Showing posts with label US. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US. Show all posts

February 27, 2016

The Most Dangerous Places in the US (Interactive map)

Although the world seems like an increasingly dangerous place abroad, with the rise of ISIS and widespread collapse of regimes, violent crime in the U.S. has continued its decline. While the U.S. is getting safer overall, high rates of crime continue to torment sections of the country, impacting people’s life decisions regarding housing, schooling, and travel. FindTheHome looked at the 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Report (latest complete data), visualizing the data and identifying the counties with the highest violent crime rates. Violent crime is defined as offenses that involve force or threat of force. This list contains the top 30 counties in the U.S. with the highest crime rates per 100,000 people. The violent crime rate is the total number of crimes reported to law enforcement agencies within a county per 100,000 people. The data analysts used population estimates from the 2014 American Community Survey. Only counties with a population greater than 1,000 are considered. 

October 2, 2014

Henry Kissinger ‘Recommended Smashing Cuba by air strikes’ in 1976

 This 1972 file photo shows Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Communist party speaking to the press in Havana, Cuba

President Gerald Ford, (R) and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1975
Kissinger (left) has been described as being 'apoplectic' about Cuba's role in Africa in discussions with Ford  
Why would Assange target Kissinger?
US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger drew up plans to "smash Cuba" with air strikes nearly 40 years ago, government papers obtained by researchers show.

He was angered by Cuba's 1976 military intervention in Angola and was considering retaliation if Cuban forces were deployed elsewhere in Africa. 

The information comes from documents declassified at the request of the National Security Archive.

They show that Mr Kissinger was eager for the US to stand up to Cuba. 

The documents from the Gerald R Ford Presidential Library show that US officials devised plans to attack ports and military installations in Cuba in addition to measures ordered by Mr Kissinger to deploy Marine battalions based at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay to "clobber" the Cubans.
Kissinger... was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro's head”

Mr Kornbluh told the New York Times that Mr Kissinger was angered by what he felt was the decision by then Cuban President Fidel Castro to pursue his own foreign policy agenda in Africa rather than normalise relations with the United States.

The newspaper reports that Mr Kissinger has refused to comment on its story.

Mr Kissinger, secretary of state from 1973-77, initially supported underground efforts to improve relations with Cuba. 

But the newly released documents show he was infuriated by Cuban President Fidel Castro’s decision in late 1975 to send troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas. 

Mr Kissinger's planned intervention came 15 years after the Bay of Pigs fiasco of April 1961
"Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro's head," Mr Kornbluh was quoted in the newspaper as saying.

“You can see in the conversation with [US President] Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic," Mr Kornbluh said, describing the then secretary of state's language about doing harm to Cuba as "quintessentially aggressive".

"I think we are going to have to smash Castro," Mr Kissinger told Mr Ford in a White House meeting in February 1976, adding Mr Ford should defer action until after the presidential election that November.

"I agree," Mr Ford said.

US contingency plans drawn up on the options warned any military aggression by the US in Cuba could lead to a direct confrontation with the USSR.


Henry Kissinger was initially supportive of attempts to normalise relations with Fidel Castro's government
"The circumstances that could lead the United States to select a military option against Cuba should be serious enough to warrant further action in preparation for general war," one document said.

The plans were never undertaken, as Jimmy Carter was elected president that year.

Mr Kissinger's planned intervention came 15 years after a group of some 1,500 Cuban exiles trained and financed by the CIA launched an ill-fated invasion of Cuba from the sea in the Bay of Pigs.

The plan was to overthrow Fidel Castro and his revolution.

Instead, it turned into a humiliating defeat which pushed Cuba firmly into the arms of the Soviet Union and has soured US-Cuban relations to this day.

Henry Kissinger (left) is the oldest surviving former secretary of state in a list that includes James Baker, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton 

Supporters of Mr Kissinger say he played a key role in US foreign policy under presidents Nixon and Ford at the height of the Cold War, pointing out that he brokered detente with the Soviet Union, paved the way for President Nixon's landmark visit to China and who, they argue, negated the Communist threat in Latin America.

They argue that he was instrumental in securing peace deals in the Middle East and Vietnam.

But critics say he was the orchestrator of the controversial carpet bombing of neutral Cambodia during the Vietnam War and helped Pakistan, Greece, Indonesia and Chile to embark on acts of repression.

September 23, 2014

New Pew Survey Suggests Gay Marriage Support is leveling off


A survey released Monday from the Pew Research Center indicates American support for same-sex marriage could be leveling off after several years of dramatic growth in acceptance of equal rights for gays and lesbians.
The study's authors caution it's too soon to draw any definitive conclusions. But the new poll released Monday found a 5 percentage point drop since February, from 54 percent to 49 percent, in Americans who want legal recognition for same-sex relationships. The percentage of those opposed increased during that same period, from 39 percent in February to 41 percent last month.
The poll of 2,002 adults, conducted Sept. 2-9, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
"Since we've seen this upward trend for so long, we're cautious because it's too early to say what this means for long-term trends," said Jessica Martinez, a researcher in Pew's Religion and Public Life Project. "As we continue to ask this question in other surveys, we'll keep an eye on where this moves."
The findings were part of a survey in which nearly three-quarters of Americans said religious influence in public life was waning and most saw that as a negative trend. About half of respondents said churches and houses of worship should speak out more on public issues.
Nearly half of all the respondents said businesses that provide services for weddings, such as florists, should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples if the owners have religious objections. The Pew survey also found the percentage of people who consider gay relationships sinful had increased from 45 percent a year ago to 50 percent last month, although other surveys have found that people with religious objections don't always oppose legal recognition for gay relationships.
The campaign for recognition of gay marriage has grown to become a broad mass movement supported in recent years by a majority of Americans. A decade ago, only about 30 percent of Americans accepted same-sex marriage. Now, 19 states and the District of Columbia recognize gay marriage, while petitions for recognition in several other states are moving through the courts.
The Gallup organization said support for gay marriage first rose above the 50 percent mark in its surveys in 2011, and has remained above half since. Gallup's latest survey, this past May, found acceptance of gay marriage at a new high of 55 percent. But the group's researchers found support was increasing by smaller margins than it had during the era of fastest growth so far, between 2009 and 2011.
Martinez said the drop in support in the Pew poll was not driven by any particular religious or political group in the sample, but was a change across the board. Pew used similar groups of respondents in terms of political and religious views for both surveys, she said. The number of Americans who told Pew they were undecided on gay marriage increased from 7 percent in February to 10 percent last month.
Robert Jones, chief executive of Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit group that conducts surveys on religion and public life, said it's particularly challenging to interpret surveys on gay marriage because the numbers have changed so dramatically over a very short period. He noted that support has been driven by younger people, who tend to be far more accepting of same-sex relationships than their parents. He said polling by his organization over this past summer showed fluctuations in support, but backing remained between 56 percent and 51 percent.
"The fundamentals underneath the trend remain very solid — in the generational breaks that are driving this," Jones said. "The long-term curve on this trend doesn't show any retreat."

August 13, 2014

US Reassures China about encircling it with Australia and the Philippines

 War games US and Philippines

THE United States stressed Tuesday it welcomes the rise of China and wants to work constructively with Beijing as it signed a deal to deploy 2,500 Marines to Australia as part of its "rebalance" to Asia.
China bristled when the agreement to deploy Marines to the northern city of Darwin was first announced by President Barack Obama in 2011.
But after signing the deal at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Sydney, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was not interested in conflict with the Asian powerhouse.
"We welcome the rise of China as a global partner, hopefully as a powerful economy, as a full participating constructive member of the international community," he said.
"We are not seeking conflict and confrontation. And our hope is that China will likewise take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of it and be that cooperative partner."
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier defended the deal to bring US Marines and Air Force personnel to the Northern Territory, denying it was aimed at China which is embroiled in maritime disputes with neighbours.
"That's not what it is directed to do at all. It's about working closely with the United States to ensure that we can work on regional peace and security," she told a radio programme.
"The United States is rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific so it's ways we can work together to support economic development as well as security and peace."
After the talks Bishop, who also hosted US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the discussions were broad -- ranging from tensions on the Korean peninsula to the crisis in Ukraine and to conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan.
- Threat of foreign jihadists -
The threat of foreign jihadist militants fighting in these conflicts and then returning home radicalised was also explored. The US and Australia agreed to raise the issue at the United Nations.
Kerry said this problem, highlighted by images in local media of the seven-year-old son of an Australian jihadist in Syria holding a severed head, underscored the degree to which Islamic State fighters were "so far beyond the pale".
"This image, perhaps even an iconic photograph, is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photos ever displayed," Kerry said.
"It's no accident that every country in the region is opposed to ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant)."
Bishop made no comment about the prospect of an increased US military presence beyond the Marines, some 1,200 of whom are already in the country.
But a communique issued after the talks said that enhanced aircraft and naval cooperation was discussed, while the allies would also examine options for Australia's contributions to ballistic missile defence in the region.
Bishop said there existed between Australia and the United States "a clear instinct for collaboration across a wide area of endeavour".
"There is a desire to share the burden of implementing regional and global peace and prosperity, security and stability," she said.
Bishop added that there was no more important security partner for Australia than the US and their longstanding alliance "had never been stronger".
But she said Canberra did not envisage Australian troops would return to Iraq, where the US is carrying out air strikes and humanitarian airdrops to try to combat jihadist fighters.
However, Australia has offered support for humanitarian relief.
Kerry also ruled out sending troops to Iraq.
Speaking at the start of the talks at Sydney's harbourside Admiralty House, he said the Australia-US relationship was "essential to the stability of the Asia-Pacific region".
“We do face new challenges," he said, citing North Korea and maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

July 29, 2014

US Tells Israel “This is not the way Allies treat each other” (state dept.)


The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry's latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a "misinformation campaign" against the top American diplomat.


"It's simply not the way partners and allies treat each other," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Her comments were echoed by the White House, where National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the U.S. was "dismayed" by mischaracterizations of Kerry's efforts. Israeli media reports have cast Kerry as seeking a cease-fire that is more favorable to Hamas and being dismissive of key Israeli concerns.
Kerry himself, in a speech to the Center for American Progress, noted the criticism but did not give ground.
"Make no mistake, when the people of Israel are rushing to bomb shelters, when innocent Israeli and Palestinian teenagers are abducted and murdered, when hundreds of innocent civilians have lost their lives, I will and we will make no apologies for our engagement," he said.
The coordinated pushback in Washington came amid growing U.S. frustration with Israel as Palestinian civilian casualties mount amid a sustained Israeli air and ground war in the Gaza Strip. In recent days, U.S. officials have been using subtle yet noticeably tougher language in pressing Israel to accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire.
The U.S. has made little progress in achieving that objective. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised speech Monday that his country must be ready for "a prolonged campaign" against Hamas in Gaza.
As Kerry returned from the region over the weekend, Israeli media commentators leveled almost nonstop criticism of his attempts to bring Qatar and Turkey — two countries viewed by Israel as strong Hamas supporters — into the cease-fire negotiations. Kerry was also accused of abandoning some of Israel's key demands during the negotiations, including demilitarizing Gaza.
In trying to implement the cease-fire over the weekend, "U.S. Secretary of State of State John Kerry ruined everything," wrote columnist Ari Shavit in Monday's Haaretz, Israel's leading liberal newspaper. "Very senior officials in Jerusalem described the proposal that Kerry put on the table as a 'strategic terrorist attack.'"
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer sought to distance his government from that view, saying, "The criticism of Secretary Kerry for his good faith efforts to advance a sustainable cease-fire is unwarranted."
"There is broad understanding between Israel and the United States about the principles for a sustainable cease-fire, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the United States to advance that goal and a durable solution to the problems in Gaza," Dermer said Monday.
U.S. officials disputed the notion that Kerry had formally presented Israel a cease-fire proposal and cast the document in question as a draft given to the Israelis as part of an effort to gain their input in seeking a weeklong cessation of hostilities. Officials said the draft was based on an earlier Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel had accepted but Hamas had rejected.
Psaki said the U.S. was "surprised and obviously disappointed" to see the draft proposal made public. She also argued that there was a difference between the characterization of Kerry's handling of the negotiations by Israeli media and what government officials were telling the U.S. privately.
"No one is calling to complain about the secretary's handling of the situation," Psaki said.
Earlier, Kerry had sought to debunk the notion that the U.S. had backed away from its support for the demilitarization of Gaza, which has been a top priority for Israel.
"Any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups," Kerry said.
While the Obama administration maintains that it supports Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas, officials are increasingly worried about the civilian casualties in Gaza. The White House has also taken a shaper tone in its characterization of President Barack Obama's calls with Netanyahu, noting in the readout of a conversation on Sunday that the U.S. has a "serious and growing concern" about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.
More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed over the past three weeks, Palestinian health officials say. According to the United Nations, about three-fourths of them were civilians. Israel has lost 43 soldiers and two civilians, as well as a Thai worker.
_ AP

July 21, 2014

HIV Infections dropped by a third over a decade in USA


The rate of HIV infections diagnosed in the United States has fallen by a third over the past decade, researchers say.
After examining cases from all 50 states, the study found that the diagnosis rate fell to 16.1 per 100,000 people in 2011 from 24.1 in 2002.
Experts celebrated the findings as a hopeful sign that the Aids epidemic may be slowing in the country.
However, there was a rise in new cases of HIV among gay and bisexual men aged under 24 and over 45.
HIV is the virus that causes Aids, a disease which destroys the immune system.
The World Health Organization estimates 35 million people globally have the virus. More than 1 million people in the US are thought to be infected, with 18% unaware of their infections.
From 2002 to 2011, 493,372 people were diagnosed with HIV in the US, researchers said.
As well as an overall decline, declines were also seen in the rates for men, women, whites, blacks, Hispanics, heterosexuals, injection drug users and most age groups.
Researchers said the only group in which diagnoses increased was gay and bisexual men.
"Among men who have sex with men, unprotected risk behaviours in the presence of high prevalence and unsuppressed viral load may continue to drive HIV transmission," the report said.
The study also found diagnosis rates dropped even as the amount of testing rose.
In 2006, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended routine HIV testing for all Americans aged 13 to 64.
The percentage of adults ever tested for HIV increased from 37% in 2000 to 45% in 2010, according to CDC data.
Although experts say reasons for the US decline in infections are unknown, it is in line with a global downturn in the Aids epidemic.
Last week, the United Nations said that there were 2.1 million new HIV infections worldwide in 2013, down 38% from 2001.
The study was released online by the Journal of the American Medical Association ahead of the International Aids Conference that starts in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.

May 17, 2014

Gay or Straight are you ready for gay marriage? The judges are..

Boston, Ma., 6/14/07 Erin Dunn gets hugged after hearing that the state Legislature had voted against a proposed 2008 ballot question to ban gay marriage. The vote followed 3 and a half years of controversy and reaffirmed the state's first-in-the-nation same-sex marriage ruling, protecting the rights of gays and lesbians to wed in Massachusetts until at least 2012.. ( David L. Ryan Globe staff photo ) pow061107

This has been a big, historic week for gay marriage in America. On Saturday,Arkansas issued its first same-sex marriage licenses following a ruling that overturned the state's ban. On Tuesday, an Idaho judge struck down the state's constitutional prohibition against gay unions; the first wedding ceremonies will take place today. And on Wednesday, a federal appeals court heard oral arguments in Bostic v. Schaefer, the highly anticipated challenge to the same-sex-marriage prohibition in Virginia.
The important theme here is that the rapid expansion of gay marriage is being led almost exclusively by judges. Although there were three upheld court rulings in favor of gay unions before summer of 2013, most of the states that allowed gay marriage before the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor got there with legislation or ballot initiatives. Since Windsor, which struck down the federal ban on gay marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act, there have been nine rulings expanding the definition of marriage. Almost every state where same-sex unions remain illegal now faces a court challenge.
It's not a coincidence that the most liberal, pro-gay areas of the country were the first to embrace legal same-sex unions at the ballot box or the statehouse. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state senators in Vermont could afford to cheerlead for marriage equality; their constituents agreed with them. In these areas of the country, people's beliefs eased the way for social change.
But it's unclear how popular beliefs will evolve in the places where the future of same-sex marriage is now being decided. In 2004, 75 percent of Arkansans voted for a constitutional amendment that stated that "marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman." A decade later, clerks in counties across the state are issuing marriage licenses to gay women and men.

Legislative Action for and Against Same-Sex Marriage

Note that legislative efforts in a couple of states were mixed. In Arizona, for example, voters rejected an anti-gay marriage ballot in 2006 and then accepted it in 2008. The New Jersey legislature would have passed legislation enabling same-sex unions in 2012, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill. (Source: Freedom to Marry, Pew Research Center)

In the coming months, similar rulings may make same-sex marriage legal in many of other states that passed constitutional bans with strong majorities. More than three-quarters of Oklahomans voted for an amendment to outlaw gay unions in 2004; a ruling against that law is awaiting appeal. The same is true of Texas, where 76 percent of its residents voted for a similar amendment in 2005. Next month, oral arguments will be heard in a challenge to Louisiana's ban, which nearly 80 percent of residents voted for in 2004; many other case developments are expected in throughout the summer and early fall.

U.S. Court Cases on Same-Sex Marriage 

Note that the pending court cases in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee all concern the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, not the legality of same-sex marriage itself. Although no cases are currently pending in South Dakota, one may soon be filed. (Source: Freedom to Marry, Pew Research Center)

Pew Research Center

A lot has changed in the last decade—and not just in terms of legal status. In Pew surveys of nationwide attitudes toward same-sex marriage in 2012 and 2013, researchers found that many people had changed their minds over the course of 10 years. The graphic at right, for example, shows just how much perspectives have shifted: Last year, 60 percent of people said "homosexuality should be accepted by society," up from 47 percent in 2003. And the percentage of people who said they have a "favorable opinion" of gays and lesbians was up by 16 and 19 percentage points, respectively.
But even though Americans have clearly become more comfortable with homosexuality, the 2013 poll numbers indicate significant ambivalence. A majority of people still say that same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs. Forty-five percent of people believe it is a sin to participate in "homosexual behavior." Forty percent would be upset if their child were gay or lesbian, and perhaps most tellingly, only slightly more than half of people say they have a favorable opinion of gay men.

Pew Research Center

These views vary a lot by region. This geographic breakdown of attitudes toward the LGBT community from 2012 is slightly dated, but it gives a good sense of the places where people are most uncomfortable with homosexuality.
The states with the strongest opposition to gay marriage? Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. The states where gay marriage bans have recently been struck down, out-of-state unions have been ordered to be recognized, or rulings are pending appeal? Among them: Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Cases in Alabama and Louisiana are scheduled for hearings and arguments imminently.
This means the legal battle over same-sex marriage is about to take on a new feel. It's moving south, to the places in America where people feel the strongest moral opposition to homosexuality. As Arkansas has shown, the citizens of these states don't need to approve of gay marriage for it to become legal. Judges all over the country are ruling that bans against these unions are unconstitutional; from this standpoint, the moral sentiments of Arkansans and Texans and Oklahomans are irrelevant.
But it's unclear what the cultural reverberations will be. Perhaps the trend toward acceptance of the gay community will continue; as same-sex marriage becomes legal in more and more states, it will probably start to seem less novel and more mundane, just like every other marriage. This might help people feel more comfortable with homosexuality in general.
There will always be people in America who object to gay marriage, not to mention gay sex, or even "gay culture," which is part of what shapes those "favorable" and "unfavorable" opinions cited in the Pew study. For some, these are a deeply seated religious beliefs, and those are unlikely to change, regardless of what happens with same-sex marriage. But cultural changes started the chain reaction of legalization, and in turn, that chain reaction has helped shape culture. Individual judges will define gay marriage in the heartland, Dixieland, the Great Lakes states. But in time, gay marriage itself may come to change how American think.

April 18, 2014

India Has Gone Back in Time: US Watches with Concern

It should be clear to all, that the government of the United States is changed it’s human and civil rights policy for the LGBT Community. The president in a permanent way had said so and his cabinet, with the foreign service have been apprised of these changes that have been in place for three years now. The Supreme court of the land in all it’s ruling to date has supported the civil rights of all Americans including LGTB and the UN in it’s slow mechanism has for many years included those rights as human and civil rights. Having pointed to all those facts there is a country which many times has been referred as the largest Democracy in the world (true or not) which has reverse it self and it’s Supreme Court decision manned by old pre colonists from the times of the British empires have decided to go back in time make the laws as they were back then. 
"Despite progress in equal rights for LGBT persons around the world, our work is far from finished," Richard E Hoagland, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said on Wednesday in his address to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Hoagland said with about 80 countries worldwide criminalising homosexuality, LGBT persons around the world remain vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, harassment, discrimination and violence.
Monitoring gay rights situation in India: US

Monitoring gay rights situation in India: US

Even today, five countries still define homosexuality as a crime punishable by death, he noted. The US closely follow the situation in Uganda, where the newly enacted "anti-homosexuality act" not only provides for life imprisonment for homosexuality, but places significant restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and assembly for all Ugandans.
"We track the state of affairs in Russia, where the new, so-called anti-gay propaganda law criminalise free expression with respect to what it terms as 'non-traditional' sexual relations. We monitor the situation in India, where the Supreme Court overturned a landmark ruling that found the ban on consensual homosexual activity unconstitutional," he said.
And yet, there are countries that serve as beacons for the rest: countries like Argentina, which pave the way for other countries in South America to follow its lead with progressive LGBT legislation, he said. In South Asia, Nepal's High Court overturned a previous ban on homosexuality in 2007 and has extended legal recognition to third-gender citizens, he added.
“In Pakistan, the Supreme Court recognised a third gender for its hijira community in 2009 and extended third-gender voter IDs to the population; just a few days ago, the Supreme Court in India did the same thing," the State Department official said.
Adam Gonzalez, adamfoxie blog

March 11, 2014

The South No longer “Dallas Buyers Club’ on Gays


  • The Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club brought a vivid reminder of the harsh realities of what it was like to be a gay in the culturally conservative South of the mid-1980s. As someone born, churched, and educated in the South during that era, I remember that the idea of being gay or lesbian was simply dismissed, and the term “homosexuality” was reserved for hushed conversations about those sinful urban areas far north and west of the Mason-Dixon Line. While the film has been in theaters, however, the news has also been filled with contemporary coverage of a remarkable bevy of judicial decisions overturning bans on same-sex marriage in southern states such as Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas. While serving as the lead author of a recent study from the Public Religion Research Institute about attitudes about same-sex marriage, I was astounded at the shifts we found in southern attitudes over the past decade.

    These changes are, of course, happening amid shifts in the country as a whole. Between 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and December 2013, support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry rose 21 percentage points nationwide, from 32 percent to 53 percent. As of the end of 2013, the number of states recognizing same-sex marriages increased to 17 plus the District of Columbia. And there has been enough judicial ferment at the state level that most court observers believe the issue will end up, in the not too distant future, before the U.S. Supreme Court. Our recent study confirms that these changes cannot be explained away as merely another example of federal judicial activism circumventing the will of the people in southern states. Rather, we are witnessing dramatic cultural transformations, which include changing minds even among culturally and religiously conservative Americans in the South.

    Contrary to what one might expect, today southerners are evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. Support has risen from 22 percent in 2003 to 48 percent in 2013.
    Like remnants of Jim Crow-era racism, the hostility toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people depicted in Dallas Buyer’s Club can of course still be found in the contemporary South, but it’s no longer unquestioned. Contrary to what one might expect, today Texans and southerners are evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. Forty-eight percent of Texans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to 49 percent who oppose. Support for same-sex marriage among Texans has doubled during the last 10 years, up from 24 percent a decade ago according to a 2003 poll from Pew Research Center. And despite Texans’ pride in being “like a whole other country,” Texas is no outlier among southern states. In the South overall, support for same-sex marriage has similarly risen from 22 percent in 2003 to 48 percent in 2013.

    Given recent history, these shifts are stunning. Just months after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down its ban on same-sex marriage, voters in many southern states reacted to this Yankee court action by overwhelmingly passing bans in their own states. In August 2004, Missouri was the first state after the Massachusetts ruling to vote on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. At the time, I was teaching at Missouri State University and remember vividly that, among my Springfield neighbors, community leaders, and even among my students at a large state university, few were willing to voice opposition to the ban. It passed with 71 percent of the vote. Three months later, the 2004 national elections saw a sweep of 11 states passing constitutional bans against same-sex marriage, and the following year the Texas constitutional ban passed with the approval of 76 percent of the voters.

    What explains the rising swell of support for same-sex marriage in the South? There are at least three factors driving this rising tide across Dixieland.

    Perhaps not surprisingly given the value southerners place on hospitality, there is a growing "friends and family effect" at work in changing attitudes.
    First, it is difficult to overstate the effect of the generation gap. A decade ago, when most of these same-sex marriage bans were passed across the South, the vast majority of today’s Millennials were neither counted in public-opinion surveys of adults nor eligible to vote. Their attitudes strongly diverge from their parents and grandparents. Nationwide, nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans ages 18 to 33 favor same-sex marriage, compared to just 37 percent of Americans ages 68 and older. This generation gap is evident in virtually every subgroup in America, including among southerners. Today, nearly two thirds of southern Millennials (65 percent) support same-sex marriage, compared to just 28 percent of southerners in the Silent Generation.

    Second, and perhaps not surprisingly given the value southerners place on hospitality, there is a growing “friends and family effect” at work in southerners’ changing attitudes. Despite the generally conservative cultural climate, more gay and lesbian southerners are coming out to those who are close to them. Nearly two thirds of southerners (64 percent) today say they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, a factor that strongly influences support for same-sex marriage. Within that group, 56 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally; among southerners with no gay or lesbian close friends or family members, only 32 percent favor same-sex marriage. These more intimate social connections have moved the debate from the abstract to the personal, to one about the rightness of denying legal recognition for the relationships and commitments of close LGBT friends and family members. For many, if this has not come to seem unjust, it has at least come to feel impolite, a judgment that retains considerable power in the South.

    Finally, there is some evidence in the recent survey that southerners may be rediscovering a value that is part of the historical DNA of groups such as Southern Baptists: the separation of church and state. Southerners are drawing a distinction between personal moral objections to same-gender sexual relationships and support for public policy that would legally recognize same-sex marriage. While 48 percent of southerners now favor same-sex marriage, only 37 percent of southerners say sex between two adults of the same gender is morally acceptable. To put it bluntly, support for the legality of same-sex marriage outpaces moral approval of same-gender sex by double-digit numbers.

    The trend lines all point to a rising swell of support for same-sex marriage—even way down south in Dixie—powered by the coming of age of Millennial southerners, the coming out of LGBT southerners, and the comeback of the principle of separation of church and state. The sea change in southern attitudes signals that old times there may indeed be being forgotten.
    ps: Don’t mention sex

    March 10, 2014

    Have You Heard: The American Dream is Dead

    If you read my posting you know is dead because I’ve giving the evidence for all toe ee that if there was one, it went down for perpetual rest decades ago.

     “The U.S. worked hard to create the American dream of opportunity. But today, that dream is a myth.”
    Economist Joseph Stiglitz, Financial Times
    If you follow the financial news, you already know that the American people are on an epic downer. Just check out some of these headlines I pulled up in a five minute Internet search and you’ll see what I mean:
    “Gloom and doom? Americans more pessimistic about future” Las Vegas Review
    “U.S. Standard of Living Index Sinks to 10-Month Low; Expectations for future standard of living drops more than current satisfaction” Gallup
    “Americans Still Pessimistic About Economy–Almost 70 percent think the economy is in bad shape” Time Magazine
    ‘Slipping behind’: Are we becoming a nation of pessimists?” NBC News
    Income Inequality in the United States Fuels Pessimism and Threatens Social Cohesion” Center for American Progress.
    And here’s my personal favorite:
    “NBC/WSJ poll: 60 percent say fire every member of Congress” NBC News
    Pessimism, pessimism, and more pessimism. It’s like the whole country is on the brink of despair. Maybe Phil Graham was right, after all. Maybe we are just a nation of whiners. But I kind of doubt it. What’s really going on can be summed up in one word: Frustration. People are frustrated with the government, frustrated with their jobs, frustrated with their shitty, stagnant wages, frustrated with their droopy incomes, frustrated with their ripoff health care, frustrated with living paycheck to paycheck, frustrated with their measly cat-food retirement plan, frustrated with their dissembling, flannel-mouth president, frustrated with the fact that their kids can’t find jobs, and frustrated with the prevaricating US media that keeps palavering about that delusional chimera called the American Dream.
    What dream? The dream that America is the land of “land of opportunity”?
    Tell that to the 23-year old college grad who’s stuck delivering pizzas to try to put a dent in the $65,000 tab he ran up getting his Masters in engineering. See how much he believes in the Dream.
    All that stuff about “working hard and playing by the rules” has turned out to be pure bunkum, just like the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” horsecrap or the “owning a home enters one into the middle class” thing. What a freaking joke. 6 million people have been booted out of their homes since the bubble burst, and the Pollyannas on TV still drone on about “owning a home”. Get the gun!
    No one’s buying that garbage anymore. Just like no one believes that our economic system is “a level playing field”, or that our kids will have a better standard of living then our own, or that tomorrow will be better than today. Every one of those “shining city on a hill” promises have turned out to be complete hogwash. The only city on a hill you’re going to find in the US, is the privately-owned gulag where petty drug offenders are locked up for life so some chiseling hedge fund manager can report record profits to his shareholders. There’s your shining city in a nutshell.
    The American people aren’t whiners. They’re just tired of the lies, that’s all. Look; the country was in the throes of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, but the American people rallied, right? They came out by the millions to vote for the dazzling young senator from Chicago who was going to change everything and restore America to its formal glory.
    So much for that fairytale. Can you really blame the people for believing the hype and pegging their hopes on a man who never had any intention of keeping his word?
    No, of course not. The people did what was expected of them. They cast their vote thinking that their vote mattered, thinking they could change the system if a solid majority supported it. But they were hoodwinked, right? Because that’s not the way the system really works. In fact, the system doesn’t really work at all. Power is just handed from one group of scheming elites to the next behind the laughable, public relations charade we call political campaigns. The whole process is designed to pull the wool over people’s eyes, and to avoid the possibility of any real change. Isn’t that how it works?
    So now we’re stuck with candidate Tweedledee and everything keeps getting worse. Unemployment is deliberately kept high so big business has a permanently large pool of desperate workers it can hire for a pittance. All the profits from productivity-gains are carved up by moneybags CEOs or divvied up among shareholders instead of going to working people. And the banks are given money at zero rates so they can roll over their gargantuan pile of toxic loans at no cost to themselves or increase the leverage on their illicit hedging operations which they keep off their balance sheets and away from the prying eyes of government regulators. The entire system is rigged from top to bottom to make sure that no one who isn’t part of the inner circle is ever able to lift himself above his present, clock-punching, mind-numbing, 9 to 5 drudgery.
    And now things are suddenly getting worse. And they’re getting worse because the fatcats who run the system think that working people have had it too easy for too long and they want to tighten things up. They want to trim the deficits, dismantle vital social programs, and slash the unemployment rolls. As one Paul Ryan opined, “We don’t want the safetynet to become a hammock.” Indeed. Workers, you see, have had it too cushy up to now, so Obama ‘s going to change all that.
    The American people know what’s going on. They’re not as dumb as the jowly, stuffed-shirt pundits on CNBC and Bloomberg think. They can see beyond the lies and political bloviating. They know their goose is cooked. That’s why they’re so depressed, because they feel powerless. Pessimistic, frustrated and powerless. And for good reason. Take a look at this from Farai Chideya at Huffington Post:
    “According to the Pew Research Center, in the first two years following the Great Recession, 93 percent of Americans lost net worth. Only 7 percent got wealthier. Forty-three percent of those sampled in a nationally-weighted survey I recently commissioned believe this is a permanent trend…
    I ran the 2500-respondent query as part of an ongoing book project charting how America’s workers are faring, and (found) that nearly 35% of respondents said they had spent retirement or personal savings to supplement their wages. Twenty percent relied only on personal savings; four percent on retirement savings, like an early withdrawal from an IRA or 401k, and eleven percent spent both…
    Even more arresting: 21 percent of those I surveyed agreed with the statement “In 2013, I borrowed money from friends or family specifically in order to pay household, medical or credit card bills.” (“Working on Empty: America’s Workers Are Spending Down Savings to Survive,” Huffington Post)
    You’ve heard it all before. People are draining their savings just to make ends meet day to day. And what choice do they have? It’s not like they can just up-and-quit and get a better job down the street. There are no jobs! And the few jobs that are available, don’t pay a living wage. So they’re stuck. Everybody’s stuck. And you wonder why people are so glum about the future? It’s because America has changed, and not for the better.
    Did you know that nearly 80 percent of the people who were questioned in a recent LearnVest and Chase Blueprint survey said the American dream involved owning a home?
    Unfortunately, a mere 43 percent of those respondents said they think “achieving the American dream in this economy is possible.”
    43 percent! Less than half the people believe the ideological gobbledygook we’ve been spoon-fed from Day 1. That’s got to mean something, right? It means more people are giving up, they’re throwing in the towel. Why? Because hard work, a good education and playing by the rules just doesn’t cut it anymore. The opportunities are gone, vanished, kaput. That’s what 30 years of outsourcing, offshoring and corporate-friendly policy does for a country. It turns it into a two-tiered system where all the gravy flows to the top and everyone else is left with table scraps. That’s why according to Gallup “67% of the people are Dissatisfied With Income, Wealth Distribution”. Check it out:
    “Two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are currently distributed in the U.S. … Americans are much less optimistic about economic opportunity now than before the recession and financial crisis of 2008 unfolded. Prior to that, at least two in three Americans were satisfied, including a high of 77% in 2002.”
    And here’s more from another Gallup survey:
    “Americans’ Satisfaction With Economy Sours Most Since 2001–Public more satisfied on most other issues today than 13 years ago,” Gallup
    “Americans … are significantly less satisfied with the economy and the role the U.S. plays in world affairs. The 40-percentage-point drop in Americans’ satisfaction with the economy, along with a 21-point drop in the world affairs issue…
    The U.S. has seen numerous changes since early 2001, but….The biggest change in satisfaction has been with the state of the economy — now much lower than it was then, at the end of the dot-com boom and before the major recession of 2008-2009.”
    No one needs Gallup to tell them that the economy stinks. We all know that. Just like we know that America is no longer the land of opportunity, which Gallup confirms as well:
    “In U.S., Fewer Believe “Plenty of Opportunity” to Get Ahead–Similarly, only half say the U.S. economic system is fair.” Gallup
    Of course, there’s no opportunity. Why would there be more opportunity when the government is cutting spending instead of creating jobs? That’s not how the economy works. You have to spend something, to get something. There’s no free lunch.
    Obama has done nothing to help working people. He hasn’t lifted a damn finger, which is why “58 percent of Americans disapprove of his stewardship of the economy” (Wall Street Journal/NBC News and Quinnipiac University) It’s also why 78 percent said of respondents in a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll said they think the country is “on the wrong track.” And it’s also why Obama’s personal performance ratings have slipped below those of George Bush in the fifth year of his presidency. Obama has been a disaster and everyone knows it. The impact of his misrule with be felt for years to come. Just take a look at this comment by University of Michigan economist Richard Curtain who explains the dramatic change he’s seen in consumer behavior due to the policies that were put in place following the Great Financial Crisis (GFC). The quote is from an analytic piece titled “Consumer Behavior Adapts to Fundamental Changes in Expectations” Economic Outlook Conference November 21, 2013:
    “I have been reporting on the economic implications of the latest twists and turns in consumer expectations at this conference for nearly four decades. From the heights of expansions to the depths of recessions, consumers had never deserted their bedrock belief that the economy would produce ever increasing levels of affluence. The Great Recession, unlike any other downturn in the past half century, has not only tarnished the American Dream, but has prompted some fundamental changes in consumer expectations and behavior.” (“Consumer Behavior Adapts to Fundamental Changes in Expectations” Economic Outlook Conference November 21, 2013, University of Michigan)
    How do you like that? After 40 years of watching this stuff, Curtin says he’s noticed a “fundamental change” in the “bedrock belief that the economy would produce ever increasing levels of affluence.”
    This is quite profound, I think, with far-reaching implications for the economy. The pessimism that Obama (and Congress) have generated through their policies have dampened expectations and changed people’s views about the future. Most people no longer expect their wages to increase or their financial situation to improve. For a growing number of people, the American dream is dead. This is already having an effect on personal consumption, household spending and economic growth. It’s also effecting the way people view the government, and what we think of ourselves as a nation. As Curtin notes:
    (The) “deeply rooted uncertainty about future economic conditions…has been sustained by the growing recognition that no federal policy has yet emerged that will restore long term economic prosperity anytime soon for the majority of consumers. Optimism about long term job and income prospects are essential for maintaining high levels of economic motivation. Too few consumers have regained that optimism.”
    Exactly. “No federal policy” has been put in place to “restore long term economic prosperity.”
    That’s the whole ball o’ wax, right there. The pols have done nothing.
    The pessimism we now see everywhere, can be traced back to government policy. All the blame goes to Obama and Congress. They’re the ones who ended the American Dream. They killed it.
    MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

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