Seeking overwhelming choices in electoral politics

Matthew Dowd [right] talking to a Republican who will never leave the past

One big way I have changed is how I look at politics, governing and, ultimately, all relationships. In the past I was very adept when I worked in campaigns on both sides of the aisle in coming up with strategies and tactics that would provide a candidate or a legislative effort with just enough votes to win. We call it the 51 percent effort. You figure out the coalition to just barely win, then create the campaign to achieve that. And this is what is employed in most instances in nearly every campaign and legislative effort.

And it is these 51 percent campaigns that have helped contribute to a very divided and polarized country. I have remorse over my own involvement in them. Today I believe our country needs something more, and something very different. We need to design campaigns and policy efforts that will receive overwhelming support…

These 51 percent campaigns have contributed to a lack of governing ability by politicians from the White House to state houses around the country. Without real mandates or without having run campaigns targeted at a huge majority, leaders are left with very little room for error and political capital. So many leaders are faced with 49% of the voters totally out of sync with their leadership, and they have difficult time governing, floundering throughout their terms…

And turning to our personal lives, I have come to the same conclusion that we shouldn’t settle for bare majorities in the choices we make in life. In the few big decisions we get to make in this world from who we choose as partners or companions to the work we do, we should strive to make decisions that are from a place of overwhelming joy. We shouldn’t be putting together a balance-sheet approach to these decisions that, when calculated, barely get us in the positive direction.

I disagree with half of Matthew Dowd’s analysis. Yes, I agree about the 51% – not about why we are where we are.

The essentials of his analysis presumes both halves of our shoddy two-party-limited electoral system are equally interested in moving living standards forward as a nation. That hasn’t been the case in decades. The decline began with the adoption of the Southern Strategy by Nixon and the Republican Party.

Before that, the racist vote in the United States belonged to the Democrats. It was an inheritance that traveled a convoluted path from the Civil War up into the start of FDR’s New Deal. Nixon saw the Democrats were becoming an instrument of equal opportunity. And he realized he could fire the coals of racism and take the electoral loyalty of disaffected whites over to the party that didn’t care at all about their economic lot – but, would feed on their ignorance and hatred.

Time passes and regardless of success and failure, the progressive movement ain’t going away. Building a better life on Earth is still the most natural way to live. And, so, the equally natural reaction of that class of people profiting from bigotry and hatred has been to fight the most stubborn retreat in American history.

As I would expect of someone who lives like the old-fashioned Christians I grew up with, Matthew Dowd also applies his philosophy to the non-political side of his life. Frankly, that works pretty well. Get folks away from the ideology they’ve been sold to govern the political side of their lives and humanity takes hold on its own. An important conclusion he draws from his own experience. For that he deserves respect and praise.

Iceland is tops in gender equality – did the US make the Top 10? how about the Top 20?

Iceland is the most advanced country in the world in gender equality, the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report said Friday.

The report ranks 136 countries on their abilities to close the gender gap in four key areas — economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, health and survival, and educational attainment.

Iceland was ranked No. 1 for the fifth year in a row, with Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Philippines coming in second through fifth, respectively, the report said…

Germany was the highest-ranked G20 country at 14th, falling by one place from 2012. Britain stayed the same at 18th, Canada moved up a spot to 20th and the United States fell a spot to 23rd. Russia ranked 61st, China 69th and India 101st. The lowest ranking countries were Chad at 134th, Pakistan at 135th and Yemen at 136th.

You can download the whole report over here.

There were a couple of surprises. You’d think with the emphasis placed on gender-equality awareness by the Obama White House, the US might have progressed a little bit. Sadly, no.

German government gets knickers bunched over deity gender

A minister in Angela Merkel’s government has sparked a pre-Christmas row among Germany’s ruling parties by suggesting God be referred to with the neutral article “das” instead of the masculine “der”.

Family Minister Kristina Schroeder made the comments when asked in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit how she explained to her young daughter the use of the masculine form for God.

“The article is not important,” she responded, adding that it was fine to use “das” instead of the traditional “der” when referring to God.

The remarks were immediately denounced by members of Schroeder’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU)…

Stefan Mueller, a CSU lawmaker, said he was “bewildered” by Schroeder’s “inappropriate” comments.

When pressed on the matter at a government news conference on Friday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert backed Schroeder.

“If you believe in God, the article is not important,” he said. “If you speak to God in a different way, the prayers are still heard.”

Cripes. Another herd of elected officials with nothing better to do, eh?

Thailand’s election officials confused by ladyboy ID photos

Thailand’s community of “ladyboys” have complained…they were being marginalized in next week’s general election because their ID card pictures were too confusing for polling officials.

It is the latest in a series of gripes among members of the Trans-Female Association of Thailand which groups transgenders and transsexuals known collectively as “katoeys” or “ladyboys.”

“We have a big problem when we use our identity cards in banks, schools, hospitals and now when we vote,” said Yollada Suanyoc, president of the 2,500-strong organization.

The picture may show a woman but it says ‘mister’ on the card. Or the picture may show a teenage boy and the person now looks like a woman.”

Everyone in Thailand has to carry a national ID card with them at all times from the age of 15. It is renewed every seven years.

Transgenders and transsexuals are accepted in Thailand more readily than in most other countries, with one new airline hiring only ladyboys as cabin crew. They are especially common in cosmetics shops and health stores and in bars in some of Bangkok’s racier entertainment districts.

“The government says if they change our title and sex, it’s going to make society confused,” she said. “The government worries that they won’t know about our past.”

As usual, it’s the stodgy bureaucrats in government who are confused at best, as likely to be stuck in the treacle of their own ignorance and misunderstanding.

46% of Mississippi Republicans would ban interracial marriage

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Almost half of Mississippi Republicans say they believe interracial marriage should be outlawed, a poll indicates.

A survey conducted March 24-27 and released Friday by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C., showed 46 percent of Republicans in Mississippi said they believe interracial marriage should be illegal.

The survey indicated 40 percent said they felt mixed-race weddings should remain legal, while 14 percent said they were not sure.

The poll showed 76 percent of those who responded considered themselves somewhat or very conservative with 68 percent of the respondents age 46 or older.

Interracial marriage in Mississippi became legal in 1967 after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the state’s laws.

Is there anything that would differentiate the essential outlook on life of a Mississippi Republican from, say, AlQaeda? Aside from the fact that the Republicans probably pray more often.

The detailed survey is over here [.pdf].

Tiny African nation leads in equal opportunity, equal rights

Ntlhoi Motsamai – Speaker of the National Assembly

Lesotho sits like pearl in a shell, surrounded by the land mass of South Africa. But this tiny kingdom of 1.8 million people boasts another jewel, which is perhaps astonishing given its size.

Lesotho is ranked eighth in the world by the World Economic Forum when it comes to bridging the gap between the sexes. The reasons are cultural, political and economic, but one explanation keeps being repeated when you probe the gender issue, and it relates to Lesotho’s recent past.

Historically, large numbers of men from Lesotho crossed the border to work in South Africa’s mines, forcing women to step into their shoes and take up school places and jobs. Many of the men have now come back, having been retrenched from the mines, and they face a more female-focused world.

Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, Lesotho’s minister for health and social affairs, attributes this to the government’s pro-women policies. But more than that, she emphasises Lesotho’s culture of learning. “The defining factor is education. I think a lot of women have realised early on that they have to educate their daughters,” she says.

Primary education is free in Lesotho and literacy rates among women exceed those of men – with 95% of women able to read and write, compared with 83% of men. This is filtering into the jobs market – the chief of police is a woman, so too is the speaker of parliament and there are at least a dozen senior female judges presiding over the country’s courts…

Fifty per cent of Lesotho’s population live in the rural areas. Until recently, customary laws applied in the countryside dictated that women were virtually redundant when it came to making key decisions in the home…

The statistics that put Lesotho at the top table in the equality game may look impressive but they risk glossing over the challenges. There may be less of a gap in health, education and political participation than in many other countries, and clearly there is greater political will to recognise the important role of women in society.

The article walks away from the ideological quotient. Religion is a powerful factor in a society still stuck into peasant lifestyles, rural world view. A contradiction in terms if there ever was one.

The predominant religious force is Christianity. The missionaries who accompanied colonial exploitation did their job well. Fortunately, folks haven’t much of a tendency towards Lord’s Army nutballism. Still, acceptance of the status quo, Christian fatalism, distracts attempts to modernize further.

Do you want to know if a terrible illness is in your future?

Consumers may place a high value on information to predict their future health, and may be willing to pay out of pocket to get it. In a national survey conducted by researchers at Tufts Medical Center, roughly 76% of people indicated that they would take a hypothetical predictive test to find out if they will later develop Alzheimer’s disease, breast or prostate cancer, or arthritis…

The study examined individuals’ willingness to take and pay for hypothetical predictive laboratory tests in which there would be no direct treatment consequences. Overall, researchers found that in most situations, people were willing to pay for this ‘value of knowing’—even if the tests were not perfectly accurate.

Responses to the survey varied according to information provided about the disease risk profile and the accuracy of the hypothetical test. Of the 1463 respondents, willingness to be tested was greatest for prostate cancer (87% of respondents), followed by breast cancer (81%), arthritis (79%), and Alzheimer’s disease (72%). Average willingness to pay varied from roughly $300 for an arthritis test to $600 for a prostate cancer test.

This study brings us a step closer to understanding people’s preferences and motivations for wanting a diagnostic test, even if it has no bearing on subsequent medical treatment,” says lead author Peter J. Neumann…“While we have to proceed cautiously in this area, given that tests have costs and risks as well as benefits, our study suggests that many people value information—both for its own sake and because they will adjust lifestyle and behavior choices accordingly…”

In the Tufts Medical Center study, the researchers also found:

Gender, age, and education influence test participation. About 24% of individuals sampled elected not to take the predictive test. Generally, older respondents, women, those with a bachelor’s or higher degree, and those with healthier behaviors were less inclined to undergo testing, even if it were free. Among those not wanting the test, major concerns expressed included the cost of the test, living with the knowledge of one’s disease risk, and the lack of preventive measures.

One aspect of the results I found interesting was what happens when folks “got the bad news”?

Faced with positive test results, most said they would spend more time with loved ones, put their finances in order, travel more. Depending on politics/philosophy, I wonder if any of those tested contemplated taking anyone else off the planet at the same time?

Daily, we read about murder-suicides where it’s possible the healthy half of the relationship was killed before a suicide – as well as the other way round. I’ve been to funerals in the Navajo Nation where folks killed the favorite horse of someone who had died – and buried the horse alongside. And, yes, I’ve known folks who contemplated the possibility of a terminal illness and going about ridding this Earth of several lowlife creeps – on the way out!

Fake doctor jailed for giving breast exams in bars

Cripes! The headline is just about everything you need to know, right?

An Idaho judge on Wednesday set bond at $100,000 for a Boise woman police say posed as a physician and duped at least two other women into having their breasts examined by her at Boise-area nightclubs.

Kristina Ross, 37, remains in Ada County Jail in Boise on two felony counts of practicing medicine without a license…

As part of her ruse, Ross gave the women the telephone number of a real licensed plastic surgeon in Boise, the state capital, authorities said.

Staff at that medical office became alarmed at the number of calls they received from women in recent weeks attempting to confirm appointments or surgeries with a Berlyn Aussieahshowna, according to charging documents.

And, then, there’s this twist to the plot:

The suspect’s gender is unclear. Idaho court records show that Ross was arrested for petty theft in the spring and that the arrest warrant was issued to a Kristoffer Jon Ross.

The Idaho Statesman website reported that Ross has a previous criminal record as a man but identifies herself as a woman and was booked into Ada County Jail as a female…

Court appearance is set for December 1st and I can hardly wait.

Dating site hustler stole $1 million without a single date

Prosecutors say a 65-year-old British Columbia man ran dating Web sites targeting Americans that took in more than $1 million but never provided a dating match.

Investigators said Barrie Turner, of Delta, B.C., operated 200 Web sites, some in business since 2005, that scammed clients with fees as high as $997 for a six-month membership and the promise of two to seven introductions a month, The Seattle Times reported.

Turner was arrested Friday after crossing the border into the United States to pick up mail at a post-office box in Point Roberts, Wash..

He created fake profiles of “eligible” singles and sent them to customers of his sites as potential matches, court papers said. Customers who responded would get e-mailed responses from fictitious potential matches saying say they’re no longer available, prosecutors say.

The investigation has not yet identified any customers who received the services advertised,” said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The sites included Executive Jewish Dating, Executive Catholic Dating, Executive Gay Dating and Executive dating sites for U.S. cities and interests.

Ain’t nothing like feeling you’re special.