Monday, June 22, 2009

The Three Essentials of Financial Reform

by: Robert Reich | Visit article original @ Robert Reich's Blog

President Obama has promised regulations to prevent another crisis in the financial industry. (Photo: AP)

As the White House unveils its long-awaited proposals to prevent another Wall Street meltdown in the future, keep a lookout for three essentials. Without them the Street will revert to its old ways as soon as the coast clears. In fact, now that the government has bailed out the Street, the biggest banks will take even larger and more irresponsible risks because they're officially too big to fail. So these three reforms are critical.

1. Stop bankers from making huge, risky bets with other peoples' money. At the least, require they back their bets with a large percentage of their own capital, and bar them from raising money off their balance sheets through derivative trades. Also require they take their pay in stock options or warrants that can't be cashed in for at least three years, so they'll take a longer-term view. Best of all would be a requirement that investment banks return to being partnerships and the capital on their books be their own, not yours or your pension fund's. When investment banks were partnerships, every partner took an active interest in what every other partner and trader was doing. The real mischief started once they started selling shares to the public.

2. Prevent any bank from becoming too big to fail. Separate commercial from investment banking, as they were before the late 1990s. Commercial banks should return to their basic function of linking savers with borrowers. Investment bankers should return to their casino function of placing bets in the stock market and advising you and others about where to place your own own bets. Combining the basic utility with the casino only made bankers far richer and subjected you and me to risks we didn't bargain for. If separating commercial from investment banking isn't enough to bring all banks down to reasonable size, use antitrust laws to break them up.

3. Root out three major conflicts of interest. (1) Credit-rating agencies should no longer be paid by the companies whose issues are being rated; they should be paid by those who use their ratings. (2) Institutional investors like pension funds and mutual funds should not be getting investment advice from the same banks that profit off their investments; the advice should come from sources without a financial stake; (3) the regional Feds that are responsible for much bank oversight should no longer be headed by presidents appointed by the region's bankers; non-bankers should have the major say, and the regional presidents should have to be confirmed by the Senate.

These three reforms will reduce the possibility that you and I and other taxpayers will ever again have to spend billions bailing out bankers who robbed us blind while amassing fortunes. But because that would make it next to impossible to make such fortunes in the future, the big bankers will fight every one of these with all guns blazing, and their lobbyists in full force. They'll try to inundate you in a blizzard of buzz words. They want your eyes to gaze over, but don't let them. Keep focused on these three issues. Congress, for its part, may not be much help. It's awash in money from Wall Street. Big Finance is second only to the health-industrial complex in owning a large portion of the Hill. Barney Frank at House Banking can be relied on to try his best but others in the House and Senate may well roll over. The President wants to do the right thing but he's spread thin and spending political capital on health care. Tim Geithner doesn't have the stomach to take on the Street; the plan he announced a few days ago to regulate pay is a bad joke. Expect lots of blather about rearranging boxes on the regulatory organization chart.

Bottom line: Genuine financial reform will be almost as difficult to achieve as real universal health care. Immense private interests are amassed against the public interest in both cases because staggering amounts of money are at stake. But they are the two most important domestic issues right now. Keep careful watch, and weigh in.


Rethinking Financial Regulation‏


June 17, 2009

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, Nate Carlile, and Pat Garofalo


Rethinking Financial Regulation

Today, the Obama administration is rolling out its plan for reforming the financial regulation system. In an effort "likely to result in the most sweeping overhaul since the 1930s," the administration intends to address some of the regulatory gaps and oversights that contributed to the current economic crisis. "The goal is to integrate the system, make sure that there are not any gaps, and to make sure that we have a[n] updating of the regulatory system that worked back in the 1930s, but doesn't work with the kinds of financial instruments and the kinds of global capital markets that exist today," President Obama told Bloomberg News. The plan will, among other things, set up a structure to monitor systemic risk, develop a new resolution authority for winding down complex non-bank financial institutions, and establish a new consumer protection agency to police financial products. It will also mandate the regulation of derivatives and require financial institutions to retain part of any asset that they securitize and sell. Of course, the banking lobby is gearing up to oppose some of the reforms. "Wall Street seems to maybe have a shorter memory about how close we were to the abyss than I would have expected," Obama said yesterday. "All we're doing is cleaning up after the mess that was made." And even with all of these reforms, the administration will need to ensure that regulators follow through on their responsibilities, which is something that did not occur under the Bush administration.

REGULATING SYSTEMIC RISK: A key part of the Obama administration's plan is the creation of a system for monitoring firms and activities that are large enough to pose a threat to the entire financial system. As the administration explained in a draft of its plan obtained by the Washington Post, "no regulator saw its job as protecting the economy and financial system as a whole. Existing approaches to bank holding company regulation focus on protecting the subsidiary bank, not on comprehensive regulation of the whole firm." To address this, the Federal Reserve would be charged with ultimate responsibility for policing large firms, while other regulators -- including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency -- would be given "broader coordinating responsibility across the financial system." But there are concerns about burdening the Fed with such a huge additional workload or concentrating too much power in one agency. "We must ensure that we continue to increase our expertise so it is properly matched with the problems and challenges we will face in both our bank supervisory role and in meeting our traditional financial stability mandate," acknowledged Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. While the plan does call for the elimination of the Office of Thrift Supervision, it otherwise forgoes consolidating regulatory agencies.

ENSURING CONSUMER PROTECTION: A second facet of the plan entails the creation of a new agency that will be tasked with protecting consumers "from deceptive or dangerous mortgages, credit cards and other financial products." The proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency will have broad powers to regulate the relationship between financial companies and consumers, "including writing rules, policing compliance and penalizing delinquent firms." Currently, regulators are simply too far removed from consumers to get an adequate sense of how financial products are being marketed on the ground level, a problem this council will seek to address. As Professor Elizabeth Warren -- a longtime advocate of a consumer protection council -- said, "[A]ll these lousy mortgages got sold, one family at a time...If we had had just basic safety standards in place from the beginning, then we never would have fed these into the front end of the financial system." But, the banking lobby has already made its opposition to the new agency clear. "It's bad for the consumers," said Steve Bartlett, president of the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group for banks. "Give the power for consumer protection to the agencies that have real power."

WAIT 'TILL NEXT YEAR?: Bloomberg reported yesterday that the financial regulation plan "may be stalled into next year as Congress and the president set health-care reform and climate control as domestic priorities." The Senate reportedly won't even begin to consider the plan until after the August recess. As the Washington Post's Ezra Klein noted, waiting a year means "a solid eight to 12 months in which the broader public can lose interest in financial regulation and the financial industry can ramp up its lobbying effort in the Congress." The Atlantic's Derek Thompson posits that the delay "won't kill the will for financial reform, but it could turn the will into mush." In fact, Obama's regulatory proposals may already have been scaled back "because lawmakers and the public perceive the financial crisis has abated and support for more aggressive options has faded," said Peter Solomon, an investment banker and counselor to the U.S. Treasury in the Carter administration. But in an interview yesterday with the New York Times and CNBC, Obama reiterated that "we want to get this thing passed, and, you know, we think that speed is important. We want to do it right. We want to do it carefully. But we don't want to tilt at windmills." Obama reportedly wants to sign a bill this year.

America is bankrupt the national debt has tripled in one year to $15 trillion‏ on behalf of dick.mcmanus

A Protest is Described As "Low-Level Terrorism" in a DoD Training Manual
The ACLU has written to the DoD regarding its Antiterrorism and Force Protection Annual Refresher Training Course, which advises personnel that political protest amounts to "low-level terrorism". According to the document, all DoD personnel are required to complete the course on a yearly basis.

An example of material in the training course:

Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism activity?

Select the correct answer and then click Check Your Answer.

Attacking the Pentagon
Hate crimes against racial groups
Protests ("protests" is the correct answer to this test question )

The ACLU points out that although in and of itself the classification of protest as terrorism is deeply disturbing, it is even more alarming when viewed in the context of the Pentagon's long term efforts to crack down on organized dissent.
The surveillance and pre-emptive arrest of protesters, on charges of "domestic terrorism", at last year's RNC by the FBI is also cited by the ACLU.

May 27, 2009 Even the 9/11 Commissioners themselves now say that they don't believe the government's version of 9/11. For example:

  • The Commission's co-chairs said that the CIA (and likely the White House) "obstructed our investigation"
  • The Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission (John Farmer) - who led the 9/11 staff's inquiry - said "At some level of the government, at some point in time...there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened". He also said "I was shocked at how different the truth was from the way it was described .... The tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years.... This is not spin. This is not true."

Most economists expect the economy to continue bleeding jobs for the foreseeable future.

Most of the country aren't likely to regain their pre-recession employment levels until at least 2012 and 112 communities won't recover until 2014 or later. Seattle is in the 2012 group of areas of the US.

Of the 6 million jobs lost since the recession began 18 months ago, nearly 4 million were eliminated between November and April. The six-month freefall included a record four straight months with more than 600,000 job losses.

Some of the facts that should be plain that clearly show that economic collapse are coming:
1. 15% of all subprime mortgages were foreclosed in May with foreclosure rates climbing. Alan M. White of the Valparaiso Law School.
2. The Federal Reserve needs to "borrow up to $3.25 trillion in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Bloomberg
3. China has agreed to buy only 200 billion of Treasury T Bills (sold to finance the debt) total next year, while the oil exporting nations and the rest of the world have agreed to buy 300 billion total. This leaves over 2 trillion dollars that domestic investors will have to buy to float the deficit of the fiscal year that starts September 30th. Congressional Budget Office (After private investors had their private investments taken by the Government and the Unions in the Chrysler and General Motors deal, the experts say that the vast majority of the T Bills will not be sold, meaning the Government will have to print the money monetizing the debt)

5. Democrats in Congress hid a $100 billion bail out of the world's credit system by the International Monetary Fund, tucking it into the war supplemental intended for operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, according to lawmakers' aides quoted in a Reuters report.

6. "I will tell you what the problem is," Collin Peterson (Democratic Chairman of the Agriculture Committee) told the New York Times, "they (the banks) give three times more money than the next biggest group. It's huge the amount of money they put into politics. The banks run the place (US Congress)."

10. "The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or committed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s." This is three times the actual Bush deficit in spending in the first 100 days of President Obama's Presidency. Bloomberg

A New Age of Neo-feudal Debt Bondage - Dr. Michael Hudson's analysis of the financial crisis

2009-04-12: US national debt tripled in one year, from $5 - $15 trillion, and according to some economists like John Williams, it's much higher under GAAP accounting - including unfunded liabilities around $65.5 trillion, an amount exceeding world GDP through FY 2008, meaning America is bankrupt. Williams also puts unemployment at 19.8% by reengineering it to include discouraged and involuntary part-time workers and excluding fictitious birth-death rate ratio inclusions. In America, one-third of home mortgages are in "Negative Equity;" that is, "the mortgage exceeds the (property's) market price pledged as collateral." Nearly half the American population has no net worth, and the gulf between richest and the rest is unprecedented.

Predator banks want to prolong the game as long as possible, grab all the wealth they can, force debtor nations to sell state enterprises at distress prices, then get new business by lending to investors who buy them on the cheap.

Dr. Michael Hudson: The Fed has turned "maintaining order" into a euphemism for consolidating power by the financial sector and the FIRE sector generally (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) over the "real" economy of production and consumption. Its leaders see their job as being to act on behalf of the commercial banking system to enable it to make money off the rest of the economy. It acts as the Board of Directors to fight regulation, to support Wall Street, to block any revival of anti-usury laws, to promote "free markets" almost indistinguishable from outright financial fraud, to decriminalize bad behavior – and most of all to inflate the price of property relative to the wages of labor and even relative to the profits of industry.

The Fed's job is not really to impose the Washington Consensus on the rest of the world. That's the job of the World Bank and IMF, coordinated via the Treasury (viz. Robert Rubin under Clinton most notoriously) and AID, along with the covert actions of the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy. You don't need monetary policy to do this – only massive bribery. Only call it "lobbying" and the promotion of democratic values – values to fight government power to regulate or control finance across the world. Financial power is inherently cosmopolitan and, as such, antagonistic to the power of national governments.

The problem is that none of this appears in the academic curriculum. And the silence of the major media to address it or even to acknowledge it means that it is invisible except to the beneficiaries who are running the system.

Source a Mike Whitney article

Iraq, an unprecedented fall in the water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates

15 Jun 2009 Swarms of snakes are attacking people and cattle in southern Iraq as the Euphrates and Tigris rivers dry up and the reptiles lose their natural habitat among the reed beds. Doctors in the area say six people have been killed and 13 poisoned. The plague of snakes is the latest result of an unprecedented fall in the level of the water in the Euphrates and the Tigris.

The collapse in the water levels of the rivers has been swift, the amount of water in the Euphrates falling by three-quarters in less than a decade. In 2000, the flow speed of the water in the river was 950 cubic metres per second, but by this year it had dropped to 230 cubic metres per second.

Iraq has appealed to Turkey to open the sluice gates on its dams. "We need at least 500 cubic metres of water per second from Turkey, or double what we are getting," says Abdul Latif Rashid, the Iraqi Minister of Water Resources. "They promised an extra 130 cubic metres, but this was only for a couple of days and we need it for months." His ministry is doing everything it can, he says, but the most important decisions about the supply of water to Iraq are taken outside the country – in Turkey, Syria and Iran. "In addition there has been a drought for the last four years with less than half the normal rainfall falling," says Mr Rashid.

Large parts of Iraq that were once productive farmland have already turned into arid desert. The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture says that between 40 and 50 per cent of what was agricultural land in the 1970s is now being hit by desertification. Drought, war, UN sanctions, lack of investment and the cutting down of trees for firewood have all exacerbated the crisis.

But centuries of irrigating the land without draining it properly has led to a build-up of salt in the soil, making much of it infertile. Lack of water in the rivers has speeded up the salinisation, so land in central and southern Iraq, highly productive 30 years ago, has become barren.

Peak Soil Investment:

Jun 12, 2009: According to the Economist, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and China have been "quietly" buying more than $20 billion worth of farmland.

2008 was one of the top three crop production years in history. The sharp rise in crop prices over the past few years sent farmers around the world into full production mode. The past two years were exceptional. Even though, demand still outstripped supply and food riots broke out around the world. An average year will see about 1% to 2% growth – maximum.

The value of farmland has fallen drastically around the world. In the past year, the only major crop producing to see the value of its farmland rise is in the United States. Everywhere else is showing a completely different picture.

Comment: Why? Because it is a very limited resource and food prices will rise as food shortages increase.

On 9 February 2004, Abu Musab al Zarqawi was a painful thorn in the side of the Jordanian authorities, an Islamist radical who was determined to overthrow the royal family. But he was nothing to do with al-Q'aida. Indeed, he had specifically rejected attempts by Bin Laden to recruit him, because he was not interested in targeting the West.

US propaganda would have us believe he was a member of the "inner circle" of al-Qa'ida's leadership.

Soon after the propaganda was published, US General Mark Kimmitt in Baghdad, lied to the in answer a questions from The New York Times stating, "We believe the report and the document is credible, and we take the report seriously... It is clearly a plan on the part of outsiders to come in to
this country and spark civil war, create sectarian violence, try to expose
fissures in this society." The story went on to news agency wires and,
within 24 hours, it was running around the world.

Comment: Is lying to the press by a US General, treason - is lying to WE THE PEOPLE, to the sovereign?

While many analysts say he is using the Iraqi insurgency as a springboard to expand his operations, others argue his influence has been exaggerated.

In the run-up to the Iraq war in February 2003, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations Zarqawi was an associate of Osama Bin Laden who had sought refuge in Iraq.

Intelligence reports indicated he was in Baghdad and - according to Mr Powell - this was a sure sign that Saddam Hussein was courting al-Qaeda, which, in turn, justified an attack on Iraq.

But some analysts at the time contested the claim, pointing to Zarqawi's historical rivalry with Bin Laden.

Israeli minister wants sanctions on US - Anti-Americanism in Israel

June 9, 2009: "In a sign of growing concern in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government over U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East policies, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled proposed Israeli sanctions on the U.S . in a letter to cabinet ministers on Sunday.

"In the 11-page letter, obtained by the Jerusalem Post from a minister on Monday, Peled recommends steps Israel can take to compensate for the shift in American policy, which he believes has become hostile to Israel."

But in the interim," the Post reports, "the minister suggests reconsidering military and civilian purchases from the U.S., selling sensitive equipment that the Washington opposes distributing internationally, and allowing other countries that compete with the U.S. to get involved with the peace process and be given a foothold for their military forces and intelligence agencies."

The irony of someone "reconsidering military and civilian purchases" which are being made, or will be made, with our money is a real hoot - but the laughs are just starting!

There's just one conceivable answer to the suggestion that Israel should start "selling sensitive equipment that Washington opposes distributing internationally": when did they ever stop? The Israelis have been stealing U.S. technology and selling it to the Chinese - for one example - for years, much to Washington's chagrin. So does this mean they're going to be doing it openly, instead of sneaking around and doing it on the sly?

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes. MY NEWSLETTER has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is MY NEWSLETTER endorsed or sponsored by the originator.

Matt Renner | Bank Plan Leaves Out Prosecution and Compensation

Matt Renner, Truthout: "Today, the Obama administration will
present a plan for reregulating the financial industry - one
of the most highly anticipated policy reforms on the president's
long list. But critics charge that the key to the future of the
financial system is accountability for crimes. The collapse of
the financial industry and the subsequent government bailouts
have enraged Americans, who see their government using tax
dollars to save a system which failed to protect the interests
of the little people."

Dan Rather: Tehran, Twitter, and Tiananmen

Massive protests, government crackdown, and media blackout -
Tehran today sounds like Tiananmen Square two decades ago.
But Dan Rather, who covered the China massacre, says the shift
in the media landscape over the last two decades means there's
no comparison.

Nygaard Notes #429 & #‏ 430

Nygaard Notes
Independent Periodic News and Analysis
Number 429, June 3, 2009

On the Web at


This Week: Reversing the Roles, and... Read the Business Section!

1. “Quote” of the Week
2. UN Economic Crisis Conference Update
3. Reversing the Roles: The Right of Return
4. Buried in the “Business” Section



This issue is a little o’ this, a little o’ that. I have a bit of a backlog of short pieces that I don’t want to totally forget, so I will spend an issue or two or three catching up on some of these things before I recycle the roughly 700 pounds of newspapers that I’ve saved over the past few months. Nygaard Notes World Headquarters is a crowded place.

Thanks to all of you who have commented on my recent series “On Freedom.” That piece must have hit a nerve, as I am still hearing about it, even though it ran back in March. Thanks for all the feedback!

Some of you have asked how the Nygaard Notes book is coming along. After a short period of semi-neglect in April (due to a heavy workload in the other parts of my life) the project is back on track. I am doing a lot of re-writing, especially of the second section on how Propaganda works. Summer is usually a somewhat slow time for me, so I hope to get the manuscript ready to submit to publishers before the State Fair in August. The other parts of my life (the earning-a-living parts, that is) keep intruding in rude and time-consuming ways. But it shouldn’t be long now, thanks to the support of so many of you, financial and otherwise!

See you next week,



“Quote” of the Week

The theme of the June 2009 issue of U.S. News and World Report is a “Progress Report” on the Obama presidency, and the article on his foreign policy begins with these words:

“The few ‘Yankee Go Home’ signs that greet him abroad seem almost an afterthought, and when he enters a room of world leaders, he is the most sought-after man for a photo op and a handshake.”

Really, now. How a reporter for a U.S. newsweekly would determine what is a “thought” and what is an “afterthought” in the minds of protesters around the world is a complete mystery to me. But what this “Quote” illustrates is that journalists often see what they want to see, like the rest of us. Apparently what this reporter wants to see is a U.S. president who is loved around the world. The article, after all, appeared in a section called “A New Era,” with this headline: “A Bright Star on the World Stage: Obama Aims to Reset the Global Image of America.”


UN Economic Crisis Conference Update

In the last issue of Nygaard Notes I wrote extensively about “The UN Conference at the Highest Level on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development.” Here are a couple of important follow-up points on that conference.

POINT #1: A few days after the last issue of the Notes it was announced that the conference—for reasons that are not entirely clear to me—has been postponed until June 24-26. No doubt it has something to do with the reality reported by the Global Policy Forum on May 14: “In the dire conditions of last December, the richest and most powerful countries actually agreed to the [Global Conference]. But now the big guys are having second thoughts and trying mightily to scuttle the process—either by preventing it from taking place at all, or by blocking any serious outcome. There is clearly a hope, strongest in Washington and London, that the pre-crisis economic order can be revived with minimal changes, so that everything can go on as before, with smiles again on Wall Street and in the City of London.”

And, sure enough, on May 26th the London Independent reported that “UN officials have told Reuters on condition of anonymity that no heads of state from developed countries were planning to attend...”

I’m guessing that the Conference has been delayed in order to allow for frantic negotiations to allow the voices of the poor to be heard in the centers of power that, so far, have turned their backs on the process. The world IS changing, and to observe the politics of this Conference is to get a glimpse of how much and how fast. Too bad the U.S. media isn’t helping people to observe it.

POINT #2: In relation to Point #1, I encourage readers to sign a petition entitled “An Urgent Call to G-20 Countries: Treat the UN G-192 Economic Crisis Summit Seriously.” The petition will put you on record as saying, in part, that “I join in calling upon all countries and especially the richest and most powerful countries that are members of G-20, to lend their full support to it and wherever possible to send their heads of government to attend” the UN Conference.

The petition was put together by the International Action Center. No matter what you think of the IAC, this petition is a good one, and you can edit the message as you like. (The text of the petition still refers to the original dates of the Conference, but I think it will still be meaningful.” You can find the petition on the web at

I wish I had more resources to offer, but since virtually nobody (except Nygaard Notes readers!) has heard of this conference it doesn’t surprise me that so few appear to be organizing to support it.


Reversing the Roles: The Right of Return

One of the tricks to media empowerment that I have talked about over the years is what I call the “Reversing the Headline Trick.” It goes beyond headlines, actually, but the idea is simple: Take a news report that involves two actors (individuals, countries, parties to a conflict, whatever) and simply reverse the roles of the two and see if the story still makes any sense. It sounds simple—and it IS simple—but it’s surprising how often it yields important insights into the propaganda of the day.

A clear example appeared in the January 31st edition of the New York Times. The report began, “An Israeli leftist advocacy group said Friday that it was starting a campaign to help Palestinians sue the state of Israel for its use of their privately owned lands for Jewish settlement in the West Bank.”

The truly remarkable paragraph in this story was the eighth one, which gave “both sides” of an important controversy, and read like this:

“Much of the world views all Israeli construction in the territories that were conquered in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war as a violation of international law. Israel argues that the settlement enterprise does not violate the law against transferring populations into occupied territories, but that it represents a voluntary return of individuals to places where they or their ancestors used to live.”

I discussed that idea of “much of the world” in Nygaard Notes #293 (“Legal or Illegal? Who Says?”), but it’s that other part, the part about the right of people to return “to places where they or their ancestors used to live” that caught my attention here. The Times claims that “Israel argues” that, if people return voluntarily “to places where they or their ancestors used to live,” then it is not illegal, no matter what the world says. OK. What happens if we reverse the roles in this case?

The Times statement refers to Israelis returning to such places that are located on “privately owned lands” belonging to Palestinians. Switching it around, we come up with the idea of Palestinians returning to “places where they or their ancestors used to live” that are owned or controlled by Israelis.

If “Israel argues” that such returns are legal, then it would seem that Israel would have to also argue that it would be legal for Palestinians to voluntarily return to their ancestral homes in Israel. There are a lot of such “ancestral homes,” since an estimated 700,000 Palestinians were displaced from what is now Israeli territory when the Israeli state was founded in 1948. (It’s a little misleading to call them “ancestral homes,” since a number of people who were displaced are still living, so they would return to their own homes, if still standing.)

If we add in the descendants of the original 700,000 displaced Palestinians, the number of people with places in Israel “where they or their ancestors used to live” now are estimated to number perhaps five million. The population of Israel is currently about 7.4 million, of which about 1.5 million are non-Jewish. If the Times is right that Israeli authorities believe in the right to a “voluntary return of individuals to places where they or their ancestors used to live,” that has serious implications for the future of the Jewish state. So serious, in fact, that it is extremely doubtful that any authority in Israel really argues such a point. Or, if they do argue it, it’s doubtful that they are sincere.

If the Times had applied the “Reversing the Headline Trick” to this page-10 article, something would have been different about this story. If some authoritative Israeli source actually made the argument that the Times reporter says they did, then the story might have become a Front Page story. If no such source could be found, it may have led the Times editors to do their jobs and keep such propaganda out of the newspaper.


Buried in the “Business” Section

I never tire of telling my non-corporate friends to be sure to read the Business pages of the newspaper, as so many important things are reported there that may or may not have anything to do with “business.” By consigning them to the section that many people think is just for the investor and managerial classes, lots of important news fails to reach into the non-Business world where most of us live. Here are three recent stories that make the point.

Story #1: Corporate Corruption of the Environment

“Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research” That was the headline of a lengthy article on Page 3 of the Business section of the New York Times on February 20th. The article reported on “an unusual complaint” filed with the Environmental Protection Agency by a group of 26 corn-insect specialists, charging that “biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry's genetically modified crops.”

“The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes. So while university scientists can freely buy pesticides or conventional seeds for their research, they cannot do that with genetically engineered seeds. Instead, they must seek permission from the seed companies. And sometimes that permission is denied or the company insists on reviewing any findings before they can be published, they say.”

One scientist noted that “financing for agricultural research had gradually shifted from the public sector to the private sector. That makes many scientists at universities dependent on financing or technical cooperation from the big seed companies.” So dependent, in fact, that the scientists “withheld their names because they feared being cut off from research by the companies.” As one scientist put it, “People are afraid of being blacklisted.”

Why was this important story relegated to Page 3 of the Business section?

Story #2: Doctors on Health Care

USAmericans tell opinion pollsters that the top domestic policy concern they have (after the economy) is health care. That’s why I am a bit puzzled as to why the following story appeared on the front page of the Business Section in the Star Trib of May 20. (At least it was the front page of the section.) The headline read: “Health Care Skimping; Patients Trying to Save Money Are Getting Sicker Before They Seek Care, Family Doctors Say.”

The story is that a national survey of family doctors was released on May 19th by the American Academy of Family Physicians. According to the AAFP press release, “The national poll of AAFP members shows that nearly 90 percent of the family physicians surveyed reported their ‘patients have expressed concerns recently over their ability to pay for their health care needs.’ 58 percent said they had ‘seen an increase in appointment cancellations.’ Furthermore, 60 percent reported they had ‘seen more health problems caused by their patients forgoing needed preventive care.’”

The Star Trib didn’t report most of the results of the survey in its article, for some reason. For instance, the AAFP says that “nearly 90 percent (87 percent) reported they had seen a significant increase in patients with major stress symptoms since the beginning of the recession.” Still, kudos to my local paper for at least covering this report; it wasn’t covered anywhere else, as far as I can see.

Story #3: Bailing Out Tax Evaders

Back on January 16th the federal Government Accountability Office released a report about corporations and taxes. Here are three paragraphs from the Washington Post Business Section:

“Most of America's largest publicly traded corporations—including several that are receiving billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers to finance their recovery—have set up offshore operations that could help them avoid paying U.S. taxes on their profits, a government study released yesterday found.

“Of the 100 largest public companies, 83 do business in tax-haven hotspots like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, where they can move their income into tax-free accounts.

“It is all legal, but it could come to an end, given the dire condition of the U.S. economy and President-elect Barack Obama's campaign pledge to close this popular business tax loophole. The Treasury estimates that it loses $100 billion a year in tax revenue as a result of companies shipping their income off shore, and congressional leaders are vowing to introduce legislation forcing big companies to pay full freight.”

In this case I can understand why both the Washington Post and the New York Times put this in the Business section (pages 1 and 2, respectively) since it had to do with corporate behavior. Still, this story was of interest to the general public—especially in a time of huge budget deficits that might be expected to put tax evasion in the spotlight—and should have been more prominently placed in the main section of the paper. I, myself, would have placed it on the front page.


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Nygaard Notes

Nygaard Notes
Independent Periodic News and Analysis
Number 430, June 17, 2009

On the Web at


This Week: Investigating Some Investigations (or, Trying To)

1. “Quote” of the Week
2. The Saga of the Pentagon Pundits
3. The Case of the Missing Report
4. Pentagon Investigates Itself Again. The Result? You’ll Never Guess



This week is a Double Issue of Nygaard Notes, and that’s partly because next week I hope to launch the much-belated Spring 2009 Nygaard Notes Pledge Drive. (Hey, it’s still officially spring in Minnesota!) Thanks to all of you who have already renewed your 2009 Pledge (I was pretty late in getting your renewal notices out; my apologies.)

As for this week’s Notes, the longest piece you’ll see takes the form of a saga, of sorts. That is, it is a long, detailed account of a story that I have been following for over a year. I wanted to wait until there was some resolution before I wrote about it, but it doesn’t seem to be approaching a resolution, so why wait any longer? And anyway, it’s already a long saga – I don’t want to write a book about it! (I’m already writing a book, as readers of the Notes are aware, and one book is enough, believe me.)

Since I decided that this would be a double issue, there turned out to be room for a couple of other, shorter pieces on investigations, in addition to the Saga. Next week I’ll discuss the point of all this talk about investigations, but for now, sit back and enjoy the Saga of the Pentagon Pundits (And Other Stories).

In solidarity,



“Quote” of the Week

Just before he was inaugurated, Barack Obama appeared on ABC’s Sunday talk show “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. After Obama reiterated his promise “We are going to close Guantanamo,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said to Mr. Obama:

“The most popular question on your own website is related to this. On [Mr. Obama’s transition website], it comes from Bob Fertik of New York City and he asks, ‘Will you appoint a special prosecutor, ideally Patrick Fitzgerald, to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?’”

And Mr. Obama replied, in part:

“Obviously we're going to be looking at past practices and I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

Up to this point, every prosecution known to the human race has involved “looking backwards,” since it is very difficult to prosecute someone for events in the future. So this statement is really a bit of a non sequitur.

If this were only a non sequitur I wouldn’t make it the “Quote” of the Week. But, as you’ll see in this week’s case study of a Pentagon investigation, this type of lip service to the principle of no one being “above the law” while failing to actually examine what people have done in the recent past is all too common. And dangerous.


The Saga of the Pentagon Pundits

Over a year ago The New York Times broke a major story that quickly became known as the “Pentagon Pundits” story. I’ve been following it fairly closely for the past fourteen months, and have talked about it elsewhere, but was surprised when I realized recently that I had never discussed it in the pages of the Notes.

The story is still unfolding, but rather than waiting for the story to come to a resolution (which it may never do) I am going to go into some detail on it right here and right now. I think this little case study has a lot to tell us about what happens when public outcry forces the powers that be to “investigate” some of the shocking, horrifying, and/or scandalous events that occasionally are allowed to see the light of day in the U.S.A. In addition, this saga offers some insights into the nature of accountability, propaganda, investigations, and power.

Finally, besides being informative and loaded with lessons, I think the saga is highly entertaining, as well! I hope you’ll agree. The saga begins back on April 20 2008.

The Pentagon Pundit Story Breaks

On the front page of the Sunday edition of the New York Times of April 20, 2008 ran a story headlined “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand.” The Times reporter, David Barstow, recently was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the story, which “revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq,” in the words of the Pulitzer committee. Here is a bit more on the background, in quotations taken directly from the Times article itself:

The article told the story of “a group of retired military officers” who “are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as ‘military analysts’ whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.”

“Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though,” said the Times, “is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance...”

Barstow described “how the Bush administration ... transform[ed] the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse—an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.”

“Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as ‘message force multipliers’ or ‘surrogates’ who could be counted on to deliver administration ‘themes and messages’ to millions of Americans ‘in the form of their own opinions.’ . . . The analysts . . .were framing how viewers ought to interpret events.”

The Pentagon offered the analysts all sorts of special access, briefings, and so forth, and “In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.”

“A few [analysts] expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.”

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times that “The intent and purpose of this is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American people.” And that “earnest attempt,” reported the Times, “began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day. . .”

May 2, 2008: “Calling for an Investigation”

A couple of weeks after the Times broke the story, on May 2nd 2008, 41 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, sent a letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoDIG) asking for some action on the scandal. According to the Associated Press, DeLauro “said it was important for the Inspector General to find out how high-ranking officials within the Pentagon were allowed to operate a program aimed at deceiving the American people.” In addition, she said, “we are calling for the Inspector General to launch an investigation to ensure no detail surrounding this program remains hidden.”

May 22 and 24 2008: Requiring an Investigation (or Two)

On May 22nd the House passed (by a vote of 384-23) the Hodes-DeLauro-DeFazio amendment to the 2009 Defense Authorization Bill. The amendment was intended “to prohibit the Department of Defense (DOD) from engaging in propaganda programs and requiring the GAO [Government Accountability Office] to launch an investigation into the DOD Military Analyst Program.” The amendment “also directs the Inspector General of the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of the Department of Defense in their program designed to indirectly influence media coverage of the War in Iraq through network and cable news media analysts.” The amendment, said co-sponsor Rep. Paul Hodes of New Hampshire “will ... require a report to Congress by both the Defense Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office on whether previous restrictions on propaganda have been violated.”

Sure enough, two days later, on May 24th, the Associated Press published an article saying that both reports were underway. “A Defense spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian Maka, said Saturday the Inspector General's review will look at whether special access to Pentagon leaders ‘may have given the contractors a competitive advantage.” And, reported the AP, the GAO also said it was reviewing the program and whether it violated policies barring use of government money to spread propaganda in the United States.”

Note that, at this point (the end of May 2008), we have two investigations on the way. One by the Department of Defense Inspector General, which is a Pentagon office in charge of investigating the Pentagon. The other by the GAO, which is “an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.” In other words, one self-investigation and one outside investigation. Got that? Keep both of them in mind as we proceed...

(But, wait a minute. Before we do proceed I just have to tell a little side story. That reliable organ of the business classes, the Investor’s Business Daily, ran an editorial on May 27th 2008 noting the Hodes amendment, which they characterized as “a bill to stifle the good news that we're winning in Iraq.” The unsigned editorial added that “It's not as if the Pentagon brass, as they wage a global war on terrorism, don't have better things to do than sit down and answer foolish questions about public relations operations from a bunch of GAO bean-counters.”)

(Wait another minute! Here’s another side story: The Washington Post was the only US media outlet to say anything about a totally-separate report by the Pentagon Inspector General that came out on December 12. “Pentagon May Have Mixed Propaganda With PR,” read the headline, and the brief Page Two article told us that “The Pentagon's Inspector General said yesterday that the Defense Department's public affairs office may have ‘inappropriately’ merged public affairs and propaganda operations in 2007 and 2008 when it contracted out $1 million in work for a strategic communications plan for use by the military in collaboration with the State Department.”)

January 14 2009: The Pentagon Reports on Itself

On January 14th 2009, the Pentagon reported the results of its self-investigation. Not surprisingly, the Pentagon found itself. . . . innocent!”

Here’s how the Inspector General’s report put it: “We found insufficient evidence to conclude that the briefings and talking points provided to RMAs [Retired Military Analysts] while supportive of DoD operations, rose to the level of puffery or otherwise sought the self-aggrandizement of the agency, its personnel, or activities.”

Added the IG, “We considered the broader issue of whether the RMA outreach activities were designed to misinform the public, unduly influence public opinion, or otherwise constitute an improper effort to build public support for DoD activities.” After “considering” the issue, the watchdog said that “We found insufficient evidence to conclude that [the Pentagon] conceived of or undertook the type of disciplined public relations effort that is suggested by the foregoing question.”

All in all, said the Pentagon, “We determined that [all the things we were asked to look at] were conducted in accordance with DoD policies and regulations.”

The headlines duly reflected the reassuring verdict. “Retired Officers' Media Role Deemed Appropriate,” said the Washington Post. “Inspector General Sees No Misdeeds in Pentagon's Effort to Make Use of TV Analysts,” said the NY Times.

All of this led the amendment’s sponsor, Representative Paul Hodes, to remark “To say there are factual inaccuracies in this report is the understatement of the century. I think it is a whitewash.” We’ll see in a moment how accurate this assessment turned out to be. In the meantime...

The Times article concluded by reminding readers that “Two other inquiries into the program are continuing. One, being conducted by the Government Accountability Office, is scheduled to be completed next month. The other is being done by the Federal Communications Commission, which has regulatory oversight of broadcasters.”

So now we have three investigations to track. The completed one by the Pentagon, one by the GAO, and also an FCC investigation.

May 2009: "Riddled With Flaws, But..."

The weekly news magazine U.S. News and World Report has a column called “Washington Whispers,” in which the following tidbit appeared on May 4 of this year under the headline “Rumsfeld Aides Trash New York Times Pulitzer”:

“Rumsfeld's current spokesman, Keith Urbahn, cites a January 2009 Pentagon Inspector General's report debunking the [NY Times Pentagon Pundit] story: ‘The Times's reporting on DoD’s routine outreach to military experts didn't merit a place in the paper, much less a Pulitzer.” and “Between the New York Times and the Pentagon's Inspector General office, it's pretty clear which is a more credible and non-partisan source.”

Credible, you say? Two days later, on May 6th, the Pentagon’s Inspector General office withdrew their January 14th report because it was “so riddled with flaws and inaccuracies that none of its conclusions could be relied upon.” That’s the New York Times paraphrasing Donald M. Horstman, the Pentagon's deputy Inspector General for policy and oversight, in a memorandum announcing the withdrawal. The Times, the only newspaper to report on this story, ran their brief article on page 21, saying, “In a highly unusual reversal, the Defense Department's Inspector General's office has withdrawn a report it issued in January exonerating a Pentagon public relations program that made extensive use of retired officers who worked as military analysts for television and radio networks.”

“In addition to repudiating its own report,” said the Times, “the Inspector General's office took the additional step of removing the report from its Web site.” (Nygaard Notes was able to find a copy of the original, 85-page report, however. If anyone wants to read it, contact me and I’ll send you a PDF copy.)

The unfortunate part of this retraction is that the DoDIG memo concluded by saying “We have determined that additional investigative work will not be undertaken to reissue the report because the ... program has been terminated and responsible senior officials are no longer employed by the Department.”

Yes, you read that right: The Pentagon officially admits that the investigation they did, mandated by Congress, was worthless. But they’re not going to produce a real report. Let bygones by bygones!

Postscript: The Mystery Continues, and Deepens

Well, that takes care of the Pentagon’s investigation of itself. But what about the other two reports, one by the Government Accountability Office and one by the Federal Communications Commission?

I haven’t been able to find out anything about the FCC report, but if and when they respond to my inquiry (Case Number CIMS00002118116) I’ll be sure to let you know.

The GAO report, in contrast, is an interesting little story-within-a story, which I relate in the next article.


The Case of the Missing Report

In the last article I mentioned that the New York Times, in its January 17th article on the bogus report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General, said that “Two other inquiries into the program are continuing. One, being conducted by the Government Accountability Office, is scheduled to be completed next month.”

As I began working on this story about the Pentagon pundits last month, I thought I would take a look at that report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the Congress had ordered and that was scheduled to come out in February. After all, I have looked at many GAO reports and usually find them to be quite reliable and informative. So I went to the GAO website, as I have many times, and was surprised to find not a hint of any such report. This was on May 6th, a good three months or more since the report was due to be ready, according to the Times.

So I wrote to the GAO research office, describing the report and saying that I had been unable to locate the report on the GAO website. “Can you help me?” I asked. The following day, May 7th, I received a response that was so succinct I will reprint it here verbatim: “Hello Mr. Nygaard, I have been unable to locate any report on your subject, I didn't even see anything pending. Thanks for Contacting GAO Research services, Anna GAO Research.

Hmmm... I thought. No report. Nothing pending. That’s odd.

A month went by, and I was working on this story again and found myself reading the recently-retracted report by the Pentagon Inspector General. Imagine my surprise when I ran across the following paragraph on page 2 of that document:

“Also, members of Congress requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Enforcement Division of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct concurrent inquiries regarding the use of military analysts. The GAO is writing a legal opinion concentrating on issues of fiscal law—specifically, the potential misuse of DoD appropriations for publicity or propaganda purposes... The DoD Inspector General team coordinated their efforts with ... the GAO ... to avoid duplication.” [Emphasis added.]

I knew by this time that the Pentagon report was “riddled with flaws and inaccuracies,” but I didn’t think this reference to the two reports was one of them. So I wrote to my friend Anna at the GAO again, quoting the paragraph above and asking her “Are you sure there is no record of such a report?” She again wrote back very promptly, mentioning only a report from 2005 and adding that “Your inquiry is for something from 2009 and it may be in the works but hasn't hit the database that I'm allowed to use to search for such things.”

Along the way I also telephoned the offices of Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro and Michigan Congressman John Dingell, both of whom have been pushing for an investigation of the Pentagon Pundits. Their press secretaries staffs were very friendly, but couldn’t find out what was going on with the missing GAO report, either.

While I was at it, I asked DeLauro’s press secretary about the FCC investigation. She told me that the FCC had told her that the investigation “is underway.” These investigations can take as long as 15 months, she said to me, adding that she would keep an eye on it.

Finally, I emailed the New York Times and asked Mr. Barstow what he knew about these things. Never heard back, not surprisingly.

Three investigations. The Pentagon’s investigation was a whitewash, and no followup will be done. The FCC investigation is months away, at best. And the GAO investigation exists in some other dimension, if it exists at all.

I’ll keep following this story.


Pentagon Investigates Itself Again. The Result? You’ll Never Guess

Two days after his inauguration, President Obama issued an Executive Order saying that “The Secretary of Defense shall immediately undertake a review of the conditions of detention at Guantanamo to ensure” that all detainees are being held “in conformity with all applicable laws governing the conditions of such confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.” Obama gave the Pentagon 30 days to report back.

When this new report of a Pentagon self-investigation was released it was about five weeks after the Pentagon exonerated itself in the Pentagon Pundits case. Like the earlier report, this one also ran to 85 pages or so and, like the earlier report, the Pentagon in this case once again found the Pentagon... innocent!

The Guantanamo report was released on Friday, February 20, and the New York Times relegated the report, as did other papers, to the inside pages. Their headline—“Pentagon Finds Guantanamo Follows Geneva Conventions”—was also typical. (The Washington Post: “Review Finds Detainees' Treatment Legal.”) The basic story was well-summarized in the Times’ lede paragraph, which read, “A Pentagon report requested by President Obama on the conditions at the Guantanamo Bay detention center concluded that the prison complies with the humane-treatment requirements of the Geneva Conventions.”

The Times reported that the President’s Executive Order “was widely seen as an effort to defuse accusations that there were widespread abuses at Guantanamo.” I don’t know who “saw” it that way, and as to how yet another self-investigation was supposed to defuse anything, that’s even more mysterious to me.

Amnesty International made a statement in response to the Pentagon report. Amnesty said that “It comes as no surprise that the Pentagon would say Guantanamo meets international human rights standards,” despite the fact that “there have been many well-documented accounts of abuse at Guantanamo over the past few years” and “it's clear the abuse of prisoners continues.”

We’re not done yet. Another report—an independent one—came out just three days after the Pentagon’s second whitewash. On February 23rd the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights released this other report, entitled “Conditions of Confinement at Guantanamo: Still in Violation of the Law.” This report went unnoticed in the U.S. except for a fine report by the Latin America branch of the Inter Press Service (IPS). Their story was headlined “U.S.: Report Contradicts Govt Claims of ‘Humane’ Detention.”

The 19-page CCR report stated that there are “continuing abusive conditions at the prison camp, including conditions of confinement that they say violate U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law.” IPS said that “The report details multiple cases of abuse occurring in the last month and a half.”

On February 24 the Times did note some of this criticism in an article headlined “Administration Draws Fire For Report on Guantanamo.” After noting that “detainees' lawyers and human rights groups ridiculed the 85-page report,” the article failed to clearly explain why they might do so. A media-monitoring group, or a maniac like Nygaard, can find out, but most citizens don’t have the time needed to find it themselves.

Finally, three days after that article, on February 27th, the Washington Post reported that “A United Nations special investigator has concluded in a report scheduled for release Friday that foreign intelligence agents sent to question U.S.-held terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay had violated international human-rights laws.”

I’ll have more to say on investigations and their fates in a hierarchy of power next week in the Notes.


Subscriptions to NYGAARD NOTES are FREE. You can start your free subscription by visiting the NYGAARD NOTES website at Or, just send an email to NYGAARD NOTES at All back issues are found there, as well, and are fully searchable.

NYGAARD NOTES grows by recommendations and referrals from readers. Please “give” free subscriptions to your friends, family members, and allies. Also, please feel free to forward any issue to anyone, or to reprint anything you read here. All of NYGAARD NOTES is in the public domain, to be used by whosoever can use it.

NYGAARD NOTES is completely supported by voluntary donations from readers and friends. That’s how it stays independent, and remains free to those who cannot contribute. If you want to help sustain this experiment in independent journalism—now in its ELEVENTH year!—please consider making a voluntary contribution by going to the NYGAARD NOTES website at Then just get out your credit card and follow the instructions. Or, send a check through the mail, payable to “NYGAARD NOTES” at NYGAARD NOTES, P.O. Box 14354, Minneapolis, MN 55414. Thank you!

You can also support Nygaard Notes indirectly, by recommending my small business, River City Buttons, that makes custom, pin-on buttons for all occasions. Find it at

Jeff Nygaard
National Writers Union
Twin Cities Local #13 UAW
Nygaard Notes

June 17:

1885 : Statue of Liberty arrives

The Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, arrives in New York City's harbor.

Originally known as "Liberty Enlightening the World," the statue was proposed by French historian Edouard Laboulaye to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution. Designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the 151-foot statue was the form of a woman with an uplifted arm holding a torch. In February 1877, Congress approved the use of a site on New York Bedloe's Island, which was suggested by Bartholdi. In May 1884, the statue was completed in France, and three months later the Americans laid the cornerstone for its pedestal in New York. On June 19, 1885, the dismantled Statue of Liberty arrived in the New World, enclosed in more than 200 packing cases. Its copper sheets were reassembled, and the last rivet of the monument was fitted on October 28, 1886, during a dedication presided over by U.S. President Grover Cleveland.

On the pedestal was inscribed "The New Colossus," a famous sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus that welcomed immigrants to the United States with the declaration, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. / I lift my lamp beside the golden door." Six years later, Ellis Island, adjacent to Bedloe's Island, opened as the chief entry station for immigrants to the United States, and for the next 32 years more than 12 million immigrants were welcomed into New York harbor by the sight of "Lady Liberty." In 1924, the Statue of Liberty was made a national monument.

General Interest
1885 : Statue of Liberty arrives
1579 : Drake claims California for England
1775 : The Battle of Bunker Hill
1940 : France to surrender
1972 : Watergate burglars arrested
1994 : O.J. Simpson arrested after flight from justice

American Revolution
1775 : Battle of Bunker Hill begins

Christian Group to Burn Children's Book at the Stake

Posted by Mustang Bobby, Shakesville at 11:40 AM on June 16, 2009.

These folks have a lot to learn about civil liberties, not to mention a lot about Christianity, too.

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A so-called "Christian" group in Wisconsin has some hot plans for a book in a local library.

Francesca Lia Block, an award-winning author of young-adult books (the "Weetzie Bat" series among them), has known for a while now that one of her novels, "Baby Be-Bop" is at the center of a controversy in West Bend, Wis.

A few days ago, she found out that it might be burned at the stake. "Baby Be-Bop" is on a list of titles that a local group calling itself the West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries objects to seeing in the public library. In February, the group asked the library's board to remove a page of recommended titles about gay and lesbian issues for young people (including "Baby Be-Bop") from the library's Web site. Then they demanded that the books be moved from the youth section of the library and placed with the adult collection, "to protect children from accessing them without their parents' knowledge and supervision."


Now an outfit called the Christian Civil Liberties Union has gotten in on the act, suing the library for, according to the West Bend Daily News, "damaging" the "mental and emotional well-being" of several individuals by displaying "Baby Be-Bop" in the library. Since attempts to label the novel as "pornographic" have failed, the (somewhat shadowy) CCLU hopes to brand it as hate speech, in part because it contains the word "nigger." The complainants, described as "elderly" by the newspaper, claim that Block's novel is "explicitly vulgar, racial [sic] and anti-Christian." They want the library's copy not only removed but publicly burned.

"Baby Be-Bop," a title from the Weetzie Bat series that describes the youth of Weetzie's best friend, Dirk, is, in Block's words, "a very sweet, simple, coming-of-age story about a young man's discovery that he's gay." Dirk is beaten by gay bashers but steadfastly clings to the possibility of finding love. Block finds the disingenuous charges of racism particularly distressing. "Obviously I use those words, including 'faggot,' which is also in the book, to expose racism and homophobia, not promote it," she said. "It's a tiny little book," she added, "but they want to burn it like a witch."

I wouldn't question the CCLU in the area of "hate speech;" they seem to be experts in that field.

It's one thing to want a book that might be considered inappropriate for children put on a shelf in a library that clearly states that it is meant for adults, but this book doesn't sound anything like that; contrary to the feverish obsession of these ignoramuses, there's more to being gay than just having sex. (True to form, the folks who carry on about morality and the Radical Homosexual Agenda are a lot more preoccupied with sex than any normal person -- gay or straight -- should be.) To advocate for publicly burning a book brings it to a level of psychosis that reaches way beyond looking out for what's appropriate and what's not. These people have a deep-seated phobia about anything connected with homosexuality, and it's pretty scary that they're disturbed enough to come out, so to speak, with their rage and their hatred.

These folks have a lot to learn about civil liberties, not to mention a lot about Christianity, too.


Tagged as: christians, free speech, lgbt, book, book burning

Mustang Bobby is a regular blogger for Shakesville.