Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag

Good Morning!!

I have a mixed bag of interesting reads for you this morning, if I do say so myself. So let’s get right to it.

I’ll start out with that infamous Republican conspiracy theory based on an old UN initiative, “Agenda 21,” which has been in the news again recently. I wrote a post about it about a year ago that I called Dark Ages America.

Unfortunately, we’ll probably be hearing more about this nutty conspiracy, because there’s a new book coming out today–a dystopian novel supposedly authored by Glenn Beck–and it’s titled Agenda 21. Here’s a quote from the book, published on Amazon’s item page:

“I was just a baby when we were relocated and I don’t remember much. Everybody has that black hole at the beginning of their life. That time you can’t remember. Your first step. Your first taste of table food. My real memories begin in our assigned living area in Compound 14.”
Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.

There are only the Authorities.

Citizens have two primary goals in the new Republic: to create clean energy and to create new human life. Those who cannot do either are of no use to society. This bleak and barren existence is all that eighteen-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.

Until the day they come for her mother.

“You save what you think you’re going to lose.”

Woken up to the harsh reality of her life and her family’s future inside the Republic, Emmeline begins to search for the truth. Why are all citizens confined to ubiquitous concrete living spaces? Why are Compounds guarded by Gatekeepers who track all movements? Why are food, water and energy rationed so strictly? And, most important, why are babies taken from their mothers at birth? As Emmeline begins to understand the true objectives of Agenda 21 she realizes that she is up against far more than she ever thought. With the Authorities closing in, and nowhere to run, Emmeline embarks on an audacious plan to save her family and expose the Republic—but is she already too late?

Except, I found out today that Beck didn’t really write the book; he just purchased the concept from his co-author Harriet Parke, the real author. I never knew you could do that–did you? From “I got duped by Glenn Beck!” by “Sarah Cypher”:

Two weeks ago I discovered, to my surprise, that I had line-edited an early draft of Glenn Beck’s new novel, “Agenda 21.” Glenn Beck! At the time I was working on it, the manuscript belonged to its actual author, a woman named Harriet Parke, who lives a few minutes from my aunt. But a year and a few lawyers later, Glenn Beck purchased the right to call himself its creator, and Ms. Parke agreed to be presented as a ghostwriter.

Cypher doesn’t agree with Glenn Beck’s politics (or Harriet Parke’s), but she thought she was editing a novel for nice lady who lives near her aunt, not Glenn Beck, Inc. In fact, Cypher agrees with the goals of Agenda 21, which is, after all, simply a set of non-binding recommendations for city planning. The book is still the same one written originally written by Harriet Parke, but Cypher worries that having Glenn Beck’s name on it will transform it from a fun futuristic read to a right wing political manifesto.

Glenn Beck is more than just the nice guy whose publishing house is bringing Ms. Parke’s work to a national audience. He’s also a professional ideologue whose establishment confers the full force of its intellectually and morally irresponsible franchise on a novel that distorts the truth about Agenda 21, which is doing good work in the world. Glenn Beck is not writing as an artist, bound by the conventions of his art, plying his craft on the willing human imagination. Hell, he’s not writing at all. He is a brand, with a budget, and with an agenda of his own. Ultimately, by assigning his brand to the novel “Agenda 21,” Beck turns a form of entertainment into a political lie, a tool for politicizing people.

It’s an interesting piece. Do check it out.

Everyone has heard by now that Hostess Brands is going out of business after being taken over by a vulture capitalist firm. Yesterday, a judge talked the company into negotiating a little more with one of its unions.

Hostess Brands Inc. and its second largest union agreed on Monday to try to resolve their differences after a bankruptcy court judge noted that the parties hadn’t gone through the critical step of private mediation. That means the maker of the spongy cake with the mysterious cream filling won’t go out of business yet.

The news comes after the maker of Ho Ho’s, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread last week moved to liquidate and sell off its assets in bankruptcy court. Hostess cited a crippling strike started on Nov. 9 by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents about 30 percent of Hostess workers.

‘‘Many people, myself included, have serious questions as to the logic behind this strike,’’ said Judge Robert Drain, who heard the case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York in White Plains, N.Y. ‘‘Not to have gone through that step leaves a huge question mark in this case.’’

The mediation talks are set to take place Tuesday, with the liquidation hearing set to resume on Wednesday if an agreement isn’t reached. Jeff Freund, an attorney for the bakers union, said any guess as to how the talks will go would be ‘‘purely speculative.’’

Frankly, I think the world could live without Twinkies and Ding Dongs–I was never a fan. But the jobs are needed, that’s for sure. But as long as we’re talking about Twinkies, we can revisit “the Twinkie defense.” At Counterpunch, the great Paul Krassner recounts the story behind the story:

A dozen police cars had been set on fire, which in turn set off their alarms, underscoring the angry shouts from five thousand understandably angry gays. This was in 1979. I had been covering the trial of Dan White for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The ex-cop had confessed to killing Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Dale Metcalf, a former Merry Prankster who had become a lawyer, told me how he happened to be playing chess with a friend, Steven Scherr, one of White’s attorneys. Metcalf had just read Orthomolecular Nutrition by Abram Hoffer. He questioned Scherr about White’s diet and learned that, while under stress, White would consume candy bars and soft drinks. Metcalf recommended the book to Scherr, suggesting the author as an expert witness. After all, in his book, Hoffer revealed a personal vendetta against doughnuts, and White had once eaten five doughnuts in a row.

Hoffer didn’t testify, but his influence permeated the courtroom. White’s defense team presented that bio-chemical explanation of his behavior, blaming it on compulsive gobbling down of sugar-filled junk-food snacks. Psychiatrist Martin Blinder testified that, on the night before the murders, White “just sat there in front of the TV set, binging on Twinkies.” Another psychiatrist stated, “If not for the aggravating fact of junk food, the homicides might not have taken place.”

In my notebook, I scribbled “Twinkie defense,” and wrote about it in my next report. On the 25th anniversary of that double execution, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that, “During the trial, no one but well-known satirist Paul Krassner — who may have coined the phrase ‘Twinkie defense’ — played up that angle.” And so it came to pass that a pair of political assassinations was transmuted into voluntary manslaughter.

It gets much better. Please go read this entertaining piece at the link.

There’s a great post by Karoli at Crooks and Liars: GOP Governors Unwittingly Move U.S. Toward Single Payer Health Care

Republican governors are holding a boycott. As the deadline looms large for them to establish state-based exchanges, they are refusing to do so, one after the other.

I applaud them. No, really. I do….

When these Republican governors opt out of the state-based exchanges, they are not opting their states out of Obamacare. I’m sure they’re trying to set up future litigation as yet another roadblock, but fortunately there were safeguards written into the law in order to thwart effective “secession” from the coverage rules.

Each of those Republican governors has just abrogated their authority over the insurance exchanges to the federal government, who is now free to step in and offer people in their state health insurance based on a national risk pool, rather than state based. The bigger the pool, the cheaper it is.

Insurers are already whining about how they’ll be out of the health insurance business altogether in a matter of a few years. Good. This should hasten the process and bring about single payer that much faster.

Read the details at the link.

I love this piece by Scott Terry at HuffPo: Gay Cowboys, Utah and Mitt Romney. You really need to read the whole thing–it’s not long. I’ll just tell you that Terry has written a memoir of growing up gay and a fundamentalist Christian and he has a few choice words about Mitt Romney and his shock at losing the election.

So today I am reading headlines of how the Republican Party leaders are lamenting their election loss and speculating on why their candidate couldn’t carry the Republican Party to victory. In the weeks since his defeat, I’ve read headlines that declare Mitt Romney to be “stunned” at his loss. Stunned? Really?

Here’s a newsflash for Romney: In 1885, when your Mormon great-grandfather had four wives, it would have been acceptable for elected officials to think their obligation was to solely represent their white male constituents. Women didn’t have the right to vote at that time. Neither did most people of color. The world has changed. Perhaps you and Utah and the Mormon Church have a ways to go before you catch up with the rest of society, but it is no longer acceptable to believe that you only need to appeal to white male Christians. If you dare to ask for the privilege to govern the people of this country, you must govern for everyone, even for the two gay guys who would have preferred a king-sized bed in Utah.

While you’re at HuffPo, check out this one: Political Forecaster Nate Silver Talks About Being Gay. It’s another short but pithy read.

That’s about all I have room for today. I realize I didn’t give you a lot of breaking news, but I hope you found something you enjoyed.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads: Dark Ages America

The Georgia Guidestones — supposedly a roadmap for “Agenda 21″

Good Morning! Yesterday I read a (for me) mind-blowing article by Joshua Holland at Alternet about how right wing conspiracy theories are endangering the future of humanity. The main focus of the article is on Tea Party members and other right wing extremists who are obsessed with “Agenda 21,” a United Nations initiative begun at a conference on environmental sustainability in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and signed by hundreds of world leaders, including President George W. Bush. This was all completely new to me, so I looked around to see what I could find out about it. Here is the gist:

Agenda 21, the international plan of action to sustainable development, outlines key policies for achieving sustainable development that meets the needs of the poor and recognizes the limits of development to meet global needs. Agenda 21 has become the blueprint for sustainability and forms the basis for sustainable development strategies. It attempts to define a balance between production, consumption, population, development, and the Earth’s life-supporting capacity. It addresses poverty, excessive consumption, health and education, cities and agriculture; food and natural resource management and several more subjects.

Its 40 chapters are broken up into four sections:

1. Social and economic dimensions: developing countries; poverty; consumption patterns; population; health; human settlements; integrating environment and development.

2. Conservation and management of resources: atmosphere; land; forests; deserts; mountains; agriculture; biodiversity; biotechnology; oceans; fresh water; toxic chemicals; hazardous, radioactive and solid waste and sewage.

3. Strengthening the role of major groups: women; children and youth; indigenous peoples; non-governmental organizations; local authorities; workers; business and industry; farmers; scientists and technologists.

4. Means of implementation: finance; technology transfer; science; education; capacity-building; international institutions; legal measures; information.

The full report (300+ pages) is here (PDF).

Apparently, fears about U.N. Agenda 21 are the basis for Michele Bachmann’s campaign against energy efficient light bulbs and for Bachmann’s and other right wingers’ drive to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s Bachmann, quoted in an article by Tim Murphy in Mother Jones:

“This is their agenda—I know it’s hard to believe, it’s hard to fathom, but this is ‘Mission Accomplished’ for them,” she said of congressional Democrats. “They want Americans to take transit and move to the inner cities. They want Americans to move to the urban core, live in tenements, [and] take light rail to their government jobs. That’s their vision for America.”

And here is Murphy’s explanation for the light bulb obsession:

Although she didn’t say it right then, Bachmann likely had something specific in mind: Agenda 21, a two-decade-old United Nations agreement that has taken on a life of its own on the far-right. The agreement, forged in 1992, nominally committed signatories to a set of shared values designed to mitigate the environmental impact of human development. Member countries agreed to a range of sustainability goals, from preserving the ozone layer to ensuring that forests are managed so they’ll be around for future generations. (The United States is a signatory, but the treaty has not been ratified by the Senate.)

But to some conservatives, Agenda 21 became something far more nefarious—a gateway to a global government built on a radical doctrine of secular environmentalism.

As these conservatives saw it, the agreement paved the way for the entire planet to be controlled by a central bureaucracy: Humans would be cleared out of vast swaths of settled areas—like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, for example—and instructed to live in “hobbit homes” in designated “human habitation zones” (two terms embraced by tea party activists). Public transportation would be the only kind of transportation, and governments would force contraception on their citizens to control the population level. A human life would be considered no more significant than, say, that of a manatee. “Sustainability,” the idea at the heart of the agreement, became a gateway to dystopia.

Can you believe it? If you google “Agenda 21,” you’ll find scads of crazy stuff about it all over the internet. Bachmann recently answered questions about Agenda 21 in New Hampshire. She explained that Al Gore, who is apparently the Antichrist to the Agenda 21 freaks, was {gasp!} at the conference in Rio back in 1992.

Al Gore was there at the Rio Conference and the whole goal is really about global control.
It’s essentially a one world government view where there’s political body and the United States would have to subsume our sovereignty into a global body, but more than that, we would also have to give away our wealth.

So the wealth of the United States would be redistributed to other countries.
As a matter of a fact, that’s what the Durban Conference was about in South Africa this weekend, also about redistribution of American money.

These people truly live in a different reality than you and I. Unfortunately, they want to make their reality our reality too.

Ron Paul is also a hero to the Agenda 21 freaks. Here’s an announcement at the Connecticut Ron Paul for President website.

Agenda 21 is Coming to your Neighborhood!

SOUNDS LIKE SCIENCE FICTION…OR SOME CONSPIRACY THEORY…BUT IT ISN’T.

By now, most Americans have heard the terms “sustainable development” and “smart growth” but are largely unaware of UN Agenda 21. While many people support the United Nations for its peacemaking efforts, Agenda 21 is a whole life plan that involves the educational system, the energy market, the transportation system, the governmental system, the health care system, food production, and more. The plan is to restrict your choices, limit your funds, narrow your freedoms, and take away your voice.

FREE ADMISSION

Sponsored by Campaign for Sound Money and The John Birch Society

Getting back to the article in Alternet that I began with, Joshua Holland writes:

The important thing to understand about Agenda 21 is that there is absolutely nothing binding or compelling member countries to implement any part of it. It’s not a treaty — it is entirely voluntary and certainly doesn’t have any connection to local governments. Yet for the right, with its long John Birch Society undercurrent of paranoia about international institutions, Agenda 21 represents some kind of dark UN conspiracy to impose socialism on the “free world.” ….

Last year, during the Denver mayoral race, Tea Party candidate Dan Maes argued that a local bike-sharing program, a popular initiative among city residents, was a “very well-disguised” part of a plan by then-Denver mayor (and now Colorado governor) John Hickenlooper for “converting Denver into a United Nations community.” Alex Jones constantly hawks the conspiracy [Here’s one example from Jones’ website Infowars]. Glenn Beck warned it would lead to “centralized control over all of human life on planet Earth.” And in September, Newt Gingrich, hoping to burnish his wingnutty creds, told a group of Orlando Tea Partiers that, if elected, his first order of business would be “to cease all federal funding of any kind of activity that relates to United Nations Agenda 21.” (Currently, no federal funding of any kind is used for implementing Agenda 21.)

But Holland argues that, although conspiracy theories like this may seem weird and silly to us, the people pushing them are succeeding in harassing and intimidating politicians and public officials; and thus these conspiratorial beliefs may make it impossible for us as a society to deal with environmental issues like global climate change.

Holland links to a June 2011 article in the Washington Post by Darryl Fears, a science correspondent, about efforts to deal with rising sea levels which uniquely threaten the Virginia Beach area. Then on December 17, Fears reported that local residents are fighting these efforts to deal with future flooding of the area.

The sea level is rising in Virginia Beach and the entire area known as Hampton Roads because of the warming climate, and the area also happens to be sinking for other geological reasons.

Within 50 years, a big part of Virginia Beach’s identity — its beach — could be lost if nothing is done, said [Clay] Bernick, the city’s environment and sustainability administrator. Large pieces of land could also be lost to the ocean in Norfolk within a few generations.

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, outside of greater New Orleans, Hampton Roads is at the greatest risk from sea-level rise for any area its size.

“It’s a significant threat,” Bernick said. “At this point, I wouldn’t put it in the category of fear, because it’s a long way off.” But he added: “You’ve got multiple factors with flashing lights saying, ‘Okay, guys, what are you going to do?’ ”

The residents’ opposition has focused on a central point: They don’t think climate change is accelerated by human activity, as most climate scientists conclude. When planners proposed to rezone land for use as a dike against rising water, these residents, or “new activists,” as [public planner Lewis L.] Lawrence calls them, saw a trick to take their property.

Here’s what some of the “activists” had to say:

“Environmentalists have always had an agenda to put nature above man,” said Donna Holt, leader of the Virginia Campaign for Liberty, a tea party affiliate with 7,000 members. “If they can find an end to their means, they don’t care how it happens. If they can do it under the guise of global warming and climate change, they will do it.” ….

When planners redesignated property as a future flood zone, activists said officials were acting on a hoax. They argued in meetings and on Web sites that local planners are unwitting agents of Agenda 21, a United Nations environmental action plan adopted in 1992 that the activists see as a shadowy global conspiracy to grab land and redistribute wealth in the United States.

“My professional credentials have been challenged,” said Lawrence, who holds degrees in municipal planning and provides professional and technical planning advice to municipalities throughout the peninsula. He said he has heard whispers behind his back after meetings: “I’ve been brainwashed. I’ve been called a dupe for the U.N.”

These kinds of irrational public protests are happening in other places too. Here’s an article posted at Alex Jones website Prison Planet.

MISSOULA, MT – In a move that would have made Joseph Stalin jealous, the City Council of Missoula, Montana on Monday approved the use of local tax dollars to an organization out of state known as ICLEI (International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives).

The ICLEI board can be found directly under the treasonous United Nations Agenda 21. The council room was almost in uproar as over 50 voices that opposed the funding of dues to the UnConstitutional initiative fell on deaf progressive “public servants’” ears.

“I am concerned that (the) Missoula City Council may be moving in a direction that could ultimately affect my property rights, which are guaranteed to me by both the Montana Constitution and the Constitution of the United States,” Trish Auras said during the council’s Monday night meeting. “Before you agree to paying dues to ICLEI, I would like somebody on the council to assure me that my property rights will not be affected in any way. Can you do that? Anybody?”

Read it and weep. Our future is being determined by ignorant people who take the bible literally and disdain science. They are leading us back into a new dark age. All you have to do is listen to the Republican presidential candidates to realize this is no exaggeration.

There’s another aspect to this conspiracy theory that Joshua Holland doesn’t mention. If you’ve read much of Alex Jones’ propaganda or listened to Glenn Beck, you know that another right win obsession is population control. Jones claims that once the “New World Order,” or global government is established, the elites will kill off 90% of the world population in order to make the planet sustainable for the rich and powerful who will remain. This also ties in with the mysterious Georgia Guidestones, pictured at the beginning of this post. Here’s an excerpt from an article (also linked above) from Jones’ website Infowars: “Al Gore, Agenda 21 And Population Control.”

When you start doing deep research into Agenda 21, you will find that describing it as a “comprehensive plan” is an understatement. Virtually all forms of human activity impact the environment. The rabid “environmentalists” behind the green agenda intend to take all human activity and put it into a box called “sustainable development”.

One of the key elements of “sustainable development” is population control. The United Nations (along with radical “environmental” leaders such as Al Gore) actually believes that there are far too many people on earth….Al Gore made the following statement regarding population control….

“One of the things we could do about it is to change the technologies, to put out less of this pollution, to stabilize the population, and one of the principle ways of doing that is to empower and educate girls and women. You have to have ubiquitous availability of fertility management so women can choose how many children have, the spacing of the children.

You have to lift child survival rates so that parents feel comfortable having small families and most important — you have to educate girls and empower women. And that’s the most powerful leveraging factor, and when that happens, then the population begins to stabilize and societies begin to make better choices and more balanced choices.”

Do you notice how whenever global leaders talk about “empowering” women these days it always ends up with them having less children?

The article concludes with a reference to the Georgia Guidestones, pictured at the top of this post, and at left.

Most Americans don’t grasp it yet, but the truth is that the global elite are absolutely obsessed with population control. In fact, there is a growing consensus among the global elite that they need to get rid of 80 to 90 percent of us.

The number one commandment of the infamous Georgia Guidestones is this: “Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.”

One of the biggest issues for the right is the dis-empowerment of women. They want to make sure that women cannot choose whether or not to have a child or how many children to have. They’d probably like to force women out of the workplace and back into the home. That also ties in with the obsession with fighting population control. Why is it that this anti-woman agenda is so often ignored by the media–even by alternative media writers like Joshua Holland?

This post is getting way too long, and it probably makes no sense. But that’s my offering for today–a sample of what right wing conspiratorial madness and fear of science is doing to us. Holland is right. It has the potential to wreck wreck what’s left of our country.


Late Evening News Reads: Cup of Tea?

Good Evening, getting ready to enjoy a couple old classic movies on TCM…so this will be a quick post.

I don’t think I am the only one that is getting fatigue from all this back and forth between the two political parties…Dak had a great post about it today, and it looks like many of you are bringing up the Tea Party. So for my first link, Special report: Tea Party grassroots army readies for battle | Reuters

For insight into the conservative Tea Party movement’s battle plan in 2012, check out Joe Dugan’s Google spreadsheets.

Dugan, 66, a retired manufacturing executive and chairman of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, is particularly proud of the scoring system he’s devised for South Carolina legislators. Every vote by a member of the state’s House or Senate is recorded, with points awarded for those that reflect the conservative position.

“Let’s say you get above a five, we’ll actively campaign for your reelection,” Dugan says. “Below a three, then – Republican or Democrat – we’ll come after you.”

WTF?

“The Tea Party movement is more organized, more focused and more potent,” said Rep. Scott, who talks regularly to Dugan. “What happened in 2010 was not the end. It was just the beginning.”

Tea Party supporters now hold fewer sign-waving rallies, a hallmark of their early opposition to bank bailouts and President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform in 2009. But the movement isn’t losing steam.

Interviews with activists across 20 U.S. states indicate that Tea Party groups, far from fading, have evolved into an increasingly sophisticated and effective network of activists. They are working to unseat establishment Republicans who they believe have betrayed the principles of lower taxes, limited government, and free markets.

“Those who think the Tea Party is on the wane are in for a gigantic surprise in 2012,” says Debbie Dooley, co-organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party. “We have built a grassroots army and we will be a fine-tuned machine next year.”

So compare the threatening nature of this interview to these remarks from another Tea Party member, even though some of the right-wing leaning press are trying to make the man out as a “wannabe.”

Wannabe Tea Party politician unleashes racist Facebook screed against President Obama  – NY Daily News

A rabid Tea Party wannabe politician in California called for the assassination of President Obama and his “monkey children” in a recent Facebook rant – and then defended his right to do so Monday.

Jules Manson, who failed miserably in his 2011 bid for a City Council seat in Carson, Calif., urged the sickening reprisal, saying Obama’s support of a revised military authorization bill last week was an act of “treason” that “eroded” constitutional protections.

“It must be countered with assassinations onto them and their children,” he wrote in the original posting that has since been scrubbed from his Facebook profile.

“Assassinate the f—-n (N-word) and his monkey cWannhildren,” he prodded, according to a screen grab obtained by YourBlackWorld.com.

An angry backlash quickly ensued, and Manson, 48, toned down the vile rhetoric Monday while defending his right to spew hate.

They never want to own the violent actions and racist remarks from their members.

Ex-Carson Council candidate talks anti-Obama Facebook rant | abc7.com

Jules Manson, 48, posted the racially charged statement Sunday on his Facebook page. His post included the word, “assassinate,” referred to Obama using the N-word and referred to the president’s daughters as “monkey children.”

It’s a rant that Manson wishes he could take back.

“Basically, I mustered the most hateful and vile words I could think of to express my hurt and contempt for the president. However, I went too far. That’s all that was. It was harmless. I’m not the least bit racist at all,” Manson told Eyewitness News.

Manson has since apologized for the statement, but the damage was done. The Secret Service got wind of it and is now conducting an investigation to determine if Manson is a genuine threat to the first family.

“I consented to the search of my home, my vehicle and my person as well. Now, they’re questioning my family,” Manson said.

Manson considers himself a Libertarian and was angered by language in the Defense Authorization Act that he and others say could deny Americans their civil rights.

Manson insist he is not a racist…cough…cough…

Then you have this bit of New Jersey Tea Party conspiracy theory run amok Tea Party raises fear of UN at Ocean County freeholder meeting | The Asbury Park Press NJ | APP.com

Conspiracy fears over a United Nations plot to establish a one-world government in which property rights can be voided, brought a dozen Tea Party activists to Wednesday’s meeting of the Ocean County Board of Freeholders.

Specifically, Ocean County Tea Party members voiced concern with Gov. Chris Christie’s strategic plan for targeting growth in New Jersey and the county’s update of its own master development plan.

“I’m not attacking the need for planning and I’m not attacking the need for good environmental stewardship,” said David Sharp, 75, of Waretown. “What I am concerned about … a thing called Agenda 21 that has crept into the policy making of many government agencies.”

According to literature from the John Birch Society, Agenda 21 would mandate national service, control the size of families, reduce the amount of goods and services individuals can purchase and use, and virtually eliminate private ownership.

“Under the U.N. plan, the role of the government is to control the individual for a greater good in a global community,” Sharp said. “Quote, ‘Rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.’ That scares me and I see that happening in our country.”

And lastly:

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback puts tea party tenets into action with sharp cuts – The Washington Post

If you want to know what a Tea Party America might look like, there is no place like Kansas.

In the past year, three state agencies have been abolished and 2,050 jobs have been cut. Funding for schools, social services and the arts have been slashed. The new Republican governor rejected a $31.5 million federal grant for a new health-insurance exchange because he opposes Obama’s health care law. And that’s just the small stuff.

A new “Office of the Repealer” has been created to reduce the number of laws and regulations, and the Repealer is canvassing the state for more cut suggestions.

In the upcoming legislative session, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) plans to roll out proposals to change the way schools are funded, taxes are levied and state pensions are administered.

A year after voters vaulted hundreds of tea party candidates to power in Washington and in state capitals, the movement’s goals are being pursued aggressively in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas.

It is enough to give one the tea party willies…

“It’s a revolution in a cornfield,” said Arthur Laffer, the 71-year-old architect of supply-side economic theory and former economic adviser for President Ronald Reagan who is now working with the governor. “Brownback and his whole group there, it’s an amazing thing they’re doing. Truly revolutionary.”

Brownback, 55, declined to be interviewed for this article but has said he wants to turn his small farming state into a national showcase for the virtues of limited government.

“The states are to be the laboratory for democracy,” he said recently at a dinner at the Kansas Policy Institute, a think tank in Wichita. “Why not here and why not us and why not now?”

Talk of the tea party fading is a bit optimistic, the people behind the movement are still there and it doesn’t look like they are going anywhere any time soon.


UN Condemns Illegal Forced Repatriation of Eman al-Obeidi

Libyan gang rape survivor Eman al-Obeidi has been forcibly and violently repatriated to her home in Benghazi, Libya. A witness told CNN that al-Obeidi was “battered and bruised.”

Nasha Dawaji, a U.S.-based Libyan pro-freedom activist, said she was with three key members of the National Transitional Council, the rebels’ government, when they first learned that al-Obeidy was forced from Doha and arrived in Benghazi on Thursday.

Al-Obeidy had a black eye, like she had been punched, Dawaji said. She also had bruises on her legs and scratches on her arms.

The council members were upset upon seeing al-Obeidy’s condition and vowed to open an investigation, Dawaji said.

Al-Obeidy grabbed the world’s attention this spring when she accused Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s security forces of gang raping her.

The UN refugee agency says that these actions taken against al-Obeidi “violate international law,” and they hope to arrange a meeting with her.

I’ll post more detail on this story when I get it. Please post anything you’re hearing in the comments.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Once again, the Osama bin Laden story is eclipsing just about everything else. Nevertheless, I’ll do what I can to search out a few non-Osama links for your reading pleasure. But first, the latest on the the media obsession du jour.

You’ve probably heard about the reports that bin Laden was first captured alive and then shot execution style in front of his 12-year-old daughter. At least that is how she described the events to Pakistani officials who are currently holding her and other survivors of the raid. From the Guardian:

The girl, who was found at the scene of the raid by Pakistani security services, is being cared for at a military hospital having been wounded in the attack. She has been questioned about the sequence of events during the raid last weekend.

The official said Pakistani intelligence services, who are holding 11 other survivors of the deadly raid on Bin Laden’s Pakistani hiding place, would not allow their interrogation by US officials.

“That would occur only if there was written assent from their country of origin. We are yet to receive any request to my knowledge, but given the [critical] statements coming out of Washington and the fact that [the raid] was not an operation we were involved in, we would not accept,” he said.

Hmmm…sound like the Pakistani official is slightly miffed about the way the U.S. handled this.

At least 10 people were left alive at the end of the attack, which saw Bin Laden killed in an upstairs room of the three-storey house where he had been living. Hamza, one of the al-Qaida leader’s sons, was killed. His body was removed with that of his father by the assault teams.

The survivors include eight children and two adults, both women. One is Bin Laden’s fifth wife, a 29-year-old Yemeni, Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah who married the al-Qaida leader around 11 years ago in Afghanistan. The other is understood to be a Yemeni doctor in her 30s whose passport indicates that she arrived by legal means in the region sometime between 2000 and 2006, when the document expired.

I still haven’t heard any word about what happened to the son’s body. Have you? It does seem the administration still has some explaining to do. Justin Elliott of Salon tried to get some clarification.

Legitimate doubt has been cast on the official narrative of the raid ever since the Obama administration changed major details of what it claims happened. (A Pentagon official, for example, said Monday that bin Laden was firing a gun at U.S. forces from behind a human shield when he was killed. Now the White House says he was not armed and there was no human shield.)

The possibility that bin Laden was captured was raised in a report by an Arab news agency citing Pakistani officials describing an interview with bin Laden’s young daughter, who was apparently at the compound:

The daughter has claimed that she watched as her father was captured alive and shot before being dragged to a US military helicopter, Arabic news network al-Arabiya quoted Pakistani officials as saying.

Elliott also notes that President Obama said during an appearance on Monday night that the top secret operation had “resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden.” He got no answers from the White House, but the CIA told NBC that the 12-year-old’s eyewitness testimony is completely wrong. They deny that bin Laden was “captured” before being killed and they deny putting his son’s body in a helicopter and taking it away.

More problems for the administration: The Telegraph reveals that there is no live video of the attack on the bin Laden compound.

A photograph released by the White House appeared to show the President and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.

In an interview with PBS, Mr Panetta said: “Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.

“We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound.”

Mr Panetta also told the network that the US Navy Seals made the final decision to kill bin Laden rather than the president.

Hmmm….that’s a bit troubling.

At FDL, David Swanson is very troubled by the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to him, Osama bin Lynched. I’ll say one thing for Swanson: the guy can write. I recommend reading his blog just for the pleasure of reading some good writing, if nothing else.

Here is some more evidence that our government is being run by silly adolescents. Several media outlets have reported that a number of Senators, including Saxby Chambliss, Kelly Ayotte, and Scott Brown, claimed to have seen the graphic photos of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. It turns out all they saw was the same fake doctored photo that everyone else saw all over the internet yesterday. The Boston Globe reports:

US Senator Scott Brown said in several televised interviews today that he had seen perhaps the most controversial and closely guarded photos in the world: those showing Osama bin Laden’s dead body.

Brown, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested he had viewed them as part of an official briefing, and he argued that they were too graphic to be released to the public and could enflame terrorists.

Oops.

Brown later acknowledged that he had fallen victim to a hoax, apparently the same doctored images that were making the rounds on the Internet.

‘‘The photo that I saw and that a lot of other people saw is not authentic,’’ the senator said in a one-sentence statement issued hours after the interviews aired.

Meanwhile, President Obama is protecting all of us by keeping the photos under wraps along with the torture photos he is hiding. Whatever. I have no desire to see bin Laden’s dead body. But then why did they release all the other bloody photos that are everywhere on the internet? Like we haven’t all seen worse in the Movies and on TV.

BTW, if you don’t want to hear Obama explain why we’re all too fragile to see the dead terrorist, avoid watching 60 Minutes on Sunday, because POTUS will be making a campaign stop on the show this week.

Of course we all know that photos can be faked, doctored and even staged by our government. Reuters explains:

Reuters White House photographer Jason Reed describes how the president made his speech to a single TV camera, then immediately after finishing, he pretended to speak for the still cameras.

Reed writes:

“As President Obama continued his nine-minute address in front of just one main network camera, the photographers were held outside the room by staff and asked to remain completely silent. Once Obama was off the air, we were escorted in front of that teleprompter and the President then re-enacted the walk-out and first 30 seconds of the statement for us.”

That means the photograph that appeared in many newspapers Monday morning of Obama speaking may have been the staged shot, captured after the president spoke. This type of staging has been going on for decades.

I never knew that before. Kind of creepy, if you ask me.

Here are couple more humorous Osama anecdotes from Raw Story. A reporter from the St. Petersburg Times, Meg Laughlin, says she saw bin Laden is Islamabad in 2002.

On a quick run to the grocery store with photographer Carl Juste and a driver/translator, Juste pointed out the window and said, “Look! There’s Osama bin Laden!” Laughlin wrote in a first-person account of the incident published Tuesday in the St. Petersburg Times.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes,” she wrote. “There, in front of us was the most wanted man in the world, the face on countless posters offering a reward of $25 million for information on his whereabouts. There was no mistaking him. Towering over the men with him, he was lanky with olive skin and that scraggly long beard, those sad brown eyes and that splayed nose.

The three of us began screaming, ‘It’s Osama bin Laden! Osama bin Laden!’”

Honestly, Bush and Cheney could have caught the guy anytime they wanted to. Republicans should be ashamed for trying to give them credit. Not that Republicans are capable of shame….

This is really good. CNN reporter Nic Roberts found something interesting growing next to the compound where bin Laden and his family and friends were living.

Among the various vegetable crops growing alongside the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a row of marijuana plants was also discovered by CNN reporter Nic Robertson.

It begs the question: was Osama bin Laden a pothead?

Of course, the answer to that is in no way clear. The plants very well could have been for one of the other individuals who stayed at the compound, or another local entirely. Reports from the scene indicated that as many as three dozen people shared the three-story house, including as many as 23 children.

Some have speculated that the al Qaeda leader may have been using the marijuana as a medicine. If he was indeed on dialysis, as an unnamed U.S. intelligence source told Asiaweek back in 2000, then he could have used marijuana as a painkiller.

If we’re already getting silly stories like this one, I hate to think what trivial morsels we’ll be seeing served up by the media in a couple more days. They are going to milk this story for all it’s worth and then some.

Poor Muammar Gaddafi has been nearly wiped off the front pages by the Osama blockbuster news. But he’s still up to his old tricks. Yesterday, he bombed a humanitarian relief vessel as it was trying to evacuate foreign citizens Libyan civilians from Misrata. But it looks like the UN is going to indict Gaddafi for war crimes and try to arrest him.

The question then arises as to which organisation should carry out the arrest. Under the 1998 Rome Statute on which the court was built, that duty falls first to the national government in question, and there is at least a faint hope among western governments that the issuing of ICC arrest warrants would provide a trigger and a legal justification for any remaining waverers in the Gaddafi camp to move against him.

If not, the UN security council has to decide what to do. The job could be passed to Nato, but that would require a resolution, which Russia and China could well object to. They already believe that the February resolution allowing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians has been exploited by Nato to wage war on the side of the rebels.

To further complicate the situation, the Obama administration might also object, as it would involve sending troops into Tripoli, something that Washington has sworn not to do.

The council could instead restate the court’s demand for the Libyan leaders to turn themselves in.

It sounds like Gaddafi should be a little bit nervous right now, but according to Fox News, this probably won’t have much effect on his behavior. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister of Turkey is calling on Gaddafi to step down “for the sake of the country’s future.”

The Guardian has an op-ed by Alaa al-Ameri arguing that NATO forces would be justified in targeting Gaddafi personally.

Various commentators have declared that the deaths [allegedly of Gaddafi's son and possibly others] prove Nato has overstepped its mandate, and has violated international law by targeting Gaddafi personally. This is based on their definition of Gaddafi as a head of state, and their belief that the UN mandate is confined only to the establishment and maintenance of a no-fly zone. Both these premises are false.

Gaddafi is not a head of state. He is a warlord in control of a personal army that he has tasked with the mass killing and terrorising of Libyans for the crime of wishing to live as free human beings. There is no meaningful Libyan government structure or decision-making body besides Gaddafi himself and his sons.

Which logic or legal principle underlies the notion that while militia in the act of aggression against a civilian population may be attacked, the leader of that militia – actively engaged in directing the violence – is off limits? What claim to special rights and privileges can be made by a man who uses rape as a weapon of war? Which principle of international law would be eroded by his death?

Despite assertions to the contrary, UN resolution 1973 does not confine Nato action to a no-fly zone. The now familiar central clause authorises member states “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”. Some critics of Nato’s action have interpreted this so narrowly as to assert that it allows no more than “a protective cordon around Benghazi”.

Another author Robert Barnidge Jr. makes a similar argument at Politico. He claims that killing bin Laden was “lawful,” and killing Gaddafi would likewise be “lawful.”

Some now argue that it is unlawful to target Qadhafi. NATO has been put on the defensive. But it shouldn’t apologize. The law is on its side.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 reaffirmed that the situation in Libya threatened international peace and security. Crucially, the resolution, in paragraph 4, authorized member states to “take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” subject only to some procedural requirements.

International law prohibits states from threatening or using force in their international relations — with two exceptions: when states act in self-defence, and when the Security Council authorizes it under chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Resolution 1973 is an example of the latter.

Given that Resolution 1973 is a legal instrument, the question is what paragraph 4 permits — and what it forbids. For example, both sides in the debate about the lawfulness of the 2003 invasion of Iraq largely agreed that “all necessary measures” would mean the use of force. The debate with Iraq was whether Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002) had “revived” this language in the earlier Security Council Resolution 678 (1990). (Resolution 678 used the language “all necessary means” — but there is no significant legal difference between “measures” and “means.”)

The government of Syria is still doing ghastly things to its citizens.

Amnesty International said it has received first-hand reports of torture and other ill treatment from detainees held in Syria, as a wave of arrests of anti-government protesters intensified over the weekend.

Amnesty International said “widespread, arbitrary arrests” had taken place in towns across the country in recent days. At least 499 people were detained Sunday during house-to-house raids in Daraa, a key location for pro-reform protests, the group said, adding that most were being held at unknown locations without access to lawyers or their families.

The rights group also said it had the names of 54 people killed last Friday, which brought to 542 the number of people killed during a month and a half of protests in Syria. Amnesty International stated in a report that the high number of deaths can be attributed to tactics by Syrian security forces.

The group gave the accounts of two men detained last month in the coastal city of Banias.

One detainee said he was forced to “lick blood off the floor” after being stripped and beaten, Amnesty International said in a statement. The man told the group that he and and others detained with him had been beaten with sticks and cables as well as kicked and punched.

The rights organization said the detainee also reported being held for three days without food and being forced to drink dirty water from a toilet.

Actor Jackie Cooper died on Tuesday. He was one child actor who grew up to be a successful adult actor as well.

Before the heydays of Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney, young Jackie, a ragged urchin with a pout and a mischievous half-winked eye, was dreaming up schemes in “Our Gang” comedies and Wallace Beery pictures, like “Treasure Island,” that Hollywood churned out for the rialto.

As Americans flocked to escapist movies, he made $2,000 a week, toured the nation and hobnobbed with Bing Crosby, Tallulah Bankhead and Joan Crawford. At 9 he became the youngest Oscar nominee for best actor (a record that he still holds), in “Skippy” (1931). Later he dated Lana Turner and Judy Garland, and spent weekends on the yacht of MGM’s boss, Louis B. Mayer.

By his late teens, though, he seemed washed up, just another fading child star bound for oblivion and the life of drugs, booze and anonymity that became the fate of many of Hollywood’s forgotten children.

But he got into television in the 1950s, starring in the sitcoms “The People’s Choice” and “Hennesey,” and later became an Emmy-winning director of “M*A*S*H” and other hits; was introduced to a new generation of moviegoers as Perry White, editor of The Daily Planet, in four “Superman” films; and earned his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Have you heard about the new study that shows eating a lot of salt isn’t associated with heart problems? It was just published in the JAMA.

Jan A. Staessen, MD, PhD, of the University of Leuven, Belgium, led a study that measured urinary sodium levels in 3,681 healthy, 40-ish people and then followed their health for about eight years.

Their finding: People with the highest sodium levels had a significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease than did people with the lowest sodium levels.

“Our current findings refute the estimates of computer models of lives saved and health care costs reduced with lower salt intake,” Staessen and colleagues conclude in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “They do also not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level.”

Repeat after me: “Correlation does not equal causation.” Every single one of the studies of diet and disease you hear about is based only on correlations (associations). Guess what? Heart disease (and cancer, and many other illnesses) run in families. There is nearly always a genetic component. I’d rather have good genes any day that trust the results of the countless studies that claim certain foods or behaviors are bad for me.


That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today? Lay it on me!


Libya News Update

Lots of Libya news is breaking today, so I thought I’d post an afternoon update.

First up, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that she plans to meet with Libyan rebels.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that she would meet with Libyan rebel leaders in the United States and during travels next week to France, Tunisia and Egypt.

Mrs. Clinton did not identify the Libyan rebel leaders she intended to meet.

American officials have reached out to members of the rebel’s provisional council in eastern Libya, directly and through intermediaries, but Mrs. Clinton’s meetings will be the administration’s highest-level contacts with those who hope to replace Colonel Qaddafi’s government.

“We are standing with the Libyan people as they brave bombs and bullets to demand that Qaddafi must go — now, ” Mrs. Clinton said in remarks to a House panel.

Earlier, France became the first country to recognize the opposition government in Libya. Unfortunately, I’m afraid this, and Clinton’s efforts could turn out to be too little, too late. From the LA Times:

France became the first nation to recognize the opposition government in eastern Libya on Thursday, even as rebel fighters protecting a key oil complex on the Mediterranean coast were reported to be retreating under a fierce assault by government forces.

In the coastal oil city of Ras Lanuf, captured Friday by rebel fighters, reports from the front said troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi had forced rebels to begin a retreat from the city. Rebel positions there were pounded by airstrikes, artillery and rockets, according to news accounts.

If pro-Kadafi forces are able to seize the petrochemical complex, port and airport in Ras Lanuf, it would give the regime in Tripoli control over one of Libya’s largest oil facilities. Ras Lanuf is 225 miles by road southwest of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold.

The apparent rebel setback in eastern Libya came after Kadafi’s government claimed Wednesday it had regained control of the contested city of Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital, Tripoli. Residents reached by phone said Zawiya was under siege.

A tank shell explodes outside Ras Lanuf

Nicholas Kristof made “the case for a no-fly zone” today:

“This is a pretty easy problem, for crying out loud.”

For all the hand-wringing in Washington about a no-fly zone over Libya, that’s the verdict of Gen. Merrill McPeak, a former Air Force chief of staff. He flew more than 6,000 hours, half in fighter aircraft, and helped oversee no-fly zones in Iraq and the Adriatic, and he’s currently mystified by what he calls the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” about imposing such a zone on Libya.

“I can’t imagine an easier military problem,” he said. “If we can’t impose a no-fly zone over a not even third-rate military power like Libya, then we ought to take a hell of a lot of our military budget and spend it on something usable.”

He continued: “Just flying a few jets across the top of the friendlies would probably be enough to ground the Libyan Air Force, which is the objective.” …. “If we can’t do this, what can we do?” he asked, adding: “I think it would have a real impact. It might change their calculation of who might come out on top. Just the mere announcement of this might have an impact.”

I guess the problem is that we have an inexperienced, indecisive Commander-in-Chief who is waiting for his aides to tell him what to do. As our President dithers and NATO “squabbles” Gaddafi is succeeding in crushing the courageous, ragtag opposition fighters.

Read the rest of this entry »


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Moammar Gadhafi: Time to Step Down

It looks like President Obama finally gave Hillary the go ahead to say what she probably wanted to say several days ago. From the LA Times:

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday called on Moammar Kadafi to step down, reversing previous reticence by the U.S. leaders to directly urge the Libyan president to leave office.

In a statement, Clinton said Kadafi “has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence,” and that the Libyan people deserved a government that “protects their universally recognized human rights.” The U.S. has always said that the future of Libya should be decided by its people, she said, and “they have made themselves clear.”

Meanwhile the White House released the contents of a phone call between Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama did not cite Kadafi by name, but said that the Libyan leader had lost his legitimacy. “The President stated that when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” a White House statement said.

What is his problem with calling out Gadhafi by name anyway? Read Hillary’s full statement below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »