Thursday, May 16, 2013

Art Thompson's Silly Little Lie

As I’ve documented on several previous occasions, JBS CEO Art Thompson is consistently inhospitable to the truth.  That trait was displayed to good advantage in a recent video commentary in which Art once again fulminated about the abiding Soviet menace.

About two minutes into the video, as Art weaves a fascinating tale of Cold War-era Soviet deviousness in which Russian submarines decanted Spetsnaz  commandoes into Sweden in order “to start disarming certain military bases.” During those incursions, he insisted, the Soviet Special Forces operators “destroyed a large amount of Sweden’s oil reserves … as a precursor to invading Sweden under Brezhnev.”

“There was a plan, a very elaborate one, to invade Sweden and another country,” Art insists, going on to explain that is he among the special, chosen few who knew of these developments because  “I got this straight from the head of the National Security Agency that that was what was going on back then.” 

This is a forthright, unambiguous claim, made on the record, that the military official who presides over the most secretive intelligence agency in the US government saw fit to confide these privileged details to the CEO of the John Birch Society – or, at least, the guy who would someday hold that position. 

Art didn’t say if this intelligence was provided to him by the incumbent NSA Director, General Keith B. Alexander, or one of his 14 predecessors (such as Lt. Gen. William Odom, who held that post during the 1980s). But that detail is inconsequential, given that Art’s claim is, on its face, a childish and self-exalting falsehood.

Unless Art can prove this claim, he should either retract it or own up to the fact that he told a lie.

It’s worth pointing out as well that the details of the story Art told don’t really make much sense. 

Why would the Soviets sabotage Sweden’s oil facilities, since the country has never been a significant producer or exporter of oil? Currently, Sweden ranks 95th in national oil production, right below the petro-chemical juggernaut that is Bangladesh. Neighboring Norway, on the other hand, ranks 14th. Similarly, Sweden is 45th among oil-exporting nations, as compared to Norway’s fifth-place rank. 

Did Art have Norway, rather than Sweden, in mind as the target of this campaign of Soviet espionage and subversion? Or is it his view that Sweden's unremarkable performance as an oil producing nation attests to the singular success of Soviet sabotage efforts?

Here’s what I suspect happened here: I think Art was describing the plot of a really silly 1980s propaganda film. 

In 1987, the Swedish government produced a civil defense film called “The Premonition” that described Soviet espionage operations – which were plentiful, of course – and sketched out what I’m pretty sure was a fictional scenario in which the Soviets carried out sabotage operations in Sweden as a precursor to an invasion. By that time, Brezhnev had joined Lenin in hell, and the Soviets were beginning to downsize their empire. While Russia can be a restive and dangerous neighbor in any era, by the late 1980s its was becoming clear that neither Sweden nor anybody else had much to fear regarding the prospect of a Soviet invasion. 

I think that Art most likely saw that film, or some portion of it, decades ago, and wove elements of it into his stump speech, which most likely included reference to something that had once been said by the NSA Director – and that those elements ended up being thrown together, Mad Libs-style, in Art’s recent video. 

This would be entirely forgivable – if it weren’t for Art’s emphatic insistence that he had gotten this story “straight from the head of the National Security Agency.” Not from an NSA report, publication, or analysis, mind you, but “straight” from the lips, pen, or keyboard of the NSA Director himself.

As a self-replenishing source of bizarre comedy, Art Thompson is an embarrassment of riches. As someone who is the official spokesman for the John Birch Society, he’s simply an embarrassment.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Guide to Obama's Sales Pitch for Corporate Profits - or ReBilking America

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster 

The visual above is the short story. Barack Obama smooching Charles Koch, who with his brother, David, very much wants American taxpayers to pay for the XL Keystone pipeline, which will save them money and the trouble of redesigning their present refineries, deep in the heart of Texas. The Koch refinery is configured to take heavy crude, available only from Venezuela and Canada.

And along with the distasteful issue of going hat in hand to Hugo Chavez, and paying $100 (£64) a barrel, the oil the Kochs need is available far more thriftily from Canada, selling at around $67 (£42) a barrel. Even billionaires take thrift into consideration. Getting Americans, now struggling to feed their families, to pay doubtless stuck them as a much better idea.

You can't say the Brothers Koch are not consistent. I coined the name, 'Greedville,' to ID them and their many co-conspirators. Together, they have been bilking America for years and have now formed a coalition with President Obama to Rebilk America using ideas which first say light of day in the unlikely environs of Libertarianism, for which I must apologize. I tried to stop them, but what do you do with a bunch of wild-eyed Randroids, including the ever avaricious Ed Crane?

Crane, and Cato Institute, eventually saw the full potential of privatization, borrowed from Reason Foundation.

Privatization, the lodestone of the Obama message, should strike horror into the hearts of an American. Privatization has grown our prisons into factories intended only to produce money through incarceration, many of these for crimes which are, arguably, not crimes at all, harming no one. The same “public – private” cooperation, also known as fascism, is steadily encroaching on every part of our lives and, sadly, can be credited directly to a Libertarian.

Dr. Robert Poole, who originated the idea of privatization in his 1975 book, “Cutting Back City Hall,” laid the tracks for the railroading Obama is 'fast-tracking' for the Kochs, who are large donors to Reason Foundation and actually founded Cato Institute. These supposedly Libertarian think-tanks have long since become the means of quieting objections from the 'Right' intelligent enough to understand what was actually going down.

Using the fiction of 'privatization,' actually corporatization, corporations intend to own America's entire infrastructure, mining it, and us with the cost-plus contracts for 'rebilking' which helped make the Kochs billionaires in the first place. I'm sure Bob Poole did well on the deal.

Bob retired to Florida where he spends his time playing with, would you believe, his model trains. 


Obama's pitch for corporate welfare can usefully be considered as two parts. The cake, which are the direct largess to be handed out to the Kochtapus and friends, and the frosting of promises, including “quality day-care,” which was to sugar-coat the impending flow of funds to Greedville with promises for programs which, if precedent is to be believed, are in reality intended to put ordinary Americans under tighter control and provide earlier access to children for purposes of ensuring they emerge from 'schooling' properly propagandized.

What any reasonable person would have asked is, “why not policies which return prosperity to Americans so mothers and fathers can raise their own children, instilling their own values?

Since such 'policy reforms,' as changes in student loans actually should address the fraudulent nature of the loans in the first place, why is an investigation into this by the DOJ not included? Answer: These loans resulted in enormous corporate profits.

Every proposal has the same unchanging outcome, increasing corporate profits while making it look like they are doing ordinary Americans a favor.

The gloss of frosting also included the continued demand for gun control, intended to leave Americans unable to defend themselves against this assault of fascism.

In fact, along with Obama's use of 'not for profits,' and a steady roll of propaganda, there was not a leaf left out of the book also used by Karl Rove. Perhaps Karl loaned it to him.

When Obama uses the phrase 'rebuilding America, he actually means rebilking America. The only solution is taking the power back, directly to the people. Get the real thing. Rebuild America, starting in your own local community by returning to our founding principles.

Instead of more bilking start rebuilding America for real.

The Declaration of Independence affirms the rights of all people to life, liberty, and happiness.

The Preamble to the Constitution says, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

One of the first steps to securing the blessings of liberty and ensuring justice hinges on an electoral system which we can trust, the very thing Karl Rove has worked so hard to extinguish, with the help of the people named above, and many, many more like him.

Over the last decade a general agreement on several points has coalesced in the Election Integrity Movement.

First, we need to dump the voting machines.

Second, we need to return control of balloting to the most local level, voting on paper ballots, tallying transparently and openly at the precinct and then publishing the results.

To return power to the people we need to move the nexus of control closer to home.

We can also ensure states can bypass Congress by proposing Constitutional Amendments and ratifying among themselves, thus returning power to the states, closer to the people who are the government. The Madison Amendment.

We need to return representation of the people to the levels mandated by the Constitution, this being no more than 30,000 for a member of the House of Representatives and no more than 1,000 locally. Our present system violates the Constitution. This must be corrected. Doing so must take place through local organizing, original shoe-leather activism, which brings us together past the divisions politics has imposed.

Local organizing will also allow us to pass ordinances banning the use of drones, along with other essential measures for returning control to the people. Strong communities, concern for those around us, and individual initiative, made America a shining light on the horizon for people around the world once. We have it in our power to begin the world over again. The choice is each of ours make.

At Rebuild America, we supply information, tools, and a meeting point for sharing what works so local action can flower as the people do it themselves.

See you there, and then in your home town.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Paycheck "Patriotism" or Lucre before Liberty (part two)

"I don't expect Will to take this [i.e., being fired for no definable, let alone defensible, reason] lying down.... If he would go quietly and pursue his own interests, I would think better of the man."

Jack McManus e-mail to Art Thompson, October 3, 2006 (mistakenly cc'd to me)

In our last installment, we met Jack McManus, the President of the John Birch Society and Publisher of The New American magazine. In those roles he is the arbiter of the organization’s ideology, which – as I pointed out – is troubling, given that he has explicitly endorsed (among other things) the use of unconstitutional military tribunals to try people accused of terrorism. Under his direction, the JBS’s Support Your Local Police Committee has embraced the idea that there is literally nothing the police can do that would merit organized opposition to their actions.

The other half of the JBS’s ruling dyad is Chief Executive Officer Art Thompson, whose role is to raise money for the organization and define its action program (such as it is). Although they find their current partnership to be mutually beneficial, Thompson and McManus aren’t exactly Damon and Pythias.

In 2000, when Thompson was the head of JBS fundraising (a role in which he didn’t excel), he collaborated with then-CEO G. Vance Smith to remove McManus as JBS President. Rather than being fired, McManus – who was already receiving Social Security – was given a pay cut and appointed to the JBS Council, a group that is depicted as an advisory body but that has little material influence on the organization’s agenda.

Five years later, after Thompson had been fired for his secretive efforts (carried out on company time) to undermine Vance Smith, Thompson made an alliance of convenience with Jack McManus to oust Smith as CEO. 

Smith, who became JBS CEO in 1992, never liked Jack McManus, in large measure because of irreducible personality conflicts. In more substantive terms, McManus had become an institutional liability because of his decades-long hobby of peddling anti-Semitic nonsense – something that was in direct conflict with black-letter JBS policy established by Robert Welch.
In 2000, acting on Smith’s direction, Thompson compiled a dossier on McManus’s extra-curricular anti-Jewish activism; this included excerpts from a videotaped speech in which Jack waded neck-deep in classic Jew-baiting tropes and themes. Thompson also wrote a detailed tactical memo describing how Fed-connected “watchdog” groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center could exploit the damage that Jack had done (see the excerpt below):

"If we're attacked by [Morris] Dees [and the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC], many Birchers will rally but some will question leadership,” warned Thompson in the 2000 memo. “It may be [that] Dees quietly shows McManus material around without a major public outcry.... Dees needs something solid with which to fully demoralize the membership. Does the [anti-Jewish] language of McManus do that? Maybe.... More than likely, Dees will hint that some Birchers are less than tolerant, not all, but some, while showing the McManus material to key locals: police, D.A., etc...."

By this time, Alan Stang – a key JBS figure in until the 1980s – had set up a website that was being used as samizdat for disaffected JBS members and understandably aggrieved former staffers who had been purged from the ranks. Thompson somehow convinced himself that Stang, McManus, and Morris Dees would ally themselves in an attack on JBS “leadership”:

This is why Thompson insisted that McManus had to be removed. He was the one who put together the material that would eventually be used by Smith in 2005 in an attempt to blackmail McManus:

Notice that item “G” on Thompson’s proposed action plan in dealing with McManus was to “get involved in a SYLP [Support Your Local Police] program to counter a possible upcoming negative campaign.”

That is the same SYLP program, of course, in which JBS members are urged to render unconditional, unstinting support to local law enforcement irrespective of what they do. 

Once again, here is the relevant excerpt from the SYLP “start-up manual”:

Your committee is not here to attack them, blame them for violating the Constitution or your civil liberties because they are enforcing a measure of the Patriot Act or conducting a joint Federal and State anti-terror drill. Those are federal issues, which the local police in some cases may have already have little to no say if they are to continue receiving their additional Homeland Security funds, new equipment and weaponry....” (emphasis added).

In other words: When the police violate the Constitution and injure innocent people, don’t you dare criticize them – because if they pay attention to your complaints this might make it more difficult to acquire the military hardware they need to be efficient agents of state terrorism.

This is undisguised collaboration with the enemy – and it has its origins in the bigotry and dishonesty of Jack McManus and the self-obsessed opportunism of Art Thompson. 

Is there any reason not rooted in Art Thompson's self-interested calculations why Jack McManus would be reinstated as JBS President in 2005?

In 2000, Thompson warned Smith that McManus’s anti-Semitic paper trail made the JBS vulnerable to blackmail. In October 2005, Smith made precisely that use of the dossier Thompson had compiled: By way of proxies he approached several people, myself among them, with a “sizzle reel” containing some of McManus’s most repelled soundbites, accompanied with the ominous suggestion that the material might be leaked to the media. That threat was also made to McManus himself by one of Smith’s allies. 

This prompted me to write a letter of resignation. I had a young family, some (very little) money in the bank, and no job prospects, but I wasn’t going to work for an organization in which leadership disputes were settled through blackmail. 

Two days later, Smith was ousted and took a handful of associates to seize control of Robert Welch University (RWU), a now-defunct JBS affiliate. Jack called me and all but begged me to rejoin the staff – primarily, I suspect, so that I would be sitting next to him and Art Thompson when they announced the new “leadership” team. 

Thompson and McManus filed suit to take back RWU, and eventually lost. The key figure in that debacle, from my perspective, was Alan Scholl, who was supposed to be a key witness for the JBS side of the dispute but got his ass handed to him on the witness stand. At the time, Scholl was Chief Operations Officer of the JBS, in which capacity he pissed away more than a quarter of a million dollars by hiring two very expensive – and entirely ineffectual – “Madison Avenue” PR men in a doomed effort to “re-brand” the JBS.

Prior to those assignments, Scholl was an inept and unproductive field coordinator in the Bay Area. His ruinous performance as COO was rewarded with an appointment to head the JBS’s “Freedom Project” educational program, which offers redundant proof that the JBS has a Soviet-style management system in which politically favored personalities fail upwards through the bureaucracy. 

During the October 2005 leadership struggle, Thompson and McManus denounced Vance Smith as a petty control freak; for his part, Smith described Thompson and McManus as incompetent, dishonest opportunists. This is one of those rare conflicts in which each side told the unvarnished truth about the other.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Paycheck "Patriotism," or Lucre before Liberty (part one)

We must not only know the truth, but face the truth, if it is to set us free or to keep us so.

Robert Welch, The Blue Book of the John Birch Society 

If all men (and women too, of course) … would simply resolve tomorrow always to be truthful, about everything – to the best of their knowledge and understanding – and would then abide by that resolution, I believe that fully half of all the troubles and grief of the human race would disappear within six months.

Robert Welch, The John Birch Resolutions (1970), No. 2.

The unvarnished truth about the John Birch Society is this: Since the death of Robert Welch in late 1985, the organization he founded exists primarily to provide job security for a small group of people who would otherwise be  unemployable. 

I’m not referring to the field coordinators, who have a supremely difficult and indifferently compensated job. I would also exempt from that description the home office staff below the executive level, who are likewise people of great competence – and occasional brilliance – who actually work for a living. 

To be brutally candid, I’m referring to the organization’s CEO, Art Thompson; its President, John F. McManus; Gary Benoit, the editor of the organization’s magazine, The New American; and Alan School, the unreconstructed religious bigot and full-throttle authoritarian who presides over the so-called Freedom Project, the purpose of which is to turn home schools into little nationalist madrassas. 

All of those individuals have excelled at the useless art of risk-free “patriotism”: They have found a comfortable and mildly profitable niche in the kind of activism that riles people up over the loss of their freedom, while doing nothing to threaten the power of freedom’s enemies.

As a JBS staffer for thirteen years – twelve of them at the organization’s home office in Appleton – I learned how to identify the kinds of initiatives that would actually make a material difference in the struggle to restore individual liberty. They were the ones that would be rejected by JBS Upper Management with the words, “We have to pick our battles.” That ritual invocation, properly understood, meant: We have to pick only those “battles” that would be conveniently open-ended – and thus conducive to career security – and inoffensive to the Power Elite – and therefore not at all risky. 

Here’s one very timely illustration of how the JBS formula for “activism” works in practical terms:

The JBS will condemn gun confiscation and the federalization of law enforcement – and then create a campaign urging members to render unconditional support to the local police as they carry out federally subsidized campaigns that injure innocent people and undermine what’s left of the Bill of Rights.

I do not exaggerate. Here’s a relevant excerpt from the JBS’s official Support Your Local Police manual:

“We urge all responsible citizens in this community to...[s]upport our local police in the performance of their duties [and] oppose all harassment or interference with law enforcement personnel as they carry out their assigned tasks.... [We must accept] our responsibilities to our local police, to defend them against unjust attacks, make them proud and secure in their vital profession, and to offer them our support in word and deed wherever possible…. The local police are not your enemy. Your committee is not here to attack them, blame them for violating the Constitution or your civil liberties because they are enforcing a measure of the Patriot Act or conducting a joint Federal and State anti-terror drill. Those are federal issues, which the local police in some cases may have already have little to no say if they are to continue receiving their additional Homeland Security funds, new equipment and weaponry....” (Emphases added.)

Had the JBS’s Support Your Local Police Committee existed in 1938, it could have organized chapters in Germany and used a letter-perfect translation of its official manual without incurring the displeasure of the Nazi regime. There is nothing in the formula outlined above that would have been objectionable to the “local” police who rounded up Jews and political dissidents; they also demanded that citizens “accept [their] responsibilities to our local police” by giving them uncritical support and making them “proud and secure in their vital profession.”

Here’s another very useful illustration of JBS Upper Management offering an unblushing embrace of centralized power and official lawlessness. 

In the November 20, 2009 installment of The Hill newspaper's "The Big Question" feature, JBS President John F. McManus endorsed the creation of unconstitutional military tribunals for terrorism suspects – and obliquely endorsed the undeclared, unconstitutional wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The decision to try the 9/11 defendants in a civilian court opens up the likelihood that the defendant's right to what is called `discovery' will require providing the defense team with intelligence that will surely make its way back to terrorist allies," insisted McManus. "These trials should be held in military courts where no such rights exist. Their crimes were acts of war (didn't we go to war as a result?), not the acts of ordinary criminals."

In addition to being President of the JBS and Publisher of The New American, McManus is the official arbiter of the organization’s ideology. He wasn’t simply offering a personal opinion; he was speaking ex cathedra on behalf of the JBS (a role that McManus, a schismatic Catholic whose views are borderline sedevacantist, might find ironic).

The official position of the John Birch Society includes these two propositions:

1) The “local” police – which, as JBS Upper Management acknowledges, have been entirely federalized – should be free to do whatever they want without organized resistance or opposition;

2) The government should be free to dispense with legitimate trials for anybody it designates a “terrorist.”

Once those two propositions are accepted, what “freedom” remains to be defended? 

How did the JBS become what it is today? Part of the answer is found in the fact that Robert Welch – who founded the organization out of conviction, rather than in search of a career – did not make suitable provision for organizational continuity. That led to predictable and routine power struggles and factional fights – the most recent of which took place in October 2005, and prefigured similar upheavals in organizations like the Cato Institute and, especially, FreedomWorks. I’ll offer details in my next installment.