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Year: 2010

Shoot BP:
The Amazon to Arctic Investigation

Greg Palast 
Alaska Native Henry Makarka©1997James Macalpine-PIF

At Tatitlek Village, Alaska Native Henry Makarka told me, “If I had a machine gun I’d shoot every one of them white sons of bitches.”

Makarka was talking about the executives who came to him and his tribe 40 years ago to purchase their land at Valdez.  They were from the companies now known as Exxon and BP.

The Tatitlek were paid the handsome price of $1 for Valdez, which the companies knew was worth billions.

Yes, Henry, we want to shoot BP too.  And Exxon.  With cameras – which corporations fear more than bullets.

We have launched the multi-national Amazon to Arctic investigation of BP and its oily sisters.

But frankly, we need the cash to do it; for the small charter planes, the detective agencies, the camera batteries and, frankly, our nourishment.

If you have ever considered supporting us, or adding to your prior support, believe me, this is the moment.  Please donate here and I’ll send you, signed, your choice of thank you gifts: my films on DVD and bestselling books.

For 21 years, I have been hunting BP, Exxon, Chevron and their sisters.

But I simply can’t continue.  We are, no kidding, dead out of funds for this work.

The result will be a feature-length documentary (a major network has indicated it will distribute), major print investigative pieces and a series of video-enhanced internet news reports for major sites.  (As always, our reports are given to Democracy Now! and other not-for-profit broadcasters without charge.)

But the preliminary work and deep investigation which they can’t cover must start now.

* $579 buys my ticket to Alaska, BP’s latest drilling target.

* $1100 gets me to a meeting with a BP insider.

* $200 buys us a new concealable mini-recorder.

We need your help. If you believe the issue of oil’s global reach deserves the type of serious, deep investigation the Palast team uniquely provides, then now is the moment to show you support us.

Please, make it at least $100 and I’ll send you my three latest DVDs.

Better yet, become our producer. I mean it. Instead of million-dollar moguls, we are looking for a group of twenty-four “mini-moguls” to launch our films (news report length and feature length). Donate at least $1,000 and we’ll list you as a co-Producer for our next film (with a dozen DVDs of the film when complete).

Here’s what YOU get:

Palast flying over the Prince William Sound, Alaska©1997James Macalpine-PIF

BP insiders have contacted us from the Caspian to London.  We need your tax-deductible donation right away.  If ever there was a journalistic emergency, this is it.

We need to get back up to Alaska, BP’s next offshore target, pay the bills from hunting Chevron in the Amazon, then return to the Gulf where we have more inside information already gleaned that needs verification and publication.

I really don’t want to shut down such an important investigation.  If you have ever considered supporting us, or adding to your prior support, believe me, this is the moment.

Our special thanks to Mike Papantonio, Bobby Kennedy and their Ring of Fire Radio for supporting our Arctic to Amazon campaign.

On top of this obligation, we have also begun an investigation of nuclear power which has recently arisen from its corporate crypt.  I know this is a lot to take on, but we must – and we will, with your commitment to join us.

With gratitude,

Greg Palast

* * * * * * * *

Greg Palast investigated charges of fraud by BP and Exxon in the grounding of the Exxon Valdez for Alaska’s Chugach Natives.

Palast’s investigation of Chevron’s oil drilling operations in the Amazon for BBC Television Newsnight is included in the DVD compendium Palast Investigates.

Palast’s investigations are supported in part by the Puffin and Cloud Mountain Foundations and the Palast Investigative Fund, a 501c3 charitable trust.

Subscribe to Palast’s Newsletter and podcasts

Follow Palast on Facebook and Twitter.

www.gregpalast.com

Smart Pig:
BP’s OTHER Spill

Greg Palast 

For Buzzflash.com

Oil spill residue, Chenega, Alaska©1997James Macalpine-PIF

With the Gulf Coast dying of oil poisoning, there’s no space in the press for British Petroleum’s latest spill, just this week: over 100,000 gallons, at its Alaska pipeline operation.  A hundred thousand used to be a lot.  Still is.

On Tuesday, Pump Station 9, at Delta Junction on the 800-mile pipeline, busted.  Thousands of barrels began spewing an explosive cocktail of hydrocarbons after “procedures weren’t properly implemented” by BP operators, say state inspectors. “Procedures weren’t properly implemented” is, it seems, BP’s company motto.

Few Americans know that BP owns the controlling stake in the trans-Alaska pipeline; but, unlike with the Deepwater Horizon, BP keeps its Limey name off the Big Pipe.

There’s another reason to keep their name off the Pipe:  their management of the pipe stinks.  It’s corroded, it’s undermanned and “basic maintenance” is a term BP never heard of.

How does BP get away with it?  The same way the Godfather got away with it:  bad things happen to folks who blow the whistle. BP has a habit of hunting down and destroying the careers of those who warn of pipeline problems.
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Emperor Hickel: The Man Who Invented Alaska
… and Sarah Palin

Greg Palast 
Gov. Wally Hickel ©1997 James Macalpine PIF

Wally Hickel invented Alaska and told me he regretted it. He also invented Sarah Palin, and I was hoping, when I travel to Alaska next month, to ask him whether he also regretted that second creation.

Hickel wanted to be President; of what nation, well, that changed. First, he wanted to be President of the United States. That required that his home, Alaska, become united with the States, a task he accomplished in 1959 with the help of his buddy, and later enemy, Richard Nixon.

“That was a mistake,” he said, referring to US Statehood. “We should have been our own nation,” which, I pointed out, would have made him President instead of Governor.

Hickel grinned and took me over to a globe. As he massaged and caressed the planet’s crown, he talked about his long-held dream to create a circumpolar resource cartel linking Siberia, Alaska, sub-polar Scandinavia and northern Japan, tied together by a rail tunnel under the Bering Sea. Alaska was too small; his plan was for a Confederation of the North, an Arctic Empire that circled the top of the planet. Benevolently ruled, he made clear, by Emperor Wally.
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Slick Operator: The BP I’ve known too well

Greg Palast 

 For Truthout.org
May 5, 2010

I‘ve seen this movie before. In 1989, I was a fraud investigator hired to dig into the cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Despite Exxon’s name on that boat, I found the party most to blame for the destruction was … British Petroleum. That’s important to know, because the way BP caused devastation in Alaska is exactly the way BP is now sliming the entire Gulf Coast.

The deepwater horizon taken soon after the explosion in the Gulf.Deepwater Horizon in flames before sinking. Photo provided by D.Becnel

Tankers run aground, wells blow out, pipes burst. It shouldn’t happen but it does. And when it does, the name of the game is containment. Both in Alaska, when the Exxon Valdez grounded, and in the Gulf over a week ago, when the Deepwater Horizon platform blew, it was British Petroleum that was charged with carrying out the Oil Spill Response Plans (“OSRP”) which the company itself drafted and filed with the government.

What’s so insane, when I look over that sickening slick moving toward the Delta, is that containing spilled oil is really quite simple and easy. And from my investigation, BP has figured out a very low cost way to prepare for this task: BP lies. BP prevaricates, BP fabricates and BP obfuscates.

That’s because responding to a spill may be easy and simple, but not at all cheap. And BP is cheap. Deadly cheap.

To contain a spill, the main thing you need is a lot of rubber, long skirts of it called “boom.” Quickly surround a spill or leak or burst, then pump it out into skimmers or disperse it, sink it or burn it. Simple.
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Report from the Inferno

Greg Palast 

Palast on BP “The master of disaster”.

Report from Anchorage Radio with Shannyn Moore – Listen

The deepwater horizon taken soon after the explosion in the Gulf.

Photo of the Deepwater Horizon taken soon after the explosion in the Gulf. ӬProvided to us exclusively by D. Becnel. Stay tuned to this space for our investigative report.

Jeremy Scahill, Greg Palast & Big Noise:
From Blackwater to White Power

Our Latest Film Available Now!

Greg Palast 

White Power, Blackwater and the smell of vulture money … get it on this feature length DVD filmed by gonzo videographer Rick Rowley and the Big Noise team.

Donate at least $35 today to support our work and I’ll send you this stunning 4-part documentary””signed, on dvd””featuring Jeremy Scahill, Greg Palast and Big Noise Films.

Dispatches #6 follows Jeremy Scahill’s latest investigation into Blackwater’s role in the Nisur Square massacre, Greg Palast’s hunt of American debt speculators in Liberia, and Big Noise Films’ inside account of the resurgent white power movement in America.   It also includes a special report: a warning from the heart of East St. Louis.

Here’s what you get on Dispatches #6 for your tax-deductible donation:

BLACKWATER’S YOUNGEST VICTIM
Scahill’s exclusive report on the last man standing between Blackwater and impunity for the mercenary company’s role in the massacre of Iraqi civilians in Nisur Square, Iraq.

VULTURES
Palast travels to Liberia to uncover a scam by American debt speculators to take millions from one of the poorest countries on the planet.  But when we showed up to ask them about it at their office in New York, it seemed to have. . . disappeared.

WHITE POWER USA
From skinheads to border militias to the right wing of the “Tea Party Movement”, Big Noise takes a disturbing inside look at the resurgence of white nationalism in America.

EAST SAINT LOUIS
The city that was given up for dead.  Big Noise meets the people fighting against economic corrosion in the Rust Belt.  Can residents of East Saint Louis save their town? Or has it become obsolete””a warning to all American cities facing de-industrialization?

“Rick [Rowley] is a genius.”  – Amy Goodman

“[Jeremy] Scahill is a one-man truth squad.” – Bill Moyers

“Greg Palast is the most important investigative reporter of our time.” – The Guardian

Dispatches is a new dvd magazine by Big Noise Films and is dedicated to radical investigations, analysis and on the ground video from across the globe.  Big Noise ‘Dispatches’ takes you around the world to look war and crisis in the face, but also to witness a shared struggle for survival and dignity in this time of violence.

Behind the Arizona Immigration Law:
GOP Game to Swipe the November Election

Greg Palast 

Our investigation in Arizona discovered the real intent of the show-me-your-papers law.

by Greg Palast for Truthout.org

[Phoenix, AZ.] Don’t be fooled. The way the media plays the story, it was a wave of racist, anti-immigrant hysteria that moved Arizona Republicans to pass a sick little law, signed last week, requiring every person in the state to carry papers proving they are US citizens.

I don’t buy it. Anti-Hispanic hysteria has always been as much a part of Arizona as the Saguaro cactus and excessive air-conditioning.

What’s new here is not the politicians’ fear of a xenophobic “Teabag” uprising.

What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote — and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas.

In 2008, working for Rolling Stone with civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy, our team flew to Arizona to investigate what smelled like an electoral pogrom against Chicano voters … directed by one Jan Brewer.

Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.
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Heart of Coal

Greg Palast 

From Armed Madhouse

We’ve seen this dreadful movie before. In 2005, another coal mine in West Virginia imploded. We wrote about it then ….

War is hell, especially class war. Just ask the Sago mine workers. Billionaire Wilbur Ross purchased Sago of West Virginia in November 2005 through International Coal Group.

In the first six weeks under Ross’ company’s ownership, the Sago mine suffered two roof collapses. Ross said that, “We were comfortable, based on the assurances from our management that they felt that it was a safe situation.” Safe financially, maybe, but a third roof collapse in January 2006 caused twelve miners to suffocate.

Wilbur Ross – the man Fortune Magazine dubbed “a revered vulture investor” – has a heart. In light of the tragedy, Ross has asked Americans to donate to victims’ families. I don’t know, however, if you should send your money to his home in Palm Beach, or the one in the Hamptons or the one on Fifth Avenue.

From Armed Madhouse, the updated edition, by Greg Palast. Hear excerpts from the bestseller read by Amy Goodman, Larry David and Randi Rhodes here.

Vulture Financier Attacks
Banned in Britain

Greg Palast 

April 8 – London – Update for In These Times

We’ve stuffed the bird and nailed it to the wall: Today, the British Parliament effectively banned financial vulture funds from the British Isles. The law, merely awaits the expected touch of the Queen’s scepter.

“Vulture funds” are international re-po men who buy up old debt of the world’s poorest nations for pennies on the dollar, then sue for ten to a hundred times what they paid for these old loans. The new UK law, passed unanimously, would would bar financiers from using UK courts to collect more than the sums authorized by the International Monetary Fund. In effect, this stops American predators – such as financiers Eric Hermann, Michael Straus, and Michael Francis “Goldfinger” Sheehan, from siphoning tens of millions of dollars of aid money the US and UK treasuries had earmarked for Liberia, Zambia, Congo and other desperately poor countries.

The first vote in the House of Commons to ban vultures took place on February 26, the day after BBC broadcast our investigation of Vulture Eric Hermann (see it here), but maneuvers by a Conservative MP appeared to have de-railed the law.

In the US Congress, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is sponsoring the Stop VULTURE Funds Act H.R. 2932), whose passage may have to wait upon the election of a Democrat to the White House.

For the original story, see Stop Feeding the Vultures in In These Times.

Stop Feeding the Vultures

Greg Palast 

 For In These Times

I get the idea that Eric Hermann doesn’t want to talk to me. When I came to his office suite, his hedge fund’s name plaque had been unbolted from the building’s wall, the suite number removed and all the employees locked in.

I’m not surprised. Hermann is a vulture, not the carrion-eating type, but the kind that prey on the financially wounded. “Vulture” is a hedge fund industry term for the financiers who buy up the right to collect old loans of the world’s poorest nations, and then use every trick in the book ”” from lawsuits to bribery to hiring Henry Kissinger’s lobby firm ”” to muscle destitute countries into turning over their meager foreign aid funds.

Vultures, whether of the feathered or speculator species, don’t like to talk to reporters.

On February 25, the day after BBC Television’s Newsnight ran my report from in front of Hermann’s locked office door, Britain’s Parliament voted to bar vulture funds from using Britain’s courts to grab the assets of poor nations. …more

Getting into Massa’s Drawers:
Truly Creepy Details
about the Congressman

Greg Palast 

Exclusive for Buzzflash.com

For the two weeks before tickle-and-grope charges busted open on him, and before his resignation from Congress, our BBC Television investigations team was hunting for Representative Eric Massa.

We wanted to know what he had hidden in his drawers. Not his knickers, which have captivated America’s peep-show media, but Massa’s file drawers where he keeps his dirtier secrets.

Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass about Massa’s creepy little peccadilloes. But I care an awful lot about creeps that quietly backed him.

Massa plays himself as a two-fisted Progressive Democrat, telling the President to jam his fake health care bill where the Rahm don’t shine, and he gave the Iraq war his middle finger. I mean, the guy was on Rachel Maddow.

That’s the television Massa. But what about the Congressman Massa? And why was he ducking us?

I specifically wanted to ask the New York Congressman about Paul Singer: “Swift Boat” Singer, the guy who funded the vile attacks on Presidential Candidate John Kerry. “Swift Boat” Singer ”” reportedly the biggest funder of the Republican Party in New York. Our information was that the demi-billionaire Singer was backing Massa.

Singer’s nickname isn’t really Swift Boat. It’s “The Vulture.”

Singer is a speculator, the predator-in-chief of the flock of financiers, collectively known as “vultures,” who buy up the right to collect on old loans made to the world’s poorest nations. Vultures use law suits, political muscle, and in some cases, bribery …more

“The Insurance Industry Loves It”
Whistleblower Wendell Potter on the Health Care Law

Greg Palast 

Greg Palast conducted this interview with health insurance industry executive-turned-crusader Wendell Potter in the fall. The bill voted into law last night is the Senate bill Potter critiques. Potter, in the end, decided that the law is better than nothing. But listen up and get an earful of the real story: the insurance industry is secretly licking its chops over the new Health Care law.

WATCH THE INTERVIEW

Dan Brown, The Independent (UK)

Check out Palast’s original commentary, The S-Word and Dr. Kevorkian’s Accountant: Health care Rx from my socialist fire department.

BBC America: Palast Hunts the Vultures

Greg Palast 

Special Report for BBC World News America
Broadcast March, 2, 2010

Some vultures have feathers, but some have fancy offices and huge homes. Tonight, BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast follows the trail of one “vulture fund” chief, from a locked office door in New York to mud-brick houses in Africa.

liberia
Reporter Greg Palast outside the office of New York vulture fund. The name plaque has been removed and the staff locked inside.

How strange. When I arrive at the offices of Eric Hermann at hedge fund FH International, just outside New York City, the company’s corporate sign is unbolted from the wall and the suite number removed from the door.

But wait … I hear noises inside the office. Huh? I knock on the locked door and out steps the office building’s security manager.

“Guys, they don’t want to be interviewed. They don’t want to be seen. So we are going to have to ask you to leave the building.”

“And do you know why they took the sign off?”

His reply to our cameras, “I have no clue.”

But we do.

Mr. Hermann is the principle owner of a so-called “vulture fund” which attempted to seize more than $20 million from the war-wounded nation of Liberia.

Mr. Hermann is known in the finance business as a debt “vulture.” He and his associates buy up the debt of the poorest nations on the planet, usually for pennies on the dollar, then sue or use other means to squeeze the nations to pay ten times, even a hundred times, what the vulture fund paid for the debt.

The effect of Hermann’s financial maneuvers earns little applause in Liberia. In that African democracy, diplomat Winston Tubman tells us what he would say to vulture fund operators, “‘Do you know you are causing babies to die all over Liberia?'”

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Vulture Vomit Kills Bill

Greg Palast 

BBCVultures defend themselves by vomiting on their enemies. In Britain last week, terrified vultures puked up a Tory MP named Christopher Chope.

Two weeks ago, the day after the 25 February broadcast of our investigation on BBC Television of financial vultures preying on the world’s poorest nations, the British Parliament voted to effectively put them out of business in the UK. A rare victory for victims.

But last Friday, MP Chope used a Parliamentary gimmick to kill the bill.

Chope, I should say, has not confessed to the deed. The cowardly little piece of vulture puke would not admit he’d put the knife in the back of the law. However, vulture vomit has a truly vile stench, impossible to wash off; so activists were able to sniff him out.

Vulture funds buy up Third World nations’ debts at pennies on the dollar then sue these nations for ten or a hundred times what the funds paid for the securities. The Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill would have barred vultures from using UK courts.

Whether the law ultimately takes effect may depend on the outcome of the UK election. Though all parties in the UK back the anti-vulture law, the Conservatives’ commitment is apparently hobbled by some of their members’ preference for dining on the dead.

When I was in West Africa in February, I met with former UN diplomat Winston Tubman, who asked the vultures, “Don’t you know you are causing babies to die all over Liberia?”

Will the honorable MP Mr. Chope answer the question?

Greg Palast’s investigations can be seen on BBC Television Newsnight.
Sign up to receive Palast’s reports at www.GregPalast.com
…more

We Kicked Butt
New Boots Needed

Greg Palast 

A week ago Friday, the day after BBC Television broadcast of our investigative report on Liberia vultures, Britain’s Parliament voted to put an end to the creepy business of financial “vultures” who siphon off aid money through manipulating Third World nations’ debt.

And our prior report on financial tricksters, on Democracy Now!, motivated two congressmen to confront the President personally, in the Oval Office with our findings. And now legislation has jets on in the USA.

We’ve kicked vulture butt, but now we need new boots.

This isn’t the easiest time to be an investigative reporter and I am damn sure it’s not the easiest time for you to be supporting folks like our tiny but tough Palast team. So, I wanted to be sure to let you know what YOUR support has accomplished.

These accomplishments are real, but so are the bills for airfare, for the car for the stake-out, for the special microphones, for the … you name it.

BBC TV is a wonderful and prestigious outlet for our work. But “Beeb” budgets simply can’t cover all our costs.
We can’t fly to Africa by flapping our arms.

Democracy Now! shows our stuff; we love them ”” but it’s you, our supporters, who pay our subway fares to Amy’s studio.

That’s why””for the first time this decade””I’m asking you to help keep our work alive with your financial support.

Here are a few ideas on how to do it:
If you can contribute $150 or more, I’ll send you signed copies of 5 great DVDs … perfect for Mother’s day, graduations, easter baskets, May Day celebrations, Bingo prizes, or better yet, to spread the word.

Click here, make the tax-deductible donation, and I’ll sign’em all.

When our investigative team pulled the pants down on Karl Rove’s vote “caging” scam, Congressman John Conyers, who made our disclosures central to Congressional hearings on Bush’s firing of prosecutors told our crew, “America owes you an huge debt of thanks.”

I appreciate that; but we still owe the credit card company for the dozen flights to get on the scene to film the Rove-bots.

New! We are now offering you, the option to donate by getting The Palast Gift Card. Redeemable at our store by the lucky recipient.

Available again! Joker’s Wild, my classic, tarot-size investigative playing cards. Beautiful and great fun.

Better yet for us and maybe a little less burdensome to you, sign up for a modest monthly pledge of as little as $10. You will receive all new Palast releases ”” books or videos, as they become available. I will also mention you as a supporter in my next book (you may, of course, choose not to).

Right away, as a thank you, I will send all new signees a signed copy of a DVD of your choice plus the Joker’s Wild card deck.

If you’ve beaten the odds and had a great year, consider becoming a co-Producer by making a donation of $1,000 or more. If you do, I will list your name in our next film’s credits. Wait until your friends see that on your Google profile!

Or simply make a donation of any size or visit our Store for other signed gifts and options.

We will spend your donation wisely.

I truly can’t thank you enough,
Greg

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Greg Palast is an investigative reporter for BBC Newsnight and the author of Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
Subscribe to Palast’s Newsletter and podcasts.
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Liberian Leader Urges MPs to Back Action Against Vulture Funds

Greg Palast 

An investigation for BBC’s Newsnight has uncovered allegations that speculators subverted the international debt relief process.

And Heather Stewart for The Guardian

president

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, is urging MPs to back a bill banning vulture funds from using British courts to prey on poor countries when it comes to a vote on Friday. Liberia lost a $20m (£13m) case in London last year against two so-called vultures. Such funds buy up the loans of poor governments, wait for them to win from the international community, and then use courts to pursue the countries for assets.

Sirleaf said: “We’ve been waiting for a parliament or an assembly to take this kind of hard decision. I hope the US Congress and maybe some others in Europe will pick up this gauntlet and will follow the example of Britain.”

An investigation for BBC’s Newsnight, to be broadcast tonight, has uncovered allegations that speculators subverted the international debt relief process for Liberia, in an attempt to gain more money from its government and international donors than 97% of its other creditors accepted.

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Kvetcher in the Rye

Greg Palast 

For Op-Ed News

Catcher in the RyeIn the sixth grade, the Boys’ Vice-Principal threatened to suspend me from school unless I stopped carrying around The Catcher in the Rye I think because it had the word “fuck” in it. Since the Boys’ Vice-Principal hadn’t read the book – and I don’t think he’d ever read any book – he couldn’t tell me why.

But Mrs. Gordon was cool. She let me keep the book at my desk and read it at recess as long as I kept a brown wrapper over the cover.

I think J.D. Salinger would have liked Mrs. Gordon. She wanted to save me from the world’s vice-principals, the guys who wanted to train you in obedience to idiots and introduce you the adult world of fear and punishment. Mrs. Gordon wanted to protect the need of a child to run free.

That’s, of course, how the word fuck got into Salinger’s book. For the 5% of you who haven’t read it, the main character of the book, Holden Caulfield, tries to erase the f-word off the wall of a New York City school. He doesn’t want little kids like his sister Phoebe to see it, that somehow it would trigger an irreversible loss of her childhood innocence:

I thought Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them””all cockeyed, naturally””what it meant, and how they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days.

Which is where the title came from. Salinger’s Caulfield, pushed to the edge of his own youth and directed to prepare himself for the job market, could see for himself only one career: as a catcher in the rye. He imagined a bunch of kids playing away happily in a rye field, but a field on a cliff’s-edge. Every time a child, lost in their game, would drift toward the edge, Caulfield’s job would be to catch them before they fell.
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