Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's Going On With Political Campaigns?

I don't know about the rest of you, but in this election year I'm sick and tired of all the political mud slinging.

Issues and what a candidate wants to accomplish seem to have taken a backseat with personal attacks on the opponent seemingly the order of the day where political campaigns are concerned.

Like many of the states, we're having primary elections in August to determine which candidate will represent his/her party in November in the general election. Even though it's not a presidential election year, many senators and representatives will be elected to the U.S. Congress and also various senate and representative elections to state legislatures and state governor elections.

I've been suffering through a constant barrage of tasteless political commercials literally from the first of the year. We have two particularly vicious campaigns going on where I live. One is for an open U.S. Senate seat (the current holder of the seat is running for governor rather than seeking re-election to the Senate) with two U.S. Representatives from the same party (one of them from my district) vying to be their party's November candidate for that Senate seat. And in the other race we have two local people from the same party vying to be their party's candidate for that U.S. Representative seat from my district that will be vacated because the current holder is running for the U.S. Senate.

Vicious attacks. Mud slinging. Half truths. Outright lies. Blatant manipulation of the voter through the use of emotional buzz words. Claims that are literally an insult to the intelligence of the voter. Statements where you shake your head and wonder why in the world the candidate thought anyone would possibly believe that.

One commercial that started airing a week ago was so ludicrous that the candidate's opponent (the object of the attack) called a press conference to refute the charges rather than striking back with another attack commercial of his own which resulted in a couple of the local television stations sending news people to the candidate making the charges to ask for confirmation of the accusations. The candidate was only able to produce a couple of several year old documents and they showed the validity of his accusations to be only about 10% accurate with 90% of his accusations filled with blatantly misleading innuendo devoid of any factual backup.

It also prompted at least two of the local television stations (one being the local newscast that I watch) to make an on-air statement saying that it's literally illegal for television stations to censor, alter, or refuse commercials from a legally registered political candidate in an upcoming election even if the language or images are considered objectionable (but not legally banned from the airwaves). The only discretion they have is in refusing ads from third parties not produced with the candidate's specific approval. Thus the tag line on political commercials these days that says, "I'm so-and-so and I approve this message." So, that specific commercial is unfortunately still on the air since it was approved by the candidate.

What has happened that the issues are no longer important in a political election? I can understand with two candidates from the same party in the August primary election where one is the incumbent and the other is a newcomer hoping to win the party candidacy for the general election that the newcomer will be attacking the record of the incumbent as a way of saying, "I can do it better." And certainly in the general election in November where you have candidates from opposing parties, they will have opposing positions on the issues and each will be trying to sell his/her view of what is best. But political campaigns where it seems that the entire commercial budget is used for mud slinging personal attacks?

With two candidates from the same party (therefore supposedly the same basic position on the issues of the day) where neither currently holds an elected office, they each seem to believe that the only way to run a campaign is to make personal negative attacks on their opponent rather than putting forth positive information about themselves.

I know "they" say that politics is a dirty business, but does it really need to be muddy dirty?

Now, let me share a little something personal with you. My brother is an elected representative in his state's Legislature. He is up for re-election this year for his fifth term and this time he's running unopposed. No challenge from a member of his own party for a primary runoff and no one from the other party registered to run for his seat which means he won't have an opponent in the November general election. Thus, he will be re-elected.

He has, on more than one occasion, refused assistance from his own party in the form of campaign commercials because of the type of commercial they wanted to do…the half truth/innuendo type of personal attack on his opponent. My brother and I are not of the same political party. However, my brother is one of the rare ones from either party who tries to put a positive face on politics. As a seasoned veteran of the system, he's not coming from the perspective of the na├»ve newcomer. He understands the ins and outs of the system but still continues to run a clean campaign and not sacrifice his ethics. He actually listens to his constituents and tries his best to represent what they want rather than merely pushing his own personal beliefs and agenda on various issues in the Legislature.

I keep asking him if he has any plans to run for national office rather than state. His answer is to not give me an answer. :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Do You Know What Your Dreams Are Telling You?

Everyone dreams, even if we don't always remember those dreams the next morning. Sometimes they seem to make sense and other times they linger in the mind as pure fantasy. There have been many books and articles written about dreams and how to interpret them. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists often use dream interpretation as part of their therapy analysis process.

I recently read an article about the eight most common types of dreams and what they mean.

1) Processing Dreams: These can sometimes feel annoying because they are mostly a replay of your day's activities. It's the subconscious sorting out the events of the day, making sense of the thoughts and images that have bombarded you during your waking hours, and putting them in order in preparation for the next day. It explains the expression, "Let me sleep on it," when you need to consider how to handle a problem.

2) Venting Dreams: These are the dreams that can be terrifying…the nightmares. These are the ones where you're being chased, falling, failing a test, or arriving for a job interview completely naked. But don't be too quick to dismiss and ignore these dreams. They can be helpful in either helping you get ready for an opportunity (preparing for that test or job interview) or release what is subconsciously blocking you from achieving your goal.

3) Integration Dreams: If you dream that you or someone you know is behaving in an extreme manner (either something you admire or disapprove of), then your dream is probably trying to teach you that this behavior you're judging is a part of you and should be embraced and…well…integrated as vital to your whole being.

4) Breakdown/Breakthrough Dreams: These are dreams of disaster such as death, fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, etc. They represent great change on the horizon. If you're a creature of habit, they might be helping you to loosen up and be more receptive to change since change is an inevitable part of life.

5) Recurring Dreams: The mission of the recurring dream is to deliver a message from your subconscious to your conscious mind. Until you accept and decode this information, the subconscious continues to send it.

6) Precognitive Dreams: These can be compared to looking into the crystal ball and seeing the future. The information in the dream deals with people, places, and/or situations that are future events based on something currently taking place in your life.

7) Prophetic Dreams: These are different than precognitive dreams. The prophetic dream is like a psychic event. You dream of a wise, loving being (whether a religious leader, a departed loved one, etc.) and feel that they have brought you a gift in the form of a life lesson. Write down the message and recall the feeling the dream gave you.

8) Wish-Fulfillment Dreams: This is akin to a genie in a bottle. People who are wealthy attract more wealth, happy people attract more of what makes them happy. When you move in the direction of your dreams by acting as if you already have what you wish for, you move closer to attaining what you want. Your subconscious mind cannot discern between actual events and what you have vividly imagined, so your wish fulfillment dream can create the energy to take you from where you are to where you want to go.

Have any of you had any experience with dream interpretation?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Phobias For The Twenty-First Century

Phobias…those irrational fears of just about anything you can think of. Most of them have been out there for centuries (if not longer). Some of them have been handed down through families.

But like so many other things, the twenty-first century has brought us a whole new collection of things to provide irrational fears.

Nomophobia is the fear of not having cell phone contact, whether it's due to a dead battery or because your network doesn't have coverage where you are. A fate worse than death?

Vidigameaphobia is the fear of video games. This can cover everything from simply being afraid of the games to the fear that the games could come to life. Hmm…maybe I need to buy that Indiana Jones game after all.

Interphobia is exactly what it sounds like…fear of the world wide web. Now that's a phobia to avoid at all costs.

Dextrophobia and its counterpart Levophobia offers us a couple of really strange phobias. Dextrophobia is the fear of everything to the right of your body while Levophobia is the fear of everything to the left of your body.

Coulrophobia has actually been around for a long time and is still going strong. It's the fear of clowns. Didn't Stephen King have a clown as one of his evil entities?

Pupaphobia is related to Coulrophobia. They might even be first cousins. It's the fear of puppets. Not sure what you'd call the fear of a clown puppet.

Alektorophobia is an extreme fear of live chickens. Maybe the scope of the fear should be expanded to include people who look like Col. Sanders?

Sesquipedalophobia, as the length of the word suggests, is the fear of very long words. Wouldn't a shorter word be more appropriate?

Cathisophobia is one that those of us working at computers need to avoid at all costs. It's the fear of sitting.

Genuphobia is the fear of knees. That must be really difficult in summer when warm weather clothing means lots of knees sticking out there for anyone to see.

And here's a bonus phobia to carry us through the twenty-first century. This has to be the ultimate fear: Phobophobia. Yep, it's exactly what it sounds like…a fear of fears.

My primary fear is bugs and other creepy crawler things. However, my fear is totally rational.  :)

Do you have any irrational fears (or rational ones) you'd like to share?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Unexpected Hotel Charges--Legitimate or Unscrupulous?

Anyone who has flown in the last year or so is familiar with how drastically things have changed. What used to be considered free, included as part of the air fare, is now an additional fee.

We used to be able to check our luggage, have carry on bags, little packets of peanuts or pretzels handed out to anyone who wanted them, soft drinks and fruit juice upon request, snacks at meal time, pillow and blanket, and certainly a drink of water. Obviously we can now refer to that as "the good old days" when compared to today's travel hassles. All those things are now additional fees the airlines charge and they have made tremendous profits from them. Fees that are charged in addition to all the other taxes and surcharges added on to the airfare.

So, is it any wonder that hotels have started to follow suit with new "fees" of their own? Following are ten fees many hotels are now adding on to your bill at check-out time. If you belong to the hotel's frequent guest program, you might be safe from some of these…at least for the time being.

10) Internet Usage: A big perk hotels and motels have advertised in the past to attract customers was free high speed internet. Many hotels are now adding an internet usage fee at check-out time. While some are charging the fee per day, a new trend is to charge per devise per day. So, more than one device being used in your room? You might see a charge for each device that uses the in room internet access. Currently in Europe, this fee can easily be an additional $30/day on top of the room rate and applicable taxes.

9) Resort Fees: Things that were once taken for granted as being included in the room rate (such as pool towels) at beach and mountain resorts are increasingly being listed under the amenities covered by Resort Fees which are automatically tacked on to your bill at checkout. And it seems that saying you don't plan to use the extra resort amenities won't matter. They're available, so you are charged.

8) Portage Fees: This is a good one!! You tip the bellman for handling your luggage to and from your room. Yet when you get your bill there's a Portage Fee for the bellman's services. Even if you take your own luggage to your room, that Portage Fee is still on your bill. The addition of a Portage Fee is especially likely to show up on your bill if you're part of a group that's been given a special negotiated rate, such as a conference group or a tour.  That pretty much cancels out your special reduced group room rate.

7) Valet Parking: The good old days of self-parking for a few dollars a day are long gone in most major cities at luxury hotels. It's now valet parking only at an additional charge on your bill of anywhere from $20 to $50/day and of course there's the tip to the valet every time he brings you your car, not to mention how long you have to wait.

6) Energy Surcharges: Be sure to read the fine print on your confirmation, especially if you book through a consolidator or discounter. You're likely to find more than one "extra" that will be added to your bill. A particularly irritating surcharge is the energy one. It's logical to believe the cost of the electricity used when turning on the air conditioning or the television would be included in the base room rate. Then when you see an additional fee for the fact that you have actually used the electricity in your room…well, do I need to elaborate?

5) Luggage Storage Fee: Having a place to store your bags after check-out time when you still have several hours before you need to go to the airport used to be a nice option provided by the hotel for its guests. Not any more. Be prepared to be charged per bag for sticking them in a closet until you're ready to leave.

4) In-Room Safe Fees: Another item charged to you on a per day basis simply because it's there. Whether you actually use it or not doesn't seem to matter.

3) Fitness Center Fees: What used to be no charge at many hotels is now a use fee. It's not necessarily a charge simply because it's available. So far, it's a daily use charge. So far.

2) Mini-Bar Restocking Fee: We all know how horribly over priced all the items are in the mini-bar. You'd think that would surely be enough profit for the hotel when a guest opens the mini-bar just to see what's in it and ends up taking one little thing. But apparently that's not the case. Now, in additional to all the profits derived from the items in the mini-bar, there's also a charge for replacing that little bag of peanuts.

1) Early Check-In Fees: It used to be that if the hotel had an available room that had been cleaned after an early check-out or had been vacant the previous night, they would let you have a room earlier than the normal mid to late afternoon check-in time as a courtesy. This was especially nice if you arrived early that morning after an overnight flight. Well, there's another perk that's mostly gone by the wayside. Some unscrupulous establishments won't even apprise you of the additional charge. It simply shows up on your bill.

I really love to travel, but I have to admit that it's becoming more and more difficult to enjoy. Have any of you had any strange charges from hotels?  Some sort of "fee" that showed up on your bill as a complete surprise?