Number 586 October 13, 2015

This Week: The Fall 2015 Nygaard Notes Pledge Drive -- Woo Hoo!

It's Pledge Week at Nygaard Notes
A Few Key Facts
Making a Pledge: How to Do It?
Nygaard Notes Year in Review



This issue of Nygaard Notes will explain HOW A PLEDGE DRIVE WORKS, tell you HOW YOU CAN MAKE A PLEDGE, and REMIND YOU OF SOME OF THE GREAT STUFF that you made possible with the Pledges that Nygaard Notes readers sent in during the past year.

If your response to this Pledge Drive issue is really good, then this may be the last Pledge Drive issue you see for a while. HOWEVER... If we start out slowly, I may have to pester you a bit more. Do your part to end it soon

Make your Nygaard Notes Pledge TODAY!


To understand this Pledge Drive business, let's consider a few key facts:

Fact 1. It takes significant time and energy to put out Nygaard Notes.

Fact 2. If I had to work at my other jobs full-time, I wouldn't have time to write and publish Nygaard Notes.

Fact 3. The solution to the dilemma posed by points #1 and #2 is simple: I have to earn some of my income from Nygaard Notes.

At the same time...

Fact 4. I want my writing to support people who are trying in some way to understand the world in order to change it.

Fact 5. In service of that goal, I immediately put my work into the public domain so that anyone may use it, share it, and work with it.

Fact 6. That's why Nygaard Notes has always been, and will always be, free of charge to anyone who can make use of the things that are found there.

Fact 7. Due to Fact 6, the only income I get from Nygaard Notes comes from voluntary donations from readers.

When someone makes a donation, I call it a Pledge. That's because your donation tells me that you are promising to support the Notes for another year. That is, you are making a Pledge.

So, now that you "get" it, I'll say it again: IT'S PLEDGE WEEK AT NYGAARD NOTES!

If you've never made a Pledge, now is the time! If you are already in the ranks, this is a great time to RENEW your Pledge. How do you do this? Read on...

Making A Pledge: How to Do It?

There are three methods for making a Pledge of support to Nygaard Notes.

METHOD NUMBER 1 is really simple:

You make out a check to "Nygaard Notes," and mail it to:

Nygaard Notes
P.O. Box 6103
Minneapolis, MN 55406


METHOD NUMBER 2 is just about as simple:

You use your credit card and pay via the PayPal system.

Just go to the "Subscribe/Support" page on the Nygaard Notes website and scroll down until you see "Support Nygaard Notes." Then look for the "Donate Online" button, and click on it.

That's all there is to it. Really.


METHOD NUMBER 3 actually happens now and then, but not often:

Hand-delivery! Sometimes people encounter me on the street, or at an event or party, and they hand me their Pledge in some form or another. It's always fun to do it that way.

You'll probably end up using Method 1 or Method 2. Whatever method you choose, thanks in advance!


Nygaard Notes Year in Review

Here are some highlights—along with a few notes and comments—of things that have appeared in the pages of Nygaard Notes in the year since the last Pledge Drive. It's by no means comprehensive, but I hope it is entertaining, and I also hope it does one of two things. First of all, I hope it reminds you of why you are a supporter of Nygaard Notes, and that it stimulates you to renew your Pledge for the coming year.

Secondly, if you are not currently a supporter of Nygaard Notes, maybe this will motivate you to become a supporter. After all, without lots of Pledges, Nygaard Notes couldn't exist. I depend on you.

What Has Nygaard Notes Offered Since October 2014?

It was in the issue following the last Pledge Drive (NN #565, Nov 13, 2014) that I reported on a little-known deal struck by the U.S. government with the then-new government of Afghanistan. "The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday," reported the London Guardian. Now, a year later, the Washington Post reported just last week (Oct 5th): "President Obama is seriously weighing a proposal to keep as many as 5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016..." This will come as no surprise to Nygaard Notes readers.

In Nygaard Notes #566, I asked and answered the questions "What's Wrong With Anonymous Sources?" and "What's Wrong With Objectivity?" Many people don't ask such questions, but Nygaard Notes readers do.

In December I reported on Ebola and "Cuba's inspiring response to the Ebola crisis." This stuff is almost never reported in the U.S. But it's reported in Nygaard Notes.

In January I did my annual roundup of The Year's Top News Stories, taking the opportunity to expose a tiny piece of the Dominant Thought System in the United States. I suggested that—as an alternative to standard media practice—the news might be organized around the "Big Themes" of the age, the issues that a historian looking back on 2015 would say were the biggest and most important developments of the year.

This feature on The Year's Top News Stories has become a bit of an annual event in these pages, but for some reason this year it kicked off a string of special issues focusing on each of the six Big Themes of the year. In case you've forgotten, these Big Themes are: Inequality and Resource Allocation (which was the focus of NN #568); The Decline of the U.S. Empire (#569); The State of U.S. Democracy (#570); Climate Change/Humans and the Environment (#571); The Evolving State of Capitalism (#572); and The Social Health of the Nation (573).

In April the Notes called your attention to a major report on the status of women in the world. The report—"The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action turns 20"—reviewed the progress, or lack thereof, made by the world's women since September 1995. That was the year that a major international gathering produced the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, thought by some to be "the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women's rights." Nygaard Notes is paying attention, even if most of the corporate media is not.

In May I published perhaps the longest edition of Nygaard Notes I've ever published, all in the service of tying together a series of news items in such a way that seemingly-separate reports really fit into one big report—on the role of the U.S. in the world circa 2015.

I looked first at a major international meeting, the Summit of the Americas, highlighting "the rapidly-fading dominance of, and growing hostility towards, the U.S. in the hemisphere." Then we turned to have a look at global arms sales and a pivot to China on the part of NATO ally Turkey. Which led to a look at China and its construction of the "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor," yet another challenge to U.S. Empire, this time in Asia. I concluded with a consideration of three separate articles that appeared in the New York Times of April 24th and which told a fascinating story when combined and looked at through a critical lens.

The June 4th issue of the Notes was all about race and racism. In the piece "Racism and Police Violence: Where to Begin?" I offered "a few connections and thinking tips that might be helpful in understanding what gives rise to this particular form of racist violence and what we might do about it." To that end I published the essays "The Four Levels of Racism," "A Primer on Implicit Bias," and "Debiasing: Changing Our Unconscious Biases." In this issue I attempted to show how "a systems approach goes beyond blame and focuses on the ways in which we all share responsibility for making things different." White people in general have a hard time with this idea of shared responsibility for racism, which goes counter to the individualized explanation for racism that is embedded in the Dominant Thought System in this country. That should be no surprise, really, since the Dominant Thought System is dominant because it was created by White Supremacy to serve Whites.

I continued this analysis on June 12th with the essay "Thinking About Police Violence, Thinking Systems." In that essay I showed how the media, simply by going about its business, distorts our thinking about race and reinforces an individualized conception of the problem. That is, it leads us to see police violence as a problem of "rogue cops" or "bad apples," as opposed to seeing police violence as an predictable outcome of interlocking systems that are working to enforce a racialized system of domination. In the coming year and beyond Nygaard Notes will continue to feature stories about racism and the various ways it destroys human potential.

Also in June (busy month!) I introduced a new feature called "Sunset of the Empire." Recall that I've identified The Decline of the U.S. Empire as one of the year's Big Themes. The Sunset of the Empire feature highlights items in the news that capture aspects of declining U.S. power. Such news items are in the media all the time, but are not clearly marked as "Empire" stories, so they may be easy to miss. Not for Nygaard Notes readers, though.

When July rolled around I turned my gaze to terrorism. Specifically, I used the occasion of the church shootings in Charleston SC to point out that "right-wing, anti-government extremism is the leading source of ideological violence in America." That is, "the number of violent plots" that have anything to do with Islam, or that claim to have anything to do with Islam, "has remained very low," despite the barrage of news we continue to get about al Qaeda and Islamic State. This surprises a lot of people, and the reason for that has a lot to do with the structures and practices of our media system. I explained all this in Nygaard Notes Number 579, and offered a couple of great websites that do a good job of informing us about these little-known realities.

July continued with a couple of issues focused on environmental issues. The journal Science Advances published an article headlined "Accelerated Modern Human–induced Species Losses: "Entering the Sixth Mass Extinction." I reported some highlights from this largely-ignored article, including the startling statement that "our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years."

The following issue of Nygaard Notes was largely made up of excerpts from a long-awaited encyclical on global warming by Pope Francis. Called Laudato Si', the encyclical is sufficiently radical that it prompted some on the right to label the Pope a "Marxist" (intending it as an epithet, not a description), and calling him "a danger to the world" who is "directing mankind to worship the Antichrist." I included many excerpts from the document itself to help people to understand the nature and tone of the document. As the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, it seems worthwhile to be aware of what the Pope is saying.

In Nygaard Notes Number 582 I discussed Social Security once again. Long-time readers know that this immense—and hugely important and popular—program holds a particular fascination for me. The attack on the program started before it was even created in 1935, but in the 1990s it reached a new level of ferocity, and continues until today. In #582 I quoted the advocacy group Social Security Works who said, "It is sometimes reported that Social Security is paying out more money in benefits than it is collecting in income, but that is wrong." Another propaganda point bites the dust! Nygaard Notes will continue to correct the record on Social Security, you can count on that.

In Nygaard Notes Number 583, published last month (September 4th), I reported on an Australian study of jury selection in Louisiana (kind of odd, I know). That study showed that blacks are prevented from serving on juries far more often than are whites, despite the fact that the people of whom they are sitting in judgement are far more often black than white. It's racism at work and, while the study focused on the overt racism of mostly-white prosecutors who so often purposely prevent potential black jurors from serving, I discussed how larger racist structures and patterns combine to "whiten" Louisiana juries even before the prosecutors do their dirty work. That essay I called "Understanding Structural Racism."

It was just last month that I began my series "Media Propaganda Self-Defense: Ten Concrete Tips." So far we've covered four of the ten, so stay tuned.

Speaking of staying tuned, what can we expect in the coming year in Nygaard Notes?

Ha Ha, that's a trick question! Long-time readers are aware that I don't know any better than you do what opportunities will present themselves for consideration in these pages! But I can promise you that, in the Nygaard Notes tradition, we'll look at the obvious and the obscure, the head-scratching and the mind-boggling, the amusing and the terrifying, the concrete and the abstract, and anything else that can help us to see and understand how our world works.

So, whether you file Nygaard Notes under "Critical Thinking" or "Commentary" or "News" or "Analysis" or some other category, it doesn't matter. I work really hard to bring an original and entertaining collection of stories your way, so that the "medicine" I try to provide goes down easily. It's not just mind games, after all, or idle philosophy. Your Pledge helps me construct some tools for use in not only understanding the world, but in changing it.

Thank you for your support!