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June 21, 2012 11:39 AM The U.N. Makes Final Plans To Conquer Georgia

By Ed Kilgore

When I was recently back in my Georgia stomping grounds to attend to multiple family medical emergencies, I didn’t have much time to get back in touch with state and local politics. I did notice, as always, the ongoing Mississippification of Georgia partisan allegiances, the realignment of the two major parties on largely racial lines. Lots of dogcatchers in rural parts of the state are changing parties. The State Capital is firmly in GOP hands. And in the exurban precincts where most of my extended family resides, “Obama” is pretty much a curse word to white folks, most especially white folks whose tangible interests are not being well-served by their new GOP overlords.

As in other Republican-dominated parts of the country, a lot of the political action is within the GOP, with no degree of craziness being off-bounds for those who want to persistently argue the party is still dominated by crypto-liberal RINOs who batten off Big Government and in their hearts insufficiently love Jesus (or perhaps more accurately, the vengeful Old Testament God whose highly selective quotations sound like an unholy mixture of the less restrained hate-rants of Ayn Rand and James Dobson). Conspiracy theories abound, as illustrated by this fascinating report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s intrepid political blogger Jim Galloway:

If you’ve been shopping for a sizable reason to vote against metro Atlanta’s transportation sales tax next month, but have been unable to find one that’s XXL or larger, try this on:
The tax and the people behind it are part of a United Nations plot called Agenda 21.
Laugh if you like. The topic is now center stage in Cobb County, as part of the debate over the penny sales tax, and the contest for chairman of the county commission as well.
Those who aren’t hardcore GOP will need a bit of background. Agenda 21 is also known as the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,” and was adopted in 1992 at a conference in Brazil.
In most languages, the report is a vacuous U.N. document that declares the need for a “sustainable” world environment. But to a certain segment of those who speak Republican, it is a secret declaration of war.
At the state GOP convention in Columbus last month, delegates overwhelmingly condemned Agenda 21 as an attempt to “outlaw private property and redistribute wealth.”
At a debate in Paulding County two weeks ago, state Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, criticized Republican challenger Bill Carruth for labeling Agenda 21 a mere “conspiracy theory.”
“It’s not a conspiracy. This is the real McCoy,” said Heath, in dead earnest. “Their vision is to essentially conquer the world through limiting everything we do, incrementally taking our liberties away from us.”

It seems, according to an assortment of Republican primary candidates seeking votes in the July 31 primaries, that the U.N.’s tentacles are reaching Georgia via the inelegantly named “T-SPLOST,” a regional one-cent sales tax surcharge devoted to transportation projects that will be voted on separately in the state’s twelve economic development planning regions on the self-same July 31 ballot. The initiative is being avidly backed by that well-known one-worlder, Georgia right-wing Republican Governor Nathan Deal, along with most of the state’s GOP leadership, which has taken tardy notice of the fact that traffic congestion (particularly in metro Atlanta) has reached Third World Metropolis levels. Not wanting to violate their reflexive no-new-taxes pledges, these GOPers are punting the decision to voters.

This craven if vaguely responsible action is what’s got the wingnuts really stirred up. And it’s not just about higher taxes, but the awful specter of regional government aimed at encouraging godless hippie alternative transportation.

If you think I’m exaggerating, check out Galloway’s account of the campaign for chief executive of Cobb County, Georgia’s fourth most-populous county:

Republican incumbent Tim Lee, one of those who helped create the project list for the transportation sales tax, has three challengers.
The most prominent is former commission chairman Bill Byrne, who has taken aim at Lee and the Atlanta Regional Commission, the planning agency that attempts to coordinate growth in the 10-county metro area. The agency also did much of the behind-the-scenes footwork on the transportation sales tax.
In an interview, Byrne all but declared the ARC to be an agent of the United Nations and its plan to erase suburbia.
“The T-SPLOST is an ARC-driven agenda. It is not a Georgia [Department of Transportation] or General Assembly-driven agenda,” said Byrne, a 2002 GOP candidate for governor.
The ARC has designated the U.S. 41/I-75 corridor as a future path for high density, high-rise growth, Byrne pointed out. “That’s Agenda 21 101….”
The county is now constructing an eight-foot wide multi-use trail along Dallas Highway in west Cobb. “That’s Agenda 21,” Byrne said. “Bicycles and pedestrian traffic as an alternative form of transportation to the automobile.”

You have to appreciate that Georgia has 159 counties (by contrast, California has 58), 28 counties in metro Atlanta alone. Regional planning and coordination is an absolute must—unless you think of “planning” and “coordination” as inherently communistic, and an existential threat to the sacred property rights of developers.

And so you have the spectacle of one set of conservative extremists labeling another conscious agents of a U.N./tree-hugger conspiracy.

I don’t doubt that T-SPLOST will go down to defeat in most if not all of Georgia’s regions on July 31. If so, it will represent not just another in a long series of blows to any hopes of controlling suburban sprawl and providing economic opportunity to dying small-town and rural Georgia, but another inducement to future GOP candidates to pass through the gates of delirium to ever-crazier, ever-more-paranoid appeals.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • gab on June 21, 2012 12:06 PM:

    To paraphrase Mencken, "people get the government they deserve, and they get it good and hard."

  • T2 on June 21, 2012 12:18 PM:

    its hard to read this stuff and realize its true. Are these people from outer space and ruining our government on purpose so it can be more easily invaded by alien creatures?
    That's about the only explanation I have left.

  • Daryl McCullough on June 21, 2012 12:20 PM:

    In the months before he died in 2001, my father, Richard McCullough of Rome, Georgia, fought a hard fight to pass a SPLOST to build a minor league baseball stadium in Rome. He won.

    I guess if it's baseball, it can't be a UN conspiracy.

  • Daryl McCullough on June 21, 2012 12:23 PM:

    Every day, I get cold sweats thinking about the fact that a good 50% of the population (more like 60% of the white, non-Hispanic, Protestant population) are supporting a party that is basically nuts.

    On the other hand, this time of year, cold sweat is welcome. It's going to be 95 again today.

  • Josef K on June 21, 2012 12:24 PM:

    Talk about self-inflicted wounds.

  • Daryl McCullough on June 21, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Nobody spelled out what "SPLOST" stands for: it's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

  • stevio on June 21, 2012 12:40 PM:

    Stupid is as stupid does...F. Gump

  • CharlieM on June 21, 2012 12:40 PM:


    I say fine. If TeaCrazies and others don't want to pay for improvements then let them simmer in their own exhaust fumes out on I-75/I-85.
    At one time, we in GA could (justifiably) say that we weren't like the yahoos in Alabama and Mississippi and the rest of the South (Christ! We even had the Olympics!).
    But not anymore. Self-absorbed Suburblicans and their brother bigots in the rural back 40 have transformed GA into a cesspit of Bubbas angry that they have to share power and angry that they (rather than working poor and minorities) have to cough up cash for improvements.
    It astounds me that they'd vote against a regressive sales tax (paid by everyone) for improvements when the alternative is to raise state gas tax - which would be mostly paid for by those same, self-satisfied, smug suburblicans burning it by the gallon in the daily traffic jams.
    /rant off

  • Ron Byers on June 21, 2012 12:57 PM:

    Bicycle paths? The new Floride? Really? Around here bicycle riding is becoming a popular recreational activity. Republicans even support bicycle paths in upper middle class neighborhoods. Lots of them even where those funny bicycle cloths.

  • DAY on June 21, 2012 1:02 PM:

    Georgia's on my mind, as that blind fella sang, but I can't he'p y'all. I got my own problems, up here in teh Pennsy!
    See, we got us a Corbett problem of our own.

  • Peter C on June 21, 2012 1:04 PM:

    “It’s not a conspiracy. This is the real McCoy,” said Heath, in dead earnest. “Their vision is to essentially conquer the world through limiting everything we do, incrementally taking our liberties away from us.”

    He's worried about a 1% sales tax to build infrastructure which includes bike paths. That is "limiting everything we do"??? That is taking away their liberties???

    I've heard that Michigan Millitia members were worried that important military bases in the US had coded highway signs which would lead the UN right to them. The code was English. The signs say things like "Fort Drum, 2 miles".

  • EJ on June 21, 2012 1:05 PM:

    I lived in Atlanta for 7 years until last year. For a time, it felt like things were improving. Some smart decisionmaking from both political parties was pushing this friendly, warm, fun place towards becoming a genuine world-class city.

    But there was a nasty side I didn't appreciate; race, class, and the massive influence of a handful of good 'ol boys who've run things since antebellum times.

    One of the main reasons I left was because of that growing hatred toward investment in public space, schools, transit, or any other one of the basics of civilization. Add that to the economic picture, and it all started to feel very unstable, creaping towards third-worldish in its parochial dysfunction.

    I love a great many things about Georgia, and miss them to this day, but when I think about it as a taxpayer, citizen, and one-day parent, there's no way I could have stayed on what felt like a sinking ship.

    Georgia can do as it pleases, but not with my addition to the workforce, and not with my tax dollars.

  • Peter C on June 21, 2012 1:18 PM:

    When you scratch just a bit deeper you realize that the Republicans concept of 'liberty' means 'being able to do whatever I want to do'. A ten-cent bottle deposit is an assault upon their liberty since it holds their dime hostage. A 'one-way' sign is a constraint upon their liberty to drive their SUV the way they like. If they are taxed but don't get every single benefit yet, their liberty is compromised. This is a two-year-old's concept of liberty.

    They think the wording of the 14th amendment stops at "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property" but forget the part about "without due process of law;". Laws can constrain liberty, but they must be enacted through a legitimate legislative process. We can make laws which create bottle deposits or designate one-way streets. We can create laws which collect taxes for food-stamps or social security, even if they won't benefit everyone equally. However, we can't create laws which punish people for practicing their religion or for saying unpopular things.

    But, just try to explain all this to a two-year-old ... or a tea-bagger with Lipton products stapled to their hats.

  • c u n d gulag on June 21, 2012 1:26 PM:

    If you wrote something like this as a work of fiction a couple of decades ago, you editor would ask you,
    "Is this a work of SciFi?", and, if the answer was no, it was about the future of politics in parts of America, the editor would ask you to take a pee-test, to see what hallucinogens, psychotropics, and pharmaceuticals you were on.

    I lived in NC for 9 years, and I found out that throughout much of the South homes can't have basements.

    Are they no longer allowed attics, to keep some of these absolute feckin' loons away from the rest of society?

    Hey, Southern Conservatives, what on Earth make you think the UN would have any interest in invading your Cracker Paradise?

    Invading, and then having to feed, water, and deal with you armed amoral feckin' Cracker idjit Jesus-freaks, is more than even a "One World Government" would do.

    Now, I could see nuking some parts of the shit-holes!
    But little rural back-water hick towns are a terrible waste of atomic explosions.

    My apologies to Liberal Southerners.
    And my pity.

  • Rich on June 21, 2012 1:45 PM:

    I was never so happy as when I saw Georgia in my rear view mirror. Given that this was the state of people like Herman Talmadge, the un-Mississippi-ification was probably just an anomaly.

  • Mimikatz on June 21, 2012 2:00 PM:

    It is all very funny until you factor in the high obesity rates in the South (can't have people walking or biking!) not to mention other problems like climate change. And I really don't see how we can survive as a country with so many ignorant, delusional people, not in the 21st Century with global competition from better-educated countries. What's going to happen when we really start to collapse? I suppose they all go for their guns. I'm increasingly happy to have at best only about 20 years left.

  • Werewolf on June 21, 2012 2:09 PM:

    When I was growing up in Jacksonville,Florida, there was a popular joke:
    "Why does the St. Johns River flow north?-'Cause Georgia sucks."
    Of course, Floriduh isn't much better, these days.

  • Trav on June 21, 2012 2:20 PM:

    Well said, Mimikatz,

    I suppose very generation has had to go thru the despair of the future that I feel now. But boy, the stuff we see now seems to be really crazy. I cannot see how the US can stay a coherent actor on the world stage with half the population driven mad with fear by grifters and madmen. The smallest decision is a near civil war size struggle and it seems to be headed to a worse place. When faced with even a minor problem, the state grinds to a halt as the usual asshats seek to find a position that will benefit them then attack anyone who holds a different position with the actual merits of any policy given nary a thought. The problems we face now are so vast and so immediate (indeed, it may be to late anyway) that only a nimble ship of state could address them and we will never have that again.

  • TCinLA on June 21, 2012 2:22 PM:

    Is there something in the water in the South that turns white people into drooling morons? There's always the alternative theory that this is what you get with ten generations of southern white people's "inbreeding."

    I swear, from the first time I ran across real Southerners 50 years ago in the Navy, these are the STUPIDEST people on earth!

  • TCinLA on June 21, 2012 2:29 PM:

    The more things change in the South, the more they remain the same. Here is a section from the "Cornerstone Speech" (1861), in which Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens explains Southern economic theory as enshrined in the Constitution of the Confederacy:

    Allow me briefly to allude to some of these improvements. The question of building up class interests, or fostering one branch of industry to the prejudice of another under the exercise of the revenue power, which gave us so much trouble under the old constitution, is put at rest forever under the new. We allow the imposition of no duty with a view of giving advantage to one class of persons, in any trade or business, over those of another. All, under our system, stand upon the same broad principles of perfect equality. Honest labor and enterprise are left free and unrestricted in whatever pursuit they may be engaged. This old thorn of the tariff, which was the cause of so much irritation in the old body politic, is removed forever from the new.

    Again, the subject of internal improvements, under the power of Congress to regulate commerce, is put at rest under our system. The power, claimed by construction under the old constitution, was at least a doubtful one; it rested solely upon construction. We of the South, generally apart from considerations of constitutional principles, opposed its exercise upon grounds of its inexpediency and injustice. Notwithstanding this opposition, millions of money, from the common treasury had been drawn for such purposes. Our opposition sprang from no hostility to commerce, or to all necessary aids for facilitating it. With us it was simply a question upon whom the burden should fall. In Georgia, for instance, we have done as much for the cause of internal improvements as any other portion of the country, according to population and means. We have stretched out lines of railroads from the seaboard to the mountains; dug down the hills, and filled up the valleys at a cost of not less than $25,000,000. All this was done to open an outlet for our products of the interior, and those to the west of us, to reach the marts of the world. No State was in greater need of such facilities than Georgia, but we did not ask that these works should be made by appropriations out of the common treasury. The cost of the grading, the superstructure, and the equipment of our roads was borne by those who had entered into the enterprise. Nay, more not only the cost of the iron no small item in the aggregate cost was borne in the same way, but we were compelled to pay into the common treasury several millions of dollars for the privilege of importing the iron, after the price was paid for it abroad. What justice was there in taking this money, which our people paid into the common treasury on the importation of our iron, and applying it to the improvement of rivers and harbors elsewhere? The true principle is to subject the commerce of every locality, to whatever burdens may be necessary to facilitate it. If Charleston harbor needs improvement, let the commerce of Charleston bear the burden. If the mouth of the Savannah river has to be cleared out, let the sea-going navigation which is benefited by it, bear the burden. So with the mouths of the Alabama and Mississippi river. Just as the products of the interior, our cotton, wheat, corn, and other articles, have to bear the necessary rates of freight over our railroads to reach the seas. This is again the broad principle of perfect equality and justice, and it is especially set forth and established in our new constitution.

  • TCinLA on June 21, 2012 2:34 PM:

    Mimikatz said: "I'm increasingly happy to have at best only about 20 years left."

    You and me both, you and me both.

  • Coop on June 21, 2012 2:37 PM:

    @CharlieM - even that isn't an alternative. By law, gas tax revenues are dedicated to roadbuilding, and only roadbuilding. Yes - that's right. It is against the law to use gas tax funds to build rail, bike paths, trolleys, or anything other than more paving.

    GDOT is a huge power center in the state government, because they have their own dedicated funding source.

  • boatboy_srq on June 21, 2012 2:48 PM:

    Friends and recruiters keep trying to convince me that Atlanta is an oasis of intelligence in the ignorant cracker morasse that constitutes rural Georgia. I have to keep pointing out things like this to them.

    This is one more reason why, even within the US, relocating production (particularly to the South) as a cost-saving measure isn't necessarily good for business.

    Alphadesigner has a deliciously wicked set of graphics called "Mapping Stereotypes," in which he charts the prejudices of Europe. The map of Italy, for example, has a dividing line right at Rome, straight across the boot upper, between "Italy" to the north and "Ethiopia" to the south. If he were to draw the same for the US, I expect that, somewhere around the Mason Dixon line, there'd be a similar separation separation between "USA" and "Guatemala" to mark where the Reichwing's banana republic begins.

    @TCinLA: your quote is brilliant, and spot-on. The only difference today is that, while the rail and port enterprises mentioned in Stevens' speech would still denounce the "demon Tax," they'd be first in line to have their hands out for public assistance (grants/land/credits/incentives) to bring the business to those places - or else take it elsewhere.

  • GraphicBass on June 21, 2012 2:48 PM:

    As a Georgia resident for the past 16 years (Atlanta area, which is not quite as nuts as the rest of the state), I cringe every time I read something like this. I love living here, and since opting out the workplace 12 years ago to work at home, I escape the worst of the traffic, but, Lordy, these conservatives have some ideas that will try the most patient of souls. But is it better anywhere else?

  • boatboy_srq on June 21, 2012 2:58 PM:

    @GraphicBass:

    Is there anywhere better? Well, not south of the Mason Dixon or east of the Rockies, no. Ever been to Boston?

    And has it occurred to you that "opting out [of] the workplace" feeds wingnut business philosophy, since they don't have to provide you a decent, comfortable, healthy place to work anymore? You've become part of their "cost-cutting" by saving them the floor space and energy costs for your office, and still think that's your choice.

  • CharlieM on June 21, 2012 3:00 PM:

    @Coop,

    It's the only alternative they have. What's really driving the opposition isn't the tax per se. It's that some of the proceeds will be going to help "The Other" (i.e. City of Atlanta residents who use public transportation).
    Suburblicans and Bubba Bigot wouldn't raise so much as a peep if all of the proceeds were to go to them (i.e. paving over more Atlanta neighborhoods so Suzy Suburblican can drive to work in a few less minutes).
    Living out here in ATL 'burbs, I can tell you - it's all about "the other". Always has been.

  • Ray Waldren on June 21, 2012 3:04 PM:

    "I've heard that Michigan Millitia members were worried that important military bases in the US had coded highway signs which would lead the UN right to them. The code was English. The signs say things like "Fort Drum, 2 miles".

    Speaking of Michigan and highway signs, back in 1964 -- some crazy souls -- probably Republicans tried to get some free advertising at the expense of the State Highway Department. In the popular southern part of Michigan off US112 (later US12) was a small (pop. 10,000) county seat called Coldwater. With a couple of paint brush strokes it became Goldwater on a number of mileage signs all over lower Michigan. No sooner than the Highway Department restored Coldwater, it was changed again repeatedly.

    Election Day, however, Michigan went solidly all the way with LBJ -- nearly every Republican went down to defeat except a relatively new governor (first elected in 1962) -- George Romney whose campaign told Michiganders how to vote for him while yanking that Democrat lever to vote a straight ticket led by LBJ. I don't believe the old GOP party pros ever forgave him for that.

  • jsjiowa on June 21, 2012 3:04 PM:

    It is not just Georgia. Agenda 21 was sprinkled several times through the Republican party platform in Iowa that was voted on last weekend. Even the Republican Governor tried to downplay the signficance of the document. However, one of the planks specifically required all Republican candidates to support legislation in line with the platform in order to receive a party endorsement, which tells me the next few years could be interesting...

  • H-Bob on June 21, 2012 3:35 PM:

    It’s kind of amusing how Georgia (especially Atlanta), in the 1960s to 1980s, tried to portray itself as having moved beyond racism (the “New South”; "the City too busy to hate”) but now has given up and is content being Mississippi with an enormous airport ! And it wouldn't surprise anyone if most Georgians think that airplanes are impossible !

  • boatboy_srq on June 21, 2012 3:53 PM:

    @H-Bob:

    And it wouldn't surprise anyone if most Georgians think that airplanes are impossible !

    For Georgians and other subjects of Wingnut Reichwing government, so long as they keep shredding education the way they have, if airplanes there aren't impossible now, they will be soon.

  • bluestatedon on June 21, 2012 3:58 PM:

    What's especially ludicrous about the anti-UN paranoia is that the very same people who are convinced that the U.N. has the power to subjugate the most powerful nation on the planet are the very same people who will deride the U.N. as a powerless, corrupt, incompetent, dysfunctional organization not worthy of our tax dollars.

  • boatboy_srq on June 21, 2012 4:09 PM:

    @bluestatedon: omnipotent powerlessness is a hallmark of every Reichwingnut bogeyman.

  • shanky on June 21, 2012 4:36 PM:

    Having lived in the South (Nashville) for much of my life, and being a middle-aged white guy; I can honestly say that I have never seen it so bad politically down here. Without a doubt, the idea of a non-white president has freaked these people out. Unfortunately, I find myself agreeing with the remarks posted, and would add that religion is playing a major role in this paranoia. There are way too many churches down here.

  • Patango on June 21, 2012 8:09 PM:

    A tea bagger on line was bragging about his freedom loving party in montana so I click the link to his site , the 1st on their agenda was this , and I traced it back to ALEC

    It is dr strangloveish for sure , top conservative executives trying to figure out how to stop the evil bike paths , this is another great example of why allowing all the wealth to be concentrated in a few stooges hands can destroy a nation , but america does not even speak to that issue on a national level , the non wealthy will be crushed here eventually

    You can rest assured this subject has been introduced to every state in the nation , and some gop rep is being paid to introduce it , thats how the free market ussc democracy works now

  • pjcamp on June 21, 2012 11:09 PM:

    I live here. I'm voting against it. Look at the map on their web page

    http://untieatlanta.com/

    Almost every penny of it is being spent or more goddamn roads. There are two, count 'em, two, rail projects -- one to pretty up the terminal in the airport and a high speed line to Griffin. I guess somebody important lives there.

    They're doing what they've always done with congestion in this area -- using it as a stalking horse to build more roads so there can be more development so the sprawl can get worse. Atlanta may well be the largest metro area without a real public transit system. That's what we need - get people off the roads because there's no damn way you can build new roads fast enough to keep up with the growth.

    Cities one fifth our size totally spank us when it comes to public transit. We have the system you can get when it has to pay its own way -- MARTA trains only go four places, and serve primarily as a means of servicing geographically distributed airport parking facilities for business travelers.

    Screw that. I'm willing to pay additional taxes for a plan that will actually address the problem. But I'm not willing to pay a goddamn penny for yet another plan to line the pockets of property developers.

  • boatboy_srq on June 22, 2012 8:52 AM:

    @pjcamp:

    This is the old GM/Goodyear/StdOil strategy of the 40s/50s: starve public transit or privatise it and shut it down, then campaign loud and hard for more public resources for your product. In the last century, Los Angeles was the best illustration: step 1, buy and close the (effective, efficient, well-run and cheap) Red Car; step 2, sell the voters cars, and watch the congestion build and voters' blood pressure rise in the traffic jams; step 3, lobby for more and bigger roads to relieve the congestion. Imagine what L.A. would look like today if none of that had happened.

    That they suddenly need some international bogeyman like the UN and Agenda 21 to make the case says a lot about how little steam is left in the old model: if they have to go that far, then building more and bigger roads doesn't sell nearly as well as it used to, and they're beginning to get desperate.

  • yellowdog on June 30, 2012 1:22 AM:

    I love my home state. I love it even when it is 105 degrees and Nathan Deal is the governor.

    We are passing through an ugly time. What grieves me about Georgia is that I know we are capable of much better behavior than this. The people making these decisions--at least some of them--really do know better--and that's what is hard to take. Some people just don't know any better. I don't have to agree with them, but they believe what they believe, nonsense and all. I halfway respect their integrity. But what about this other crowd? They know better, but they choose to carry on like this. It is a sign of degradation in the leadership of the state.