here are also links to the Supervisor of Elections websites for the counties in the Tampa/St. Petersburg metropolitan area.  These links are provided for you as a convenience in locating your precinct and assigned polling place as well as viewing a sample ballot:
Pinellas County (St. Petersburg, Clearwater)
Hillsborough County (Tampa, Temple Terrace, Brandon, Plant City)
Pasco County (New Port Richey, Zephyrhills, Dade City)
Hernando County (Brooksville, Spring Hill)
Citrus County (Inverness, Lecanto, Crystal River)
Polk County (Lakeland, Bartow, Winter Haven, Auburndale)
Manatee County (Bradenton, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch)
You can also log on to your county's Supervisor of Elections website to see election results as they come in as well.