Mojo - June 2009

Von Brunn's Anti-Semitic Conspiracies: from 9/11 to Google

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 12:55 PM EDT

James von Brunn, the white supremacist arrested for the murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum, held numerous extremist views, as has been widely reported.

He maintained that 9/11 was the product of a Jewish conspiracy. In one posting, he claimed that only one Jewish person was killed at the World Trade Center--even though the "WTC was the nexus for international Jew trade, located in the largest Jew city in the world." He added, "It is revealing that 3 Jews laughing with glee, pointing at the exploding WTC, were caught by a neighbor on video-tape."

Like many anti-Semitics, von Brunn believed Jews controlled the world financial system, and he used the traditional data points and rhetoric of such hate-mongers: "From this cess-pool of Jews and traitors came the FTAA which in 1994, with Congressional blessings, changed its name to WTO (World Trade Organization)."

But von Brunn also tracked updates on the global financial Jewish conspiracy. In 2003, von Brunn posted on Stormfront.org, a site of "white pride," information about Google that he had found at the website of Holocaust denier David Irving. The basic charge: Google was founded, funded and controlled by Jews. And you know what that means.

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Blackwater Operating in Iraq Illegally, Alleges Lawsuit

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 10:41 AM EDT

Blackwater (renamed "Xe") has been kicked out of Iraq. Baghdad has revoked its operating license, and the State Department cancelled its long-standing private security contract earlier this year, replacing it with competitors DynCorp and Triple Canopy. But ridding Mesopotamia of Erik Prince and his hired guns is apparently not that simple. According to a lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday in the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, Blackwater continues to operate in Iraq under the mantle of Greystone Ltd., one of an array of smaller sub-companies under the Blackwater/Xe umbrella. (Dan Schulman and I wrote an in-depth piece about Greystone and its practice of hiring Third-World mercenaries for duty in Iraq in the March/April 2008 issue of Mother Jones.)

The contract in question is with a State Department-funded group called the International Republican Institute (IRI). Nominally nonpartisan, it claims to be promoting good governance and the rule of law in Iraq. In reality, the organization's leadership is heavily populated with Republicans, including Senator John McCain, who serves as chairman of the board. Bill Sizemore of HamptonRoads.com reports that, between 2005 and 2007, the IRI paid Blackwater $17 million annually for security services, almost a quarter of the group's $75-million annual budget.

10 Questions for Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 10:11 AM EDT

Ken Lewis, the CEO of Bank of America, has been called on to the carpet: he'll be testifying at a hearing of Ed Towns' Oversight and Government Reform committee today. The Service Employees International Union passes on ten questions it thinks committee members should ask Lewis:

1. How can you commit to pay for former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo’s legal defense—“a million a month” according to Bloomberg—while Bank of America announced layoffs for 35,000 employees and refuses cost-of-living raises for its lowest-wage workers?

2. Why do you nickel and dime your lowest paid workers (tellers earn $10.50/hour without access to affordable health insurance) at the same time you shower lavish perks and deals for executives and traders?

3. As Bank of America employees speak out about unpaid overtime and a predatory sales culture, what do you plan to do to improve employment practices?

4. Given dismal economic performance, low-staff morale, and a core business model of pushing debt on consumers, what has Bank of America done to meet its stated goal of being "the world's most admired company?"

5. After reportedly receiving tax breaks, and more than $195 billion in bailouts, government guarantees, and taxpayer-funded healthcare for its workers, what is Bank of America’s plan to reduce its dependence on the U.S.taxpayer?

6. After being bailed out by hard-working taxpayers facing the toughest economic times since the Great Depression, do you think it’s right for Bank of America to lobby against laws that would helps working families—like the Employee Free Choice Act, healthcare reform, and credit card reform?

7. As you argue against any laws that would create greater transparency in the industry, could you tell us what other calamities on your books you are hiding? First it was the Merrill Lynch deal—what’s the next shoe to drop?

8. During your time as CEO, at what point did cutting costs and gouging customers with unnecessary products and skyrocketing fees become more important than customer satisfaction?

9. At a time when people are struggling, have you considered lowering banking and overdraft fees that are already higher than many other non-bailed-out banks?

10. Why do you create incentives for Bank of America employees to push further debt on customers?

This should get good. You can watch live here.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 11, 2009

Thu Jun. 11, 2009 9:27 AM EDT

Today's photo is from Afghanistan.U.S. Army Spc. Benji McHugh works security from the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over Khost, Afghanistan, May 26, 2009. McHugh and the Chinook crew are assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Prentice C. Martin-Bowen.)

The Story Behind Operation Rescue's Plans to Buy Tiller's Clinic

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 12:40 AM EDT

Yesterday Operation Rescue, the national anti-abortion group based in Wichita, announced that it wants to buy murdered abortion doctor George Tiller's clinic and convert it into a "memorial to the unborn." The national media dismissed the announcement as a stunt, but it most certainly isn't. 

In 2007 I reported a piece for this magazine about how anti-abortion groups have created similar memorials around the country. The story focused on Operation Rescue's efforts to convert a different abortion clinic in Wichita into what is now its national headquarters. When I visited, Operation Rescue director Troy Newman explained that he'd purchased the building through a front group. That approach makes yesterday's announcement a credible threat. If Tiller's family puts the building on the market, they might have to sell to someone they know or closely investigate the buyer to keep the building out of Newman's hands.

"What better way to show that we are winning and demoralize the enemy," Newman told me in 2007, "than by shutting down an abortion mill, throwing out the tenants on their face, and taking it over as our headquarters? You lose, we win."

Beyond the chest thumping, these kind of takeovers--which have also happened in Tennessee and Louisiana--are part of a long-term strategy of the anti-abortion movement. The approach ultimately enables a softer appeal to the millions of women who've already had an abortion. At the Wichita memorial, Newman told me in 2007, they'd be able to reflect, mourn, memorialize—even name their "babies"—and take action: "Not only can I see a plaque here with my baby's name on it, and cry here because I killed my baby here," he imagined visitors saying, "but these people in this building are dedicated to ending the holocaust, and I can join with them hand in hand."

Some pro-choice advocates admit their movement has been slow to tackle the question of healing. Only in the past several years have hot lines such as Exhale and Backline begun providing women with postabortion counseling services. Owning Tiller's clinic--and thus the right to tell its story--would be a powerful way for Operation Rescue to redefine what healing means in this case. If his past clinic takeover is any indication, it will probably involve grisly "tours" in which he will point out supposed blood stains.

 

Holocaust Museum Suspect Wanted To Make a Movie with Mel Gibson

| Wed Jun. 10, 2009 5:41 PM EDT

James von Brunn, the suspect in the Holocaust Museum shootings, has been an extremist in many ways.

In a tirade posted in a in a Christian Separatist group in Yahoo, he pushed a 9/11 conspiracy theory:

The FBI now believes that Israel intelligence, working closely with rogue U.S. and other foreign intelligence units, may be responsible for or otherwise deeply involved in the World Trade Center implosions and other acts of terrorism against the United States.

In a Support the Confederate Flag group on Yahoo, he exclaimed:

FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), a super-market NAFTA, is the spawn of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). Both were adjuncts of the United Nations. GATT was the creation of Harry Dexter White (Weiss), Jew, and Undersecretary of the Treasury. He was the spy who stole U.S. Treasury printing plates, giving them to the Soviets which printed millions (billions?) of U.S. dollars, which ended up in the pockets of "gassed" Jews. White also was the prime mover behind The International Monetary Fund, and The World Bank –designed to help bankers at the expense of American taxpayers. His friend Alger Hiss, another Soviet spy, working for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was architect of the United Nation’s Charter. White’s boss, Henry Morganthau, Jew, whose infamous Morganthau Plan was designed to starve to death the entire German nation following WWII, was FDR’s confidant. From this cess-pool of Jews and traitors came the FTAA which in 1994, with Congressional blessings, changed its name to WTO (World Trade Organization).

In the Ron Paul for President group on Yahoo, he complained that a Harvard professor had supposedly called for killing all white people. He also posted a piece saying that Hitler's worst mistake was that "he didn't gas the Jews."

But he also had artistic ambitions. On another website, von Brunn, responding to an article claiming that the CIA, the KGB, or the Mossad were behind the Bali bombing of 2002, posted this message last year:

Yours is an excellent site. Thanks for your efforts. KEEP FIGHTING!
I HAVE WRITTEN A MOVIE-SCRIPT SET DURING U.S. CIVIL WAR. MANY PROBLEMS CHALLENGING THE SOUTH HAVE PARALLELS TODAY. PLS. PUT ME IN CONTACT WITH A MOVIE PRODUCER-DIRECTOR OF MEL GIBSON’S PROFESSIONALISM. WE ALL WILL PROFIT. JVB

He didn't explain the plot of his script.

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Strapped Colleges Spurn Students

| Wed Jun. 10, 2009 4:30 PM EDT

Things are not looking good for needy college applicants. Last week, I blogged about how the USNWR rankings rat race gives first-generation college students the short shrift. Today, the NY Times reports that because of financial problems, Reed College plans to substitute 100 of its poorest eligible applicants for potential students who don't require aid. Admissions officers at Reed were admirably candid with the Times about the painful nature of the decision:

The whole idea of excluding a student simply because of money clashed with the college’s ideals, Leslie Limper, the aid director, acknowledged. “None of us are very happy,” she said, adding that Reed did not strike anyone from its list last year and that never before had it needed to weed out so many worthy students. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m still doing this.”

The private college in Oregon isn't the only one making tough admissions decisions because of the recession. Here's how budget cuts are affecting needy students at some other schools:

Contractors "Wasting Billions of Taxpayer Dollars," Says Report

| Wed Jun. 10, 2009 4:19 PM EDT

The Commission on Wartime Contracting delivered its interim report (PDF) Wednesday to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Created in July 2007, the Commission is an independent, bipartisan panel modeled after the "Truman Committee," which attacked government waste in the years after World War II, saving the federal government some $178 billion. Given that we've sunk more than $830 billion in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, much of it now in the pockets of private contractors, the very fact that the Commission exists is a step in the right direction.

Not surprisingly, co-chairs Michael Thibault and Christopher Shays report serious breaches in contract management and oversight. Such problems, they say, "directly involve our nation's ability to achieve policy objectives and provide proper support and protection for our warfighters and civilian employees engaged in contingency operations." The fact is that contractors now outnumber US troops in both theaters of operation. Combined there are about 240,000 Pentagon contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan; Agencies like State and USAID have their own. Eighty percent of these are foreign nationals working for bewildering chains of subcontracts that routinely escape notice by federal contract management officers.

Obama Mum on Closing of Tiller's Clinic

| Wed Jun. 10, 2009 4:00 PM EDT

At Wednesday's daily White House briefing, I asked press secretary Robert Gibbs if President Obama had any response to the closing of the Wichita clinic that Dr. George Tiller ran before he was murdered by an anti-abortion crusader. Gibbs replied, no. Nothing about this being the sad consequence of a tragic event. Nothing about how this means that an anti-terrorist has won. Just nothing. Obama has a strong record of supporting abortion rights, but pro-choicers may be disappointed by this silence.

I also asked Gibbs about Newt Gingrich's recent dig at Vice President Joe Biden, in which the former House speaker said the "elite media" has had to "prop up Joe Biden and pretend he actually knows what he’s doing." Gibbs offered up the routine praise for Biden, noting that the veep is one of Obama's "most trusted" advisers. "We are lucky and grateful to have him," Gibbs said. Gibbs, though, did not take a swipe at Gingrich. What might that mean? That the White House wants to play nice with Gingrich, who a few weeks ago met with Obama (with Al Sharpton present) to discuss education policy. Or that the White House doesn't see Gingrich as a useful political piñata. Maybe both.

 

Domestic Terrorism at the Holocaust Museum

| Wed Jun. 10, 2009 3:52 PM EDT

Information is still coming in on James von Brunn, the suspect in Wednesday's shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

James Ridgeway has the latest.

Officials at the Holocaust Museum have confirmed one of the guards involved in the shooting, whom the museum identified as Stephen Tyrone Johns, died at the hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound from the suspect, James von Brunn.

****

Police have now confirmed that James von Brunn is the suspect in today's shooting at the Holocaust Museum. Von Brunn apparently lives in Easton, Maryland, which some years ago boasted a chapter of the Klu Klux Klan, according to Leonard Zeskind, whose book Blood Politics charts the history of the far right.

From his rather prolific writings, von Brunn's thinking seems to be indebted to two prominent white supremacists: Willis Carto of a now-defunct group called Liberty Lobby, and William Pierce, leader of the National Alliance. (Pierce died in 2002.) At least one of Brunn's books, Kill the Best Gentiles, was published by Noontide Press, which was run by Carto in the 1960s. Noontide later folded into the Institute of Historical Review, one of the major groups that denied that the Holocaust ever happened, according to Zeskind. In the acknowledgement to his book, von Brunn also lists Francis Parker Yockey, a longtime anti-Semite who was promoted by Carto, and Revello Oliver, an associate of Pierce's. In the 1960s, both Oliver and Pierce supported the presidential campaign of Alabama governor George Wallace, a staunch segregationist backed by Klu Klux Klan groups. In the 1990s, Pierce set up a National Alliance headquarters in southwestern Virginia.

In brief, the neo-Nazis with whom von Brunn associates himself  in his writings believe the Jews control the "mud people." The "mud people" are all the non-white Aryans who, in the view of the racists, ought to be kicked out of the country. A sample of von Brunn's writing (titled "Hitler's Worst Mistake: He Didn't Gas the Jews") makes some of these connections.

****

Early reports are saying that the man suspected of a shooting at the Holocaust Museum today is James Von Brunn, born in the 1920s. The shooting comes just a week after President Obama delivered a forceful speech in Germany on the Holocaust. A quick scan of what seems to be Von Brunn’s website reveals some anti-Semitic writings.

Whether or not the gunman has ties to white supremacy groups remains murky at this point. The Holocaust Museum is not a traditional target of far-right groups. They detest it, of course, but as far as I know there have only been two actual protests staged against it. Both involved Louis Carto’s Liberty Lobby, the right-wing populist newspaper which is now defunct.

More recently the far right has concentrated its venom on Hispanics, through militia-type organizations like the Minutemen.

From his website and writings, von Brunn sounds very much like a national socialist or neo-Nazi. His basic writings rely on the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book that purports to set forth a secret grand Jewish plot to control the world. This book was hatched by the Czar’s secret police during the early days of the Russian revolution, and was popularized in the US by Henry Ford, founder of the car company: Ford salesmen handed it out to their customers.

The Protocols form the base of much far-right thinking. Books such as the Turner Diaries by William Pierce, which forecast Timothy McVeigh's attack on Oklahoma City, are steeped in the world of the Protocols.