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5 of the Most Awful Media People of 2013

From Thomas Friedman, to Richard Cohen...

Bill Gates becomes ‘Secret Santa’ on Reddit

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A Q&A with Richard Wolff

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Man Claims Harassment From Telemarketers After Signing Up For Obamacare

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A Digital Bill of Rights

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The Shadowy Spying Networks Transforming Post-9/11 Policing

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The Shadowy Spying Networks Transforming Post-9/11 Policing

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The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of...

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5 Ways Conservative Politics Promotes Freeloading and Shirking

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NSA Mass Monitoring Cell Phone Calls Globally

NSA Mass Monitoring Cell Phone Calls Globally

by Stephen Lendman

On December 5, the Washington Post broke the story. It headlined "NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show."

Doing so enables tracking individual movements. It maps their relationships. It does it in "previously unimaginable" ways.

NSA maintains a vast database. It's called FASCIA. It "stores information (on) locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices…"

New efforts analyze data collected. Doing so reflects mass global surveillance. NSA claims it doesn't target Americans willfully. It lied saying so.

"Incidental" whereabouts alone are tracked, it claims. WaPo said the term "connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result."

Previous articles explained how NSA operates lawlessly. It does so globally. It targets Americans. It does it willfully. It collects phone records of millions of AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications company customers.

It taps into central servers of nine or more US Internet companies. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and others willingly cooperate.

Audio, video, photos, emails, text messages, and other personal information is collected. Doing so lets NSA track individual movements and contacts over time.

According to retired NSA/US Air Force/Naval Intelligence/Defense Intelligence Agency analyst-turned whistleblower Russell Tice:

What's ongoing "is much larger and more systemic than anything anyone has ever suspected or imagined."

It's been widely known for years. Little was revealed publicly. Pervasive spying is much worse than suspected.

Snowden released documents and others reflect the tip of the iceberg. Expect lots more revelations ahead. Newly revealed WaPo information is the latest.

An unnamed senior NSA collection manager said "we are getting vast volumes" of location data worldwide.

It's gotten by tapping into cables connecting global cell networks. They serve US cell phones and foreign ones.

Additional data is collected from "tens of millions of Americans" traveling abroad annually. According to WaPo:

"In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June." 

"Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among the people using them."

NSA wants global privacy eliminated. It wants total electronic information access. It wants it in America and abroad. 

It wants it everywhere. It wants it no matter who or where you are. It's well on the way to getting it.

NSA lies claiming mass surveillance is lawful. Robert Litt is Office of the Director of National Intelligence general counsel. 

He lied claiming "no element of the intelligence community that under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cellphone location information about cellphones in the United States."

Its most powerful analytic tools are collectively called "CO-TRAVELER." It enables bulk collections. It involves more than location information.

A portrait of travel times and people whose paths crossed is gotten. Doing so reveals physical interactions and relationships. It lets NSA know who we're with, where and when.

CO-TRAVELER permits looking for "unknown associates of known intelligence targets," said WaPo. It does so by "tracking people whose movements intersect."

Privacy advocates call aggregated location data over time uniquely sensitive. Sophisticated mathematical techniques are used.

They let NSA analysts map cell phone user relationships. They do so by correlating their movement patterns over time. They do it with up to millions of other cell users crossing their path.

Cell phones "broadcast their locations" even when not in use. Carrying one on your person tracks where you're going.

CO-TRAVELER and related tools involve methodically collecting and storing location data on "a planetary scale," said WaPo.

People are monitored in "confidential business meetings." Their medical, financial, and other private spaces are tracked.

Privacy practically no longer exists for anyone communicating electronically.

Chris Soghoian is principal ACLU technologist. "One of the key components of location data, and why it's so sensitive, is that the laws of physics don't let you keep it private," he said.

Emails can be encrypted, he added. Online identities can be disguised. "(T)he only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave."

Vast NSA data more than doubles Library of Congress print material. It's growing exponentially. It's so vast, it's "outpacing (its) ability to ingest, process and store" what's gotten. NSA is upgrading to greater capacity. 

Three US Democrat senators expressed concern. Ron Wyden (OR), Mark Udall (CO) and Barbara Milulski (MD) introduced a 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment.

It requires US intelligence agencies to say whether they ever collected or plan obtaining location data on "a large number of United States persons with no known connection to suspicious activity."

Americans tracked globally can't be determined from Snowden documents alone. Senior intelligence officials declined to estimate.

They claim no way to do it. Why not wasn't explained. An intelligence agency lawyer was cited. He doesn't respect constitutional law.

He claimed cell phone data monitoring doesn't violate Fourth Amendment rights. They protect against unlawful searches and seizures. 

Warrantless privacy invasions constitute gross Fourth Amendment violations. According to WaPo:

"(T)op secret briefing slides (show) NSA pulls in location data around the world from 10 major 'sigads,' or signals intelligence activity designators."

"A signad known as STORMBREW relies on two unnamed corporate partners." They're codenamed ARTIFICE and WOLFPOINT.

Both companies administer NSA "physical systems (interception equipment). 'NSA asks nicely for tasking/updates.' "

"STORMBREW collects data from 27 telephone links." They're called OPC/DPC pairs. They refer to originating and destination points.

They transfer traffic from one internal network to another. Cell tower identifiers are included. They're used to identify phone locations.

"The agency's access to carrier networks appears to be vast," WaPo explained. Computer and Information Science Professor Matt Blaze said:

"Many shared databases, such as those used for roaming, are available in their complete form to any carrier who requires access to any part of it."

"This 'flat' trust model means that a surprisingly large number of entities have access to data about customers that they never actually do business with, and an intelligence agency - hostile or friendly - can get 'one-stop shopping' to an expansive range of subscriber data just by compromising a few carriers."

NSA's location tracking capability is "staggering," added WaPo. It renders most communication security efforts "effectively futile."

Analytical tools map date, time, and location of cellphones. Patterns or significant overlap movements are monitored.

Other tools compute cell devices' speed and trajectory. Information gotten overlays electronic data on transportation maps. Likely travel time is determined to show which devices may have intersected. 

This report and previous ones reflect out-of-control NSA spying. It persists at home and abroad.

Thousands more Snowden documents remain to be released. Expect added proof of NSA lawlessness.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) lawsuits pressed courts to prohibit warrantless searches. Rulings were split.

In 2008, the Third Circuit US Appeals Court held that federal magistrates may require warrants based on probable cause. They may do so before permitting monitoring of phone location records.

Fifth and Sixth Circuit Court rulings approved warrantless seizures. The Supreme Court hasn't yet addressed the issue. It's important enough to do so. It's right wing judges may provide no relief.

At the same time, an earlier High Court ruling prohibited planting GPS devices on cars without warrants. It stopped short deciding whether warrantless tracking violates Fourth Amendment rights.

A Final Comment

On December 6, Russia Today (RT) headlined Sweden 'spied on Russian leaders for US.' "

Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) is involved. It monitors electronic communications.

FRA declined to comment. Its communications head, Anni Bolenius, said:

"We do in general have international cooperation with a number of countries, which is supported in Swedish legislation, but we do not comment on which ones we cooperate with."

Sweden's Sveriges Television (SVT) broke the story. Nils Hanson was involved. He's chief editor of SVT's "Mission: Investigate."

He told RT that FRA/NSA collaboration isn't new. "(N)ow we can show documents proving this relationship," he said.

Snowden provided them. "Sweden's 'cable access' made its position 'unique' in the eyes of the NSA," said RT. 

Sweden's FRA signal intelligence agency is a key NSA partner. According to one Snowden document:

"The FRA provided NSA unique collection on high-priority Russian targets, such as leadership, internal politics." NSA bosses were told to:

"Thank Sweden for its continued work on the Russian target, and underscore the primary role that FRA plays as a leading partner to work the Russian Target, including Russian leadership and counterintelligence."

"FRA's cable access has resulted in unique SIGINT reporting on all of these areas."

FRA authorization involves tracking "external threats" potentially affecting Sweden. It secret Defense Intelligence Court issues permits.

Targeting Russian leaders reflects doing so at NSA's behest. It suggests exceeding FRA's remit. 

Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials aren't threats. FRA has lots of explaining to do. Perhaps Moscow will demand answers.

Last April, Voice of Russia cited Julian Assange saying FRA intercepts 80% of Russian Internet traffic. It sells it to the NSA. 

It's further proof of Swedish/US collaboration against Russia. It shows hostile intent. It targets a friendly neighbor.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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Monsanto, the TPP, and Global Food Dominance

Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.  “Control food and you control the people.”

Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.

Profits Before Populations

Genetic engineering has made proprietary control possible over the seeds on which the world’s food supply depends. “Terminator” genes enable the production of sterile seeds, using a synthetic chemical catalyst appropriately called “Traitor” to induce seed sterility. Farmers must therefore buy seeds from their patent owners year after year. To cover these costs, food prices are raised; but the harm is far greater than to our pocketbooks.

According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.

Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.

The widespread use of GMO foods and glyphosate herbicides helps explain the anomaly that the US spends over twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country, yet it is rated far down the scale of the world’s healthiest populations. The World Health Organization has ranked the US LAST out of 17 developed nations for overall health.

Sixty to seventy percent of the foods in US supermarkets are now genetically modified. By contrast, in at least 26 other countries—including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia—GMOs are totally or partially banned; and significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.

A ban on GMO and glyphosate use might go far toward improving the health of Americans. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade agreement for which the Obama Administration has sought Fast Track status, would block that sort of cause-focused approach to the healthcare crisis.

Roundup’s Insidious Effects

Roundup-resistant crops escape being killed by glyphosate, but they do not avoid absorbing it into their tissues. Herbicide-tolerant crops have substantially higher levels of herbicide residues than other crops. In fact, many countries have had to increase their legally allowable levels—by up to 50 times—in order to accommodate the introduction of GM crops. In the European Union, residues in food are set to rise 100-150 times if a new proposal by Monsanto is approved. Meanwhile, herbicide-tolerant “super-weeds” have adapted to the chemical, requiring even more toxic doses and new toxic chemicals to kill the plant.

Human enzymes are affected by glyphosate just as plant enzymes are: the chemical blocks the uptake of manganese and other essential minerals. Without those minerals, we cannot properly metabolize our food. That helps explain the rampant epidemic of obesity in the United States. People eat and eat in an attempt to acquire the nutrients that are simply not available in their food.

According to researchers Samsell and Seneff in Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality (April 2013):

Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology . . . . Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 40 diseases have been linked to glyphosate use, and more keep appearing. In September 2013, the National University of Rio Cuarto, Argentina, published research finding that glyphosate enhances the growth of fungi that produce aflatoxin B1, one of the most carcinogenic of substances. A doctor from Chaco, Argentina, told Associated Press, “We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before.” Fungi growths have increased significantly in US corn crops.

Glyphosate has also done serious damage to the environment. According to an October 2012 report by the Institute of Science in Society:

Agribusiness claims that glyphosate and glyphosate-tolerant crops will improve crop yields, increase farmers’ profits and benefit the environment by reducing pesticide use. Exactly the opposite is the case. . . . [T]he evidence indicates that glyphosate herbicides and glyphosate-tolerant crops have had wide-ranging detrimental effects, including glyphosate resistant super weeds, virulent plant (and new livestock) pathogens, reduced crop health and yield, harm to off-target species from insects to amphibians and livestock, as well as reduced soil fertility.

Politics Trumps Science

In light of these adverse findings, why have Washington and the European Commission continued to endorse glyphosate as safe? Critics point to lax regulations, heavy influence from corporate lobbyists, and a political agenda that has more to do with power and control than protecting the health of the people.

In the ground-breaking 2007 book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, William Engdahl states that global food control and depopulation became US strategic policy under Rockefeller protégé Henry Kissinger. Along with oil geopolitics, they were to be the new “solution” to the threats to US global power and continued US access to cheap raw materials from the developing world. In line with that agenda, the government has shown extreme partisanship in favor of the biotech agribusiness industry, opting for a system in which the industry “voluntarily” polices itself. Bio-engineered foods are treated as “natural food additives,” not needing any special testing.

Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, confirms that US Food and Drug Administration policy allows biotech companies to determine if their own foods are safe. Submission of data is completely voluntary. He concludes:

In the critical arena of food safety research, the biotech industry is without accountability, standards, or peer-review. They’ve got bad science down to a science.

Whether or not depopulation is an intentional part of the agenda, widespread use of GMO and glyphosate is having that result. The endocrine-disrupting properties of glyphosate have been linked to infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and arrested sexual development. In Russian experiments, animals fed GM soy were sterile by the third generation. Vast amounts of farmland soil are also being systematically ruined by the killing of beneficial microorganisms that allow plant roots to uptake soil nutrients.

In Gary Null’s eye-opening documentary Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs, Dr. Bruce Lipton warns, “We are leading the world into the sixth mass extinction of life on this planet. . . . Human behavior is undermining the web of life.”

The TPP and International Corporate Control

As the devastating conclusions of these and other researchers awaken people globally to the dangers of Roundup and GMO foods, transnational corporations are working feverishly with the Obama administration to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would strip governments of the power to regulate transnational corporate activities. Negotiations have been kept secret from Congress but not from corporate advisors, 600 of whom have been consulted and know the details. According to Barbara Chicherio in Nation of Change:

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history. . . .

The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique.  If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.

. . . They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Food safety is only one of many rights and protections liable to fall to this super-weapon of international corporate control. In an April 2013 interview on The Real News Network, Kevin Zeese called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” and “a global corporate coup.” He warned:

No matter what issue you care about—whether its wages, jobs, protecting the environment . . . this issue is going to adversely affect it . . . .

If a country takes a step to try to regulate the financial industry or set up a public bank to represent the public interest, it can be sued . . . .

Return to Nature: Not Too Late

There is a safer, saner, more earth-friendly way to feed nations. While Monsanto and US regulators are forcing GM crops on American families, Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments). Dacha gardens produced over 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. According to Vladimir Megre, author of the best-selling Ringing Cedars Series:

Essentially, what Russian gardeners do is demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world – and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year – so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.

In the US, only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. This area needs to be vastly expanded if we are to avoid “the sixth mass extinction.” But first, we need to urge our representatives to stop Fast Track, vote no on the TPP, and pursue a global phase-out of glyphosate-based herbicides and GMO foods. Our health, our finances and our environment are at stake.


Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her blog articles are at

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NSA spies on world leaders, so why not? Even the Holy See isn't spy proof. It's not off limits. 

Pope Francis is monitored. Most likely Benedict XVI. Perhaps John Paul II through at least some of his papacy. NSA spies globally. No one's safe from its intrusive eye.

On October 30, the Italian publication Panorama headlined "Esclusiva Panorama: Datagate, anche il Papa è stato intercettato (Exclusive Panorama: Datagate, even the Pope was intercepted).

Reuters covered the story. On October 30, it headlined "Italian magazine says US spies listened to pope, Vatican says unaware." 

Internal Vatican communications are monitored. So are phone calls from the Domus Sanctae Marthae. It's Pope Francis' current home. It's where cardinals reside during papal conclaves.

NSA's interest was monitoring "leadership intentions," financial system threats, "foreign policy objectives," and "human rights." Vatican Bank president Ernst von Freyberg's calls were intercepted.

Francis was monitored when he was Buenos Aires archbishop. Doing so suggests all high-ranking prelates are watched globally. 

US embassies virtually everywhere are infested with spies. They operate covertly as diplomatic staff. Snowden-released documents revealed Rome has an elite spying unit. So do other major European capitals.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said: "We are not aware of anything on this issue, and in any case we have no concerns about it."

Whether or not Vatican officials knew is one thing. For sure, no one wants to be spied on.

NSA head Keith Alexander repeatedly lies. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper is an admitted perjurer. Take everything they both say with a grain of salt.

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"The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican. Assertions that NSA has (done so), published by Italy's Panorama magazine, are not true."

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Panorama said the "National Security Agency wiretapped the pope…(T)he great American ear" never sleeps. Calls to and from the Vatican are monitored. Big Brother intercepts prelate conversations routinely. 

For sure following Pope Benedict's February 28 resignation through the papal conclave convened to elect his successor. Conversations of future Pope Francis were likely monitored.

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Sistine chapel discussions relating to electing new popes are especially kept secret. A special system scrambles cell phone calls. Anyone caught breaking the sacred trust faces excommunication.

NSA reportedly intercepted communications relating to the 2012 Vatileaks scandal. It exposed high-level corruption. Documents were leaked to Italian journalists.

Paolo Gabriele became a person of interest. He was Benedict XVI's personal secretary. He leaked his confidential letters and memos.

They revealed papal finances, bribes, other corruption, and abuse of power. Gabriele was hung out to dry. He was arrested, tried and convicted. 

He got 18 months in prison. He was ordered to pay legal expenses. On December 22, 2012, Benedict pardoned him. 

Michael Parenti's "God and His Demons" makes compelling reading. He confronted the religious right, saying:

"The god of the Holy Bible - so much adored in the United States and elsewhere - is ferociously vindictive, neurotically jealous, intolerant, vainglorious, punitive, wrathful, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sadistic and homicidal." 

"As they say, it's all in the Bible. Beware of those who act in the name of such a god." 

"Were we to encounter these vicious traits in an ordinary man, we would judge him to be in need of lifelong incarceration at a maximum-security facility." 

"At the very least, we would not prattle on about how he works his wonders in mysterious ways. In fact, 'biblical Jesus qualifies quite well as founder and forerunner of an intolerant Christianity."

"That 'old-time religion' is still very much with us and having a considerable impact on US political life."

Parenti was unforgiving. He challenged iconic religious figures. He exposed their dark sides. He included Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and Tibetan Buddhism.

John Paul II "remained up to his ears in counter-revolutionary politics in Latin America and elsewhere," he said. 

He "directed no critical attacks against right-wing dictatorships." He called them "bulwarks against communist revolution."

He intervened on behalf of Chilean despot Augusto Pinochet. At the time, he was under house arrest in London.

Parenti's book was written before Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. He was very much involved in Argentina's dirty war.

Prelates denouncing human rights abuses anywhere is considered taboo. Dirty war survivors accused Bergoglio of complicity with what demanded condemnation.

Vatican policy isn't pretty. Francis wasn't elected to change things. Washington wants policy everywhere kept in lockstep with US policy. 

NSA spying relates to discovering potential outliers. US policy makers can then act before harm is done.

Snowden documents revealed spying on millions of Italian citizens. It was thought perhaps popes and Vatican officials were off-limits. It bears repeating. NSA spies on world leaders.

Vatican city is a sovereign city-state. Popes have head of state status. They have diplomatic immunity like presidents and prime ministers. 

So do Vatican officials, papal nuncios, cardinals and other high-ranking Holy See Diplomatic Service prelates. They're more than religious figures. 

They're politically involved. They're well connected. What they say and think matters. They influence great numbers of parishioners.

Separately, Snowden documents revealed NSA secretly intercepted Google and Yahoo communication links connecting their global data centers. 

Doing so lets the agency keep track of hundreds of millions of user accounts. NSA's main tool is called MUSCULAR. It operates jointly with Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

From undisclosed interception points, both agencies copy fiber-optic cable flows. Doing so complements NSA's PRISM. 

It has front-door access to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and other major online companies.

NSA can search histories, emails, file transfers and live chats. They're gotten directly from US provider servers. Doing so facilitates mass surveillance. NSA now has front and back-door access. It takes full advantage.

An NSA statement lied, saying:

it "focus(es) on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only."

It "applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons - minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination."

NSA's mandate is "get it all." Everyone and everything are fair game. Congressional oversight is virtually nonexistent. Obama's in lockstep with NSA policy.

On December 4, 1981, Executive Order 12333, explained NSA/Central Security Service (CSS) responsibilities and purposes. 

It's to provide "(t)imely and accurate information about the activities, capabilities, plans, and intentions of foreign powers, organizations, and persons and their agents, is essential to the national security of the United States." 

"All reasonable and lawful means must be used to ensure that the United States will receive the best intelligence available." Head of operations is charged with:

  • "Collect(ing, including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions;
  • Acting(ing) as the National Manager for National Security Systems as established in law and policy, and in this capacity be responsible to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director, National Intelligence; (and)

  • Prescrib(ing) security regulations covering operating practices, including the transmission, handling, and distribution of signals intelligence and communications security material within and among the elements under control of the Director of the National Security Agency, and exercise the necessary supervisory control to ensure compliance with the regulations."

On July 31, 2008, EO 12333 was amended to:

  • "Align (it) with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004;

  • Implement additional recommendations of the 9/11 and WMD Commissions; (and)

  • Further integrate the Intelligence Community and clarify and strengthen the role of DNI as the head of the Community; Maintain or strengthen privacy and civil liberties protections."

By law, NSA’s mission is limited to monitoring, collecting and analyzing foreign communications. Its dual missions include: 

  • the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID). It relates to foreign intelligence gathering, and 

  • the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD). It protects US information systems.

Rule of law principles are systematically spurned. It's more true now than ever. It's far worse than most people imagine. 

Anything goes reflects policy. NSA is a power unto itself. It does whatever it wants covertly. It does it globally. Obama continues what his predecessors began.

NSA's been around for decades. On June 1, 1952, Harry Truman authorized it. On November 4, 1952, it was established. Its earlier incarnation was a shadow of today's capabilities. Virtually nothing escapes its intrusive eye.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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Frontrunning: October 18

  • Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party (BBG)
  • Budget fight leaves Boehner 'damaged' but still standing (Reuters)
  • Madoff Was Like a God, Wizard of Oz, Lawyers Tell Jury (BBG) - just like Bernanke
  • Republicans press U.S. officials over Obamacare snags (Reuters)
  • Brilliant: Fed Unlikely to Trim Bond Buying in October (Hilsenrath)
  • More brilliant: Fed could taper as early as December (FT)
  • Russia Roofing Billionaires Seen Among Country’s Youngest (BBG)
  • Ford's Mulally won't dismiss Boeing, Microsoft speculation (Reuters)
  • China reverses first-half slowdown (FT)
  • NY Fed’s Fired Goldman Examiner Makes Weird Case (BBG)
  • Italian protests against Letta government disrupt transport (Reuters)
  • Transit workers strike again, will hamper Bay Area commute (Reuters)

Overnight Media Digest


* SAC Capital and federal prosecutors have agreed in principle on a penalty exceeding $1 billion in a potential criminal settlement that would be the largest ever for an insider-trading case.

* Insurers say the federal healthcare marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far.

* Chinese PC maker Lenovo is actively considering a bid for all of BlackBerry and has signed a non-disclosure agreement with the smartphone maker. ()

* A late surge of cases against low-level offenders will push the SEC's case total close to last year's levels, masking a steep drop in enforcement actions related to the financial crisis. While the total hasn't been announced, it likely will be down at least 5 percent from a near-record high of 734 enforcement cases in fiscal 2012.

* Google posted a 12 percent increase in third-quarter revenue, as it tries to keep pace with its users' shift to mobile devices.

* Video-streaming service Hulu on Thursday named Mike Hopkins as its new chief executive, effective immediately. Hopkins has been president of Fox Networks Group, a division of 21st Century Fox Inc, since 2008 and a member of Hulu's board since 2011.

* A U.S. district judge ordered subprime lender Household International Inc - now part of HSBC Holdings PLC - to pay investors $2.46 billion in a class-action lawsuit, a move that comes several years after a jury found the company liable for securities fraud.

* IBM is shaking up leadership of its growth-markets unit, following disappointing third-quarter results that prompted a critical internal email from CEO Virginia Rometty. She wrote that IBM's strategy is correct, but criticized the company for failing to execute in sales of computer hardware as well as in the growth markets unit, whose sales territory includes markets in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.


Paul Tucker, the Bank of England's outgoing deputy governor, said regulators need to keep a stronger eye on hedge funds and shadow banks and added it would be disastrous if the economic fragility of banks was recreated outside the mainstream banking sector.

The U.S. Federal Reserve could begin reducing its asset purchases as early as December after the government shutdown sabotaged a crucial month of data and dealt a blow to the world's largest economy.

The next U.S. monthly employment report became a casualty of the U.S. government shutdown with the Department of Labor saying the data would be released after a delay of more than two weeks on Tuesday.

Scottish National Party leader and Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond was involved in the talks between the management and workers Grangemouth refinery and petrochemicals complex. The management has closed off the refinery demanding that workers accept changes to pay, pensions and union representation in what has turned out to be Scotland's biggest industrial dispute in years.

Google shares rose 8 percent to a record high after the company managed a smooth transition of its advertising business to smartphones and tablets from PCs.

Goldman Sachs managed to protect its profits by slashing the amount of money set aside for year-end bonuses after its fixed-income trading was worse than any other large Wall Street bank's.

Barclays has approached the Court of Appeal to overturn an earlier ruling that allowed Guardian Care Homes, which is suing Barclays over interest-rate swaps, to amend its claim to include Libor-related allegations.

UK Ministers will look at the green measures that have contributed to rising fuel bills after British Gas became the second energy company to increase energy prices.


* Britain said on Thursday that it would allow Chinese firms to buy stakes in British nuclear power plants and eventually acquire majority holdings. The agreement, which comes with caveats, opens the way for China's fast-growing nuclear industry to play a significant role in Britain's plans to proceed with construction of its first new reactor in nearly two decades.

* The hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors is moving closer to a plea deal with prosecutors that would force it to wind down its business of managing money for outside investors, punctuating its decline from the envy of Wall Street to a firm caught in the government's cross hairs. An agreement to stop operating as an investment adviser is one feature of a larger agreement SAC is negotiating as it seeks to resolve insider trading charges, according to people briefed on the case.

* On Thursday Goldman Sachs Group Inc announced that revenue in its fixed-income, currency and commodities division, a powerful unit inside the bank that in better years has produced more than 35 percent of its entire revenue, dropped 44 percent from year-ago levels. The weakness renewed worries about the headwinds that Goldman and other banks are facing in big money-producing areas like fixed-income trading.

* Google Inc impressed investors, but people's changing behavior on mobile phones and even on desktops threatens the company's main business. The results revealed the company's deep challenges: as its desktop search and advertising businesses mature, along with overall business in the United States, its growth rate is slowing and the amount of money it makes from each ad it sells is falling.

* The United States government sputtered back to life Thursday after President Obama and Congress ended a 16-day shutdown, reopening tourist spots and clearing the way for federal agencies to deliver services and welcome back hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers.

* There is a confusion over the text of the deal that Congress just approved and President Obama signed, but it does not kill the debt ceiling. At first glance, the "default prevention" section of the bill seemed to imply that the president would have the authority in the future to increase the country's debt unilaterally, and that Congress could stop him only by passing a bill forbidding it.

* Roughly 1,500 fires burn above western North Dakota because of the deliberate burning of natural gas by companies rushing to drill for oil without having sufficient pipelines to transport their production. With cheap gas bubbling to the top with expensive oil, the companies do not have an economic incentive to build the necessary gas pipelines, so they flare the excess gas instead.

* As European interest in American craft beers begins to mirror the mania for them stateside, the Duvel Moortgat Brewery of Belgium on Thursday announced a deal to buy the Boulevard Brewing Co, a craft brewery in Kansas City, Missouri.



* Canadian provinces have approved the free-trade agreement with the European Union, but key players Ontario and Quebec are insisting the federal government open its wallet to mitigate some of the impact, notably by compensating dairy producers. Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Brussels on Thursday night and plans to meet with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, on Friday afternoon to sign the agreement.

* The shortage of skilled employees in Canada is deepening, and government policies that tightened the rules governing foreign workers have made the situation worse. That is the message of a new study from global recruiting firm Hays Plc, which surveyed the skills gap in 30 developed countries around the world.

Reports in the business section:

* Lenovo Group Ltd is joining the list of suitors considering a bid for BlackBerry Ltd , raising concerns that the Canadian company's ultra-secure communications network for the global elite might end up owned by a firm based in China.

* Imperial Oil Ltd is looking at a major revamp of its Mackenzie gas project that would see the stalled northern venture reborn as part of an expansive liquefied natural gas development, the company's chief executive says. A shift to LNG is under "serious" consideration as the Mackenzie pipeline's economics remain weak due to the flood of cheap shale gas across the continent, CEO Rich Kruger said in an interview at the company's Calgary headquarters.


* The Quebec government has announced that it will contest the latest nomination to the Supreme Court of Canada, adding a new layer of controversy to the process. The provincial government says it is weighing different options to block the Harper government's appointment of Marc Nadon, which is already under attack.


* Canada's campaign to win approval in the United States for the Keystone XL pipeline may seem pricey, aggressive, and perhaps out of character - but it is a drop in the bucket compared with the resources and tactics of those rallying against it.

* Air Canada's chief executive, Calin Rovinescu, says he is pleased investors are starting to get on board with the dramatic transformation underway at his airline, including the near-elimination of its multi-billion-dollar pension funding deficit that has twice threatened to upend the company in recent years. But he said there are still plenty of challenges ahead for the country's largest carrier.



- The China Securities Regulatory Commission approved China Everbright Bank Co Ltd's request to list H shares on Wednesday, according to sources. The bank plans to list in Hong Kong as early as November, but listing is subject to Hong Kong Stock Exchange approval.

- China has started laying the foundations for its fifth-generation mobile telephony network, said Dai Xiaohui, the deputy director of the Ministry of Science and Technology on Thursday at a communications forum.


- China has investigated 129 officials at prefectural level or higher for suspected corruption and bribery from January through August this year, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said on Thursday.


- Chinese officials should not blindly follow customary practices if such practices lead to waste or are not legal, said a commentary in the paper that acts as the government's mouthpiece. The article highlighted extravagance during opening and closing ceremonies as an example of a traditional practice best curbed.


- Beijing will take half the cars off the city's roads and suspend school classes when there are three straight days of heavy pollution, an official said on Thursday. The plan includes measures to increase buses and extend subway operating hours.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot



AMAG Pharmaceuticals (AMAG) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Align Technology (ALGN) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Cantor (AMZN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
CBOE Holdings (CBOE) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Essex Property Trust (ESS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Intuit (INTU) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Peabody Energy (BTU) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
Union Pacific (UNP) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
VMware (VMW) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Verizon (VZ) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank


AMD (AMD) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Alpha Natural (ANR) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
Amarin (AMRN) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Aspen Technology (AZPN) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Baxter (BAX) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James
Fairchild Semiconductor (FCS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
Home Bancshares (HOMB) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James
International Rectifier (IRF) downgraded to Market Perform at Wells Fargo
LG Display (LPL) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Monolithic Power (MPWR) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Navistar (NAV) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Qualys (QLYS) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
SL Green Realty (SLG) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Cantor
Total (TOT) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Ultratech (UTEK) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
UnitedHealth (UNH) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Cantor


Clean Harbors (CLH) initiated with an In-Line at Imperial Capital
Covanta (CVA) initiated with a Hold at Stifel
Fidelity National (FNF) initiated with a Neutral at Janney Capital
Finish Line (FINL) initiated with a Neutral at UBS
First American (FAF) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Gaming & Leisure (GLPIV) initiated with an In-Line at Imperial Capital
Masonite International (DOOR) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
New Residential (NRZ) initiated with a Buy at Sterne Agee
Spectrum Brands (SPB) initiated with an Outperform at BMO Capital
Stewart (STC) initiated with a Neutral at Janney Capital
U.S. Cellular (USM) initiated with an Underperform at FBR Capital


Google CEO said 40% of YouTube traffic comes from mobile
Schlumberger (SLB) said global economic outlook remains unchanged
Fitch cut Darden (DRI) IDR to 'BBB-' from 'BBB', outlook stable
LabCorp (LH) board authorized additional $1B share repurchase program
AMD (AMD) sees PC shipments down 10% in 2013 and 2014
Waste Management (WM) to build renewable natural gas facility


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Sensient (SXT), F.N.B. Corp. (FNB), AMD (AMD), Las Vegas Sands (LVS), Capital One (COF), Covenant Transportation (CVTI), WD-40 (WDFC), Google (GOOG), Align Technology (ALGN)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Valmont (VMI), Kaiser Aluminum (KALU), B&G Foods (BGS), athenahealth (ATHN), Greenhill & Co. (GHL), Acacia Research (ACTG), Stryker (SYK), Chipotle (CMG)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
OceanFirst Financial (OCFC), Western Alliance (WAL), Werner (WERN)


  • The long-running drama about when the Fed will start scaling back its $85B a-month bond-buying program might now last longer. It isn't clear when the first move will occur. The Fed is unlikely to start curtailing its bond buying at its next policy meeting Oct. 29-30, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • Bank of America (BAC) is considering a checking account that wouldn't permit customers to overdraw their balances at an ATM or when making an automatic bill payment, sources say, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • Ford (F) CEO Alan Mulally would not confirm or deny media reports that he is being sought to join Boeing (BA) and Microsoft (MSFT), Reuters reports
  • Air France -KLM (AFLYY) is open to giving Alitalia its rightful role in a merged entity but only if certain conditions are met, CEO Alexandre de Juniac told French television. He said Alitalia needs deeper restructuring if Air France is to eventually hike its 25% stake and take control, Reuters reports
  • DBS Group (DBSDY) is among banks that have advanced in bidding for Societe Generale’s (SCGLY) SA’s private banking assets in Asia, sources say. The division oversees about $13B, Bloomberg reports
  • JPMorgan Chase (JPM) agreed to sell 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza to Fosun International, the investment arm of China’s biggest closely held industrial group, for $725M, Bloomberg reports


Cinedigm Digital (CIDM) files to sell 7.91M shares of Class A common stock
Crestwood Midstream (CMLP) files to sell 14M common units for limited partners
EV Energy (EVEP) files to sell 5M common units for limited partners
Evercore Partners (EVR) files to sell 3M shares of common stock
Stemline (STML) files to sell $90M of common stock
Voxeljet (VJET) 6.5M share IPO priced at $13.00

Your rating: None

BlackBerry, erstwhile Canadian high-tech icon, slashing 4,500 jobs


By Mathieu Bessé
18 October 2013

BlackBerry, the manufacturer of BlackBerry smartphones, is slashing a further 4,500 jobs—40 percent of its now much-diminished worldwide workforce—and actively seeking a buyer.

The company, which was previously known as Research in Motion or RIM, has already announced the closure of a customer service office in Bedford, Nova Scotia that employs 350 people and the elimination of 300 jobs in Waterloo, Ontario, where the company is headquartered.

Coming weeks will see the announcement of further job cuts, since BlackBerry management vowed last month, on announcing a US $965 million loss for the second quarter of its financial year, that it will eliminate 4,500 positions by the end of 2013.

These job cuts are on top of the 5,000 layoffs that RIM announced in 2012, with the stated aim of saving $1 billion per year. From a worldwide workforce of 19,000 at the beginning of 2011, BlackBerry will be reduced to about 7,000 employees when the latest restructuring is completed.

Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, a Toronto-based financial holding company, has made a US $4.7 billion cash offer to purchase BlackBerry and under a tentative-sale agreement has been granted access to the company’s books.

However, many industry observers doubt the purchase will be completed or, even if it does go through, that BlackBerry will long survive as a distinct entity.

Fairfax, which claims to be working in conjunction with an unnamed—and as of yet uncommitted—consortium, has not explained where it will find the money to pay for the purchase.

BlackBerry, for its part, is actively searching for alternate buyers. Mike Lazaridis (a former RIM co-CEO), Google, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft are all rumored to have expressed interest in buying the company.

In 2009 Fortune magazine, pointing to RIM/BlackBerry’s average annual sales growth of 77 percent over the previous three years, named the company the “fastest growing” in the world. And as recently as the beginning of 2010, it still had a 40 percent share of the US smartphone market.

But in the face of competition from Apple, Samsung and other smartphone makers, its North American market share has collapsed, including in the business and government sector, which was the original source of its dominance.

Earlier this week, BlackBerry published full-page or otherwise prominent advertisements in 30 daily newspapers in nine different countries so as to proclaim that customers can “continue to count on BlackBerry”—in other words, with a view to countering mounting fears that the company will soon disappear.

In June 2008, that is some three months before the Wall Street financial crisis, BlackBerry had a stock market capitalization of $83 billion, making it among Canada’s most valuable companies.

Now some analysts argue that BlackBerry’s most valuable asset are its patents and it is widely predicted that BlackBerry’s ultimate fate will be to be sold off piecemeal by speculators in the same way carrion is pecked apart by vultures.

The Fairfax takeover deal calls for BlackBerry to be taken private. In explaining his company’s bid, Prem Watsa, the CEO of Fairfax, claimed it “opens an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees.” Watsa then went on to spell out who would be the principal beneficiaries of a Fairfax takeover, declaring that his company is confident it will make money on the deal and “deliver immediate value to the shareholders.”

While the local newspaper, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, has tried to downplay the significance of the impending job cuts, there is little doubt they will have a major impact on the Waterloo Region, which is Canada’s tenth largest metropolitan area. Approximately a thousand workers previously employed at BlackBerry and related firms have been able to find employment in the Waterloo Region for lower wages through Communitech, a firm that helps with start-ups and networking for tech companies.

Manufacturing companies, traditionally major employers in this part of southwestern Ontario, have also been decimated, cutting thousands of jobs since the middle of the last decade, and especially since 2008. Major layoffs and closures include the shuttering of the Schneider’s meat packing plant, which eliminated 1,400 jobs, the closure of an A.O. Smith water-heater plant in Fergus that employed 300, and the layoff of 230 workers at Knape & Vogt (formerly Waterloo Furniture).

BlackBerry was until recently the great success of Canada’s high-tech sector. It helped pioneer smartphones and was unique among telecommunications companies in providing secure, encrypted messaging systems.

BlackBerry’s rise served as a counterpoint to the demise of Nortel (formerly Northern Telcom), which unraveled in the years following the collapse of the DotCom boom. Nortel, which once employed more than 90,000 workers worldwide, filed for bankruptcy in 2009, leaving plant closures, mass layoffs and gutted pensions in its wake.

BlackBerry’s sudden reversal of fortune has caused considerable angst in Canadian business and political circles. But the fate of the workers and the Waterloo region hardly matter in all this. The loss of shareholder value and of a strategic position in a key industry are what trouble Canada’s elite.

“As a Canadian, I would like to see a solution that gives me profitability and a viable company,” said Leo de Bever, the CEO of Alberta Investment Management Corporation. “But so far that hasn’t been happening.”

The Conservative government has rejected calls for it to provide direct assistance to BlackBerry, but has said any purchase by a foreign-based transnational would be subject to review on “national security” grounds.

On the pages of Canada’s corporate-owned dailies, various capitalist ideologues have dismissed the impact of BlackBerry’s fall as the inevitable product of “creative destruction.” They celebrate a socially destructive process whereby a tiny elite enriches itself at the expense of workers in Canada and all over the world—at the expense of the BlackBerry programmers, support staff and other workers who are now being thrown onto the street; and at the expense of the workers who make rival smartphones in the factories of Foxconn, where working conditions are so terrible that the company has had to install safety nets so as to prevent suicides.

Meanwhile, Fairfax Financial Holdings, which, as the holder of $18.5 billion in credit default swaps in the US sub-prime market in 2008, benefited directly from the bailout of the financial aristocracy by the US and Canadian governments, stands to reap handsome profits from organizing a further downsizing and more likely the outright asset-stripping of BlackBerry.

How NGOs support US-NATO-Israel Military Agenda in Syria under a Fake Humanitarian Mandate

As fighting continues to rage across Syria, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) is now calling for “greater access for humanitarian aid to Syrians suffering in...

How NGOs support US-NATO-Israel Military Agenda in Syria under a Fake Humanitarian Mandate

As fighting continues to rage across Syria, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) is now calling for “greater access for humanitarian aid to Syrians suffering in their country’s civil war” and urging the international community to show as much urgency in regard to humanitarian aid as it did to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons.

Of course, it should be noted immediately that the conflict in Syria is not so much a civil war but an invasion of foreign forces put together from all over the world and funded by the Anglo-American powers. Moreover, it should also be pointed out that, during the international hysteria over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, there has never been even one shred of evidence suggesting that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against civilians or even against the deaths squads running rampant and inflicting terror upon the Syrian people.

Regardless, the General Director for Doctors Without Borders Christopher Stokes, stated to AP that “You have an industrial-scale war, but you have a very kind of small-scale humanitarian response. There is a recognition that greater humanitarian access is needed for life-saving assistance, but at the same time we don’t see the mobilization.”

Although the United Nations council issued a call for immediate access to all areas inside Syria, including in conflict areas and across battle lines, there still exists a number of obstacles to actually getting that aid to the people who may need it.

The AP report continued by stating,

Stokes said the aid community has long been told that it’s impossible to grant full access to all regions affected by the fighting, and that “one side is always blaming the other” for the impasse.

But the recent agreement to grant international inspectors unfettered access to every site linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program “has shown is that it is possible, if the international political willingness is there, to grant access and free movement to aid agencies to go into these enclaves,” Stokes said.

“Cease-fires could be organized as was done to allow chemical weapons inspectors in, they could be organized to allow in medical convoys,” he said.

Yet, while Stokes claims that part of the difficulty in providing aid to suffering Syrians is because “one side is always blaming the other” and therefore hindering the delivery, it should be noted that not only does the responsibility for the entire conflict rest on the shoulders of the death squads, but that it is not the Assad government who has captured and kidnapped aid workers – it is only the death squads who have been guilty of this crime. Thu, the responsibility regarding the hindrance of aid deliverability should fall on the shoulders of the death squads as well.

It is true, however, that the Syrian government has not granted DWB permission to operate inside Syria at this time. However, there may be a more justifiable reason for Assad’s refusal to allow the organization to set up camp in Syria than first meets the eye.

This is because Doctors Without Borders, along with several other internationally recognized and renowned human rights and medical charity organizations, have been clearly implicated in their cooperation with Anglo-American interests in the ginning up of a case for Western military action against Syria by misreporting and even outright lying in regards to massacres having taken place inside the country.

Indeed, DWB is maintaining a highly questionable operation in Syria – with aid distribution almost exclusively established within “rebel controlled” areas, thus allowing the death squads to soak up much of the humanitarian supply line.

Even in the AP report, DWB admits that it is currently operating six “field hospitals” in “rebel-controlled” areas and is supporting medical facilities in both areas that are controlled by the death squads and the government. Still, both the AP report and DWB imply that the Assad government is to blame by suggesting that it is stalling further aid to the Syrian people – despite recent events which prove quite the opposite.

It is important to point out, as Tony Cartalucci has done in his excellent article “’Doctors’ Behind Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims are Aiding Terrorists,” that, despite media claims that DWB is “independent,” the fact is that the organization itself is being bankrolled by many of the financier interests that clearly support Western military action against Syria.

As Cartalucci writes,

To begin with, Doctors Without Borders is fully funded by the very same corporate financier interests behind Wall Street and London’s collective foreign policy, including regime change in Syria and neighboring Iran. Doctors Without Borders’own annual report (2010 report can be accessed here), includes as financial donors, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, and a myriad of other corporate-financier interests. Doctors Without Borders also features bankers upon its Board of Advisers including Elizabeth Beshel Robinson of Goldman Sachs.

In a telling interview with NPR, which Cartalucci partially quotes in his own article, the Executive Director of DWB, Stephen Cornish, admitted the fact that the organization largely has provided medical aid to the death squads not just as a matter of unbiased Hippocratic Oath-based treatment, but what appears to be a “rebel”-based program.

As Cornish revealed,

Over the past months, we’ve had a surgery that was opened inside a cave. We’ve had another that was opened in a chicken farm, a third one in a house. And these structures, we’ve tried to outfit them as best as we can with enough modern technology and with full medical teams. They originally were dealing mainly with combatant injuries and people who were – civilians who were directly affected by the conflict. [emphasis added]

Even assuming that the “civilians” Cornish mentions are truly civilians, Cornish’s team has also been focused largely on “combatant injuries” which is an interesting focus considering that the teams are mainly located within death squad controlled territory.

Indeed, Cornish removes all doubt about whether or not the death squads are receiving priority care as the interview continues. Cornish states,

So it is very difficult for civilians to find care. And one of the difficulties also is that a number of smaller surgeries that have been set up are either overwhelmed with combatants or primarily taking care of combatants. And what we would certainly urge is that all surgeries and all health posts also are accommodating the civilian population.

BLOCK: You mean, in other words, that the fighters are getting priority for medical care and the civilians are suffering for that. 

CORNISH: Unfortunately, that is sometimes the reality on the ground. Some of the surgeries we visited, you could tell that because not only there were no civilians on the wards, but there were also no beds or toilet facilities for women. So it’s kind of a dead giveaway. [emphasis added]

Tony Cartalucci expertly responds to the alleged “charity” provided by DWB when he writes,

In other words, the Wall Street-funded organization is providing support for militants armed and funded by the West and its regional allies, most of whom are revealed to be foreign fighters, affiliated with or directly belonging to Al Qaeda and its defacto political wing, the Muslim Brotherhood. This so-called “international aid” organization is in actuality yet another cog in the covert military machine being turned against Syria and serves the role as a medical battalion.

Indeed, following in the footsteps of corrupted and compromised “human rights” and “charity” organizations like Human Rights Watch (see here and here) and Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders is sacrificing whatever legitimacy and trustworthiness it ever had for the benefit of wealthy donors and their Anglo-American imperialist desires.

In polite society, it is incredibly difficult to criticize an organization that uses charity, real or imagined, as a cover for more nefarious means. Although Doctors Without Borders may have done legitimate work in the past, its current position as the medical wing of the Syrian destabilization will forever mar the organization, and it should therefore be discredited as a source of information from this point forward.

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SIGTUR — A movement of democratic unions of the Global South

Trade unions are still searching for an adequate response to the onslaught on workers’ rights as a result of neo-liberal globalisation, manifested in an increasing transnationalisation of production processes, the emergence of an integrated global financial market and the informalisation of working contracts. Employers increasingly play off different national labour movements against each other as a result of global restructuring. SIGTUR, the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights, is a specific international response by labour movements from the Global South. In this guest post, Rob Lambert, the co-ordinator of SIGTUR, outlines the organisation’s objectives, history and strategies towards a better world order.

What is SIGTUR?

SIGTUR is an alliance forming movement of democratic unions in the Global South (Latin America, Africa, Asia and Australia).

A Brazilian leader recently argued,

‘SIGTUR is a unique space of like-minded unions in the global south. This is a space where we can discuss freely amongst friends, where we have built a deep unity of purpose, which is not contaminated by the conflicts between WFTU and ITUC. Inside SIGTUR we can debate without conditionalities’ (Johannesburg, June 2013).

Such a voice is shaped by the historical experience of workers in the Global South. This is an experience of plunder and exploitation through trade in resources and persons (the slave trade and indentured labour systems). In this we witness how capital came into being, ‘dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt’. This was the experience of the colonial period, which many activists know only too well through their family stories over generations.

As Malaysian trade union leader Arokia Dass stated,

I am a product of the indentured labor system. My father was forcibly transported from India to Malaysia. I grew up in semi-slave conditions. I experienced inner feelings of racial domination my whole life.

This past has shaped the present as new forms of imperialism reflected in the strategies of global corporations continue the pillage of the Global South, promoting and reinforcing slave like, cheap labour conditions across all continents.

SIGTUR as a space to share our experiences creates a new identity unique to the Global South, which is a potential source of power and commitment.

Past and present repression against unions (see how Korean union leaders are constantly being thrown into jail by their ‘democratic’ government) has formed a particular culture of struggle in the Global South.

The space SIGTUR creates also enables a sharing of organisational experience, so the stronger more well established federations can share their methods of organising and struggle with the newer unions.

SIGTUR is not just a space to share a common southern experience, even though this emerging wider social consciousness is vital to drive the struggle. SIGTUR is a space to develop an alternative vision to that of neo-liberal globalisation.

It is a space to forge, over time, a new, anti-free market politics. This has grown out of the mass protests across the south over the past two decades.

It is a space to challenge global corporations, the banking system and the elites who profit from their exploitation.

Finally, it is a space to find new sources of power and new strategies and to organise action, linking the local to the global to mobilise against these forces. (See section below).

Photo by Rob Lambert

How did SIGTUR come into being?

SIGTUR is the realization of a vision, which COSATU leaders had in the late 1980s, when they sensed that the advent of the free market ideology spelt disaster for working people across the globe and in the Global South in particular.

The then General Secretary of COSATU, Jay Naidoo, asserted that a south/south internationalism needed to be constructed.

COSATU found a willing ally in the Australian trade union movement (the ACTU: Australian Council of Trade Unions) who were themselves concerned about the ‘race to the bottom’ that neo-liberal globalisation represented.

The Australian unions had a strong historical tradition of an activist labor internationalism. After the Second World War they blocked Dutch ships carrying troops to retake ‘their colony’ Indonesia. During the Apartheid era, they placed bans on South African shipping.

And so SIGTUR was born out of a creative, proactive response to the radical market ideology of neo-liberalism, which has created such destruction across the globe.

SIGTUR was launched at a meeting of democratic unions from the Global South in May 1991 in Western Australia.

Members at the founding meeting of SIGTUR, Photo by Rob Lambert

From this small beginning of two labor movements coming together to create something new, the initiative has grown over the past twenty years and now embraces movements in 35 countries and four continents.

What kind of labour internationalism?

COSATU leaders had a simple proposition: if a new style of democratic unionism at a national level in South Africa empowered workers in the bitter struggle against racial capitalism in South Africa, could this model not be applied to organising at an international level.

A new style of democratic unionism evolved in South Africa during the 1970s, one that created space for workers to participate actively. It gave them a voice for it was based on the principle of worker control. It reclaimed their humanity, their dignity. This is the style applied to this southern initiative.

Free market (neo-liberal) globalisation has been socially destructive on a massive scale, right the way across the globe and in the Global South in particular.

The United Nations report

Today the net worth of the 358 richest people in the world, the $ Billionaires, is equal to the combined income of the poorest 45% of the world’s population, 2.3 billion people.

The free market system on a global scale leads to a massive concentration of corporate power. In all sectors, just ten global corporations control 70 per cent of the market. This gives them power greater than most nation states.

Photo by Rob Lambert

They are able to bend governments to their will: undermining laws everywhere, which defend nature and society.

These corporations are themselves driven by the dominance of finance capital. Investment banks, private equity and hedge funds have turned stock markets into casinos, speculating and destabilizing societies across the globe. The ongoing global financial crisis is wreaking havoc across the Global South and in the north, yet no persons or banks have been held to account for the massive losses.

Without doubt, it is hard not to be pessimistic in the face of this combined and coordinated power of capital. However, there is another side to this phenomenal concentration of power. Neoliberalism has led to a very tight integration of the global economy.

Just in time production systems means that companies keep no stock. They are highly dependent on smooth running transport and communications systems.Through systems of outsourcing, global production networks have been created. These systems are highly integrated. Companies are utterly dependent on the smooth flow of commodities through these systems.

In short, the neo-liberal freedoms of trade, investment and finance, will become the gravediggers of the system, if the working class becomes globally coordinated and if unions imagine and organise new forms of power to massively disrupt these systems until capital and its political allies come to the bargaining table.

The democratic union movement in the Global South has the capacity to imagine, plan and organise new forms of resistance to defend society and nature because they have been down that road at a national level as they engaged in national liberation struggles.

So what has SIGTUR done?

Shipping Boycotts

In its relatively short history, SIGTUR was the first union body in the world to experiment with disrupting the tight integration of the global economy that neo-liberalism had created when it successfully organised three shipping boycotts to defeat the neo-liberal agenda in Australia.

The first shipping boycott was planned as a global strategy in 1995, when the Western Australian state government prepared new anti-union labor laws, based on a system of individual contracts. SIGTUR communicated the predicament of Australian workers and boycott plans were developed. The COSATU NEC stated that they could not stand idly by while Australian workers were being attacked. The solidarity actions of Australian workers (shipping bans) were still fresh in the memory of the NEC members.

As a result of this action, these laws were withdrawn. The same tactic was utilised in April 1998, when the Conservative government in Australia developed an illegal scheme to de-unionise the Australian docks. COSATU in league with the International Transport Federation (ITF) again triggered a shipping boycott.

Global Campaigning

When the Australian Construction and Mining union (CFMEU) organized a global campaign against the UK headquartered Rio Tinto mining corporation SIGTUR played a key role in the Global South, organizing street protests across a wide range of countries. SIGTUR also participated in share-holder meeting interventions.

SIGTUR also organised various global protest actions at Embassies with regard to imprisonments in Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.

Photo by Rob Lambert

Global Responses to National Level Collective Bargaining

When an Australian construction company, Boral Australia, refused to bargain with the democratic union in the Indonesian branch of the company, P T Jaya Ready Mix, SIGTUR organised a global campaign of support in which the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), played a key role. The company caved in and Boral ordered its Indonesian branch to recognize the union. 

Indonesian activists commented,

‘We understand that all victories seem small victories, however the victories evoke a spirit of resistance where workers unite and fight for all.’

A second illustration of this mode of action that SIGTUR has promoted and developed is the Hyundai struggle in Chennai India. CITU, the leading Indian federation, led a campaign for union rights in the Hyundai plant. These rights were refused. Management had a shocking attitude to Hindu culture, smashing icons at work stations. There were strikes and Gandhi styled passive resistance in the community. The KCTU from Korea participated in these protests as a mark of solidarity with the Indian workforce. They joined a human chain around the factory.

In turn, Indian workers visited Seoul to express their solidarity with the struggles of workers against casualisation in Korea. Both workforces have attempted to synchronise their collective bargaining strategies and the Maritime Union of Australia has joined these struggles.

Companies try to set one workforce against another within the same corporation. SIGTUR is in solidarity with these local struggles stimulating these global responses.

In Conclusion: Fighting for an alternative to neoliberalism

SIGTUR recently launched a Futures Commission, which has established a process of ongoing debate between labor committed intellectuals and SIGTUR leaders which attempts to specify an alternative model to neoliberalism grounded in short term, realizable goals as a basis for the long journey to a deeper transformation (see also SIGTUR’s Futures Commission and the search for alternatives in and beyond capitalism!). This recognizes that the struggle against the market model also needs to be driven by a vision of a new kind of economy, society and politics.

Rob Lambert
SIGTUR Coordinator
July 2013

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In 1997, Asia experienced its own financial crisis. In this guest post, Mi Park analyzes the root causes of the Asian crisis and the current Eurozone crisis and compares the politics of the anti-austerity movements in Asia and Europe. She asks what lessons Europe can learn from the Asian experience.

The Causes of Financial Crises

Photo by infomatique
Contrary to the propaganda of austerity that a country’s debt crisis is caused by government profligacy, tax evasion, and people’s overconsumption, lax work ethics, and the pervasive sense of entitlement in the debtor country, the real causes of debt crises are often both structural (a country’s place in the global economy) and institutional (banking regulations). The Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the current Euro-zone crisis share structural and institutional elements conducive to a region-wide financial crisis. In both cases, financial liberalization enabled excessive credit circulation in countries with high growth rates. Secondly, at the sign of a declining rate of profit, foreign capital took flight from countries of high current account deficits. A contagion effect spread as more speculative capital withdrew from countries with a high rate of external short term debt. As countries with a debt payment crisis turn to international financial institutions (IFIs) for help, fiscal rescue packages were promised on the condition that austerity measures were implemented. Without addressing the root causes of the crises, IFIs insisted on the structural adjustment programs (SAPs) as a condition for loans and demanded that public services should be reduced to bare bones minimum so that a bigger portion of government budget can be dedicated to debt servicing. This is a very dangerous idea that was tried in Asia but utterly failed.

Austerity Politics Compared: Asia and Europe

A comparison of the Asian case with the European one reveals a number of salient similarities and differences. The impact of austerity on society in both cases is catastrophic with massive unemployment and social unrest. They differ, however, as to how the state and civil society have responded to IFIs’ austerity politics.

Photo by FuturePresent

At the peak of the Asian crisis, millions of people were thrown out of work and faced abject poverty in Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea (called the Asian Three thereafter). Due to the IMF’s insistence on austerity measures, the Asian Three found their hands tied, unable to help mitigate social unrest resulting from massive unemployment and increased poverty. The situation developed into full blown social crises, resulting in major political upheavals in the Asian Three. In Thailand, tapping into the pervasive anti-IMF populist nationalism during the Asian crisis, Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party seized power with strong support from the wider population. Although neoliberal restructuring continued under his administration, the Thaksin government moderated destabilizing impacts of neo-liberalism by extending social welfare measures. In Indonesia, a nationwide anti-austerity movement eventually forced the pro-IMF Suharto regime to resign. The new administration, now more responsive to popular demands, did not implement many austerity measures previously planned. In South Korea, anti-IMF sentiments contributed to the electoral victory of the opposition party leader, Kim Dae-Jung who was most critical of the International Monetary Fund program. As in the case of Thailand and Indonesia, the Kim administration did moderate the scope of neoliberal restructuring and introduced an extensive social welfare program.

Similar to the Asian Three, massive protests against austerity measures have taken place in Greece, Spain and Portugal (the European Three thereafter). Unlike the case of the Asian Three, a large segment of the anti-austerity movement in Europe eschewed electoral politics. As a result, the politically elusive anti-austerity movements failed to forge a government with a popular mandate that is able to challenge the IFIs. The Indignados (‘the Outraged’), also known as the 15 M movement in Spain and the anti-austerity protesters in the Greek Syntagma square are cases in point.

Photo by photoAtlas
In Spain, a significant number of anti-austerity protesters refused to engage in electoral politics and as a result, the pro-austerity, conservative Popular Party was elected into power. As in the case of Spain, Portugal also saw an electoral victory of right-wing parties that are happy to cut welfare programs. In Greece, too, many anti-austerity protesters, disenchanted with electoral politics, refused to utilize electoral venues for a social change. In the absence of an alternative political opposition party backed by anti-austerity movements, the far-right political forces take advantage of the situation by exploiting mass resentment. With the anti-Troika, ultra nationalist narrative that immigrants and foreigners siphon off national wealth, the far-right fringe parties such as the Golden Dawn Party in Greece gain increasing support from the disgruntled populace who resent the sharing of reduced public services and welfare benefits with immigrants.

Photo by furlin
Partly due to these different state-civil society dynamics in Asia and Europe, the outcomes of the two financial crises have so far turned out to be different. With anti-austerity administrations in power, the Asian Three reversed IMF austerity policy and expanded social welfare. As a result, they were able to spur further economic growth and significantly reduced their external debt within a relatively short time period. In sharp contrast, with the electoral victory of conservative parties in the European Three, austerity measures are likely to prolong economic downturns and social instability in Europe. More alarmingly, the rise of ethno-exclusionary political parties in Europe can further divide civil society as sections of the populace turn against the most marginalized and powerless in society.

We can draw a valuable lesson from the Asian financial crisis for the Eurozone. As shown in the case of Asia, the ideology of austerity can be defeated. To this end, anti-austerity movements in Europe should not abandon the state as a site for social change.

This blog post is based on the article “Lessons from the Asian Financial Crisis for the Euro-zone: A Comparative Analysis of the Perilous Politics of Austerity in Asia and Europe”, Asia Europe Journal, Vol.11/2 (2013).

Mi Park is a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She can be reached at
I could not agree more with the overall thrust of the 9 May blog post by Andreas Bieler where he wrote about the need for – and political potential of – of the People’s Assemblies against Austerity now being held across the UK (see Why we need local People’s Assemblies). At a moment when opposition to this government’s cruel cutbacks is ‘highly fragmented’ and the Labour Party, as well as many unions, have almost ‘given up the struggle against austerity…local and regional People’s Assemblies are of high importance to ensure a revival of resistance and overcome the lethargy at the national level,’ Bieler wrote. And as the historian Keith Flett reminds us, such mass gatherings have a long history in the British working class movement. Meetings in Birmingham and Manchester to choose local delegates for the Chartist Convention of 1839 attracted crowds of, respectively, 200,000 and 300,000 people  (see On the History of People’s Assemblies).

So yes, the People’s Assemblies --- IF they are organised democratically and transparently and actually do create a ‘broad space to bring together the diverse groups opposed to austerity’ ---- do have some potential. (I also add the caveat: unless they also directly challenge the insipid role of the Labour Party in the growing anti-cuts campaign, PA’s have a potentially fatal Achilles’ heel.) That’s exactly why I actively participated in the organisation of the 18 May People’s Assembly in Nottingham. But I watched in growing disappointment for over six weeks as its planning committee fell apart after a series of undemocratic manoeuvres and local activists withdrew (or were excluded). This meant that the best possibilities of the Notts PA were not realised. Controlled by two trade unionists from Notts TUC, its planning committee reproduced capitalist relations of production --- that is, there were bosses and there were workers --- and its functioning mirrored the cabal politics of Westminster.  

The Notts PA did give us a flavour of the anger that is ‘out there’ in the broader community and the event has been called the ‘best-attended’ local protest meeting in some years. But the words of PA plenary speaker and disabled activist Francesca Martinez that ‘I believe in better’ led me to write an open letter to the Notts TUC.

This guest blog expands on that letter. The trajectory of events concerning a proposed crèche for the PA gives us a series of lessons as to how activists and trade unionists must learn to work together in a far better fashion in future months and in future campaigns. As a large crowd was expected at the Notts PA and as the event was to last all day, the establishment of a crèche was agreed at a Notts PA planning meeting in early April. A child care expert then did all of the planning required, including engaging the top-rated mobile crèche unit of a local non-profit agency. But the crèche never occurred. What lessons does this regrettable debacle teach us for future collaboration?  

1) BE INCLUSIVE – When establishing a crèche was first proposed, the head of planning committee clearly was rather cool to the idea. ‘I have never been to an event which had a crèche,’ he said, adding that he doubted anyone would need one. But those of us with a somewhat broader political experience and a strong commitment to assisting women to get involved in politics --- as well as appreciating the need to send a clear political signal that the PA did as well --- won that initial battle. We were, however, to lose the crèche ‘war’…as we found out a few weeks later and as we again learned our own lessons about how not to organise. The importance of inclusiveness also applies to disabled people (as it says in the open letter, ‘one accessible parking space on a steep road simple does cut it’), to working class people who may lack middle class confidence and, thankfully, glibness, and to people who are still novices at political campaigning. Concerning the latter group, one woman I know who is an extremely hard-working and talented campaigner, passionately hates injustice and who needed a crèche at the PA for her two children left the planning committee in disgust after a single session. That’s not surprising; read on.

2) OPERATE DEMOCRATICALLY – One of the reasons that more activists are getting involved in the struggle against austerity --- and indeed government policies are bringing forth new activists daily by the barrow-load --- is because they detest the increasingly dictatorial attacks on their lives, as well as the resulting alienation and sense of isolation they feel. Or they appreciate how others at the pointed end are feeling. Not surprisingly when such activists join protest campaigns or plan events AS VOLUNTEERS, they expect to feel at least some sense of community and solidarity with those who are working in the same campaign. And they can also expect a minimum level of democratic functioning. Time and time again this did not happen in the People’s Assembly planning process here in Nottingham: democratically-taken decisions (such as to establish a crèche) were ignored, some meetings were packed while others were held unannounced, and some genuinely bizarre events occurred. For example, about four weeks before the PA was to occur and before any distribution of 3,000+ flyers had even begun, the group’s chairperson decided --- without consulting anyone in the group ---- to post at midnight on the Notts PA website these words: ‘Sorry, this event is sold out.’ Such shenanigans, whether the campaign is about the lack of NHS beds or the bedroom tax, do not promote group cohesiveness and trust.
3) OPPOSE ‘CONTROL FREAKERY’ - Anyone who has ever participated in a protest campaign or organised a large event understands the need for strong leadership. But strong leadership is not the same as ‘control freakery.’ Take the question of access to a campaign’s e-mail lists, website, Facebook or Twitter accounts. In these digital days, all four of them can provide campaigners with simple, powerful - and cheap - rapid response units that allow them to connect with, inform and mobilise their target audiences. In the case of the Notts PA, there were more than 625 names on an e-mail list of people who had taken the initiative to personally send in an RSVP to say they would be attending this event. For more than a month, members of the planning committee repeatedly requested that the planning committee chairperson announce the fact that a crèche would be held and tell parents how they could register their children. A minuted meeting in late April unanimously made the same request. (You might ask:  why couldn’t they do this posting themselves? Because the chairperson was the sole person in the group with digital access rights to this media.) But these minutes were never circulated and, after that, those on the committee who wanted a crèche --- and thus wanted the group to carry out what had been agreed --- were never told where or when committee meetings were held. The committee chairperson simply did not want a crèche; so none was held. Thus the aptness of the analogy to bosses and workers made earlier. One of the first decisions any campaigning group needs to make is how, AS A GROUP, it will get out its message into cyberspace.    

4) USE EVERYBODY’S TALENTS – Some trade unionists have long experience organising campaigns. But lots of activists have many talents and experiences as well. Good leadership decides how to harness and co-ordinate the talents of all who want to work together to plan a large event or campaign against Iain Duncan-Smith’s hare-brained and cruel schemes, such as the bedroom tax. (See the open letter for a couple of examples of how this scheme is working here in the Midlands.) But it simply won’t do to have a very sickly child care expert spend many hours organising a crèche and then to scrap the idea without discussion because the building chosen to host the event would obviously be too cramped, as it proved to be, and because several people wanted to use the space selected for a crèche (and agreed to at a group meeting) for their own particular workshop. Word of a ‘bad experience’ working with --- sometimes, more accurately working for --- trade union officials advancing their own narrow agendas, personal or sectarian, can spread quickly in the community.  

5)  BE ACCOUNTABLE – Most activists join campaigns as individuals. Trade unionists, however, often join as official representatives of their union or local trades’ council and claim to speak on their behalf. But what if they, bluntly, ‘screw up’ as occurred at the Notts PA?  To whom are they accountable?  To the campaign group? To a local TUC? And is it national TUC policy to create another barrier to the wider political involvement in our movement of women, likely the main people requesting a crèche for their children? These are questions, and others, which I think trade unions need to address. 


It will be a while before 300,000 people attend a protest meeting held outside London; even acquiring 300,000 followers on Facebook would be an accomplishment. Bur we will never reach such a plateau unless we ALL start constructing a radically transformed opposition culture. Trade unions have a key role to play in this construction project…which can’t start too soon.

Alan Story lives in Sherwood, Nottingham and would be interested in learning your comments on this guest blog ( All of the events mentioned above are fully documented. 

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Socialism or “Castles in the Air”?

It’s hardly a secret that the US left is barely alive. While left-wing movements in the US have hardly shaken the foundations of power in my life time, they have known moments of modest success, reshaping the political landscape in significant and irreversible ways. Since World War II, left activism has stirred and nourished important movements like the struggles for African American equality and against US aggression in Vietnam. The left has also played important roles in fueling struggles for women’s and gay rights and for strengthening environmental protection. While 1960s talk of revolution and radical alternatives were more hyperbole than real, the ferment of those days was real.

Unfortunately, little of the US left’s modest success penetrated the labor movement, a social force defanged and declawed by anti-Communism early in the Cold War. And little of the left’s wave of vitality challenged the two-party system in any serious way. As the risings of the sixties recede further and further in our collective memory, the quantity and quality of popular struggle diminishes as well.
It’s not just the number of actions or the size of the crowds that are shrinking, but also the ideological understanding that purports to animate our US left. That is, the ideas embraced by various elements of the left have grown more and more murky and superficial.
What Ails the Left?
There are many symptoms and causes of the relative decline of the US left.
But always looming in the shadows of struggles for social justice is the demon of anti-Communism. Other peoples have suffered periods of hysterical, paranoid anti-Communism, but few countries outside of the US have elevated it to a state religion. While fear of Islam may have currently replaced Cold War fears as the national obsession, anti-Communism remains deeply embedded in the national psyche. Recent movies featuring West Coast and East Coast invasions of the US by forces from the tiny Democratic People’s Republic of Korea only underscore the persistence of this demon.
Of course the US left is neither immune from nor unwelcoming to Red-baiting. From the fifties, “leftists” could earn respectability and credibility with the public ritual of denouncing Communism. It was from this period that critical financial umbilical chords from the most prominent, most influential left and liberal formations to wealthy donors, foundations, and, in some nefarious cases, the security services were established. Any independent organizations deriving grass roots funding from workers’ organizations or the nationally oppressed were routinely looked at suspiciously for Red ties.
By the early sixties, the purge of everything Red or even Pink was largely completed. Everything—words, ideas, associations—even vaguely linked to Communism had disappeared from the mainstream. And the rise of a “new” left reflected the weight of that legacy. Both opportunism and ignorance led most of the left’s new leadership to establish a political camp to the right or left of Communism, demonstrably distant from Communism: radical democracy and social democracy to the right; Maoism and anarchism to the left.
Arguably this failure to establish an honest, objective encounter with Communism, this Cold War attitude of framing all politics as a counterweight to Communism, contributed mightily to the decline of the left in the next decade. The student base and alienation from working people demonstrated the shallowness of New Left ideology. Most leaders and activists turned to careers, the Democratic Party, the social service bureaucracy, or retreated to the universities.
Anti-Communism continued and continues as a blind faith. The fall of Soviet and Eastern European socialism added a new dimension to the anti-Communist canon: Not only was Communism evil, but it didn’t work.
Without the foil of real existing socialism, the US left drifted aimlessly. Some found an ideological anchor in “market socialism,” especially with the rise of Market-Leninism in the Peoples’ Republic of China. Others found romantic answers in Comandante Zero, a pipe-smoking, inscrutable poet/revolutionary diminutive caricature of Che Guevera. Still others attempted to restore life to the New Left of the sixties. One cannot but be reminded of the situation of Russian revolutionaries after the suppressed 1905 uprising as described by Lenin:
The years of reaction (1907-10). Tsarism was victorious. All the revolutionary and opposition parties were smashed. Depression, demoralisation, splits, discord, defection, and pornography took the place of politics. There was an ever greater drift towards philosophical idealism; mysticism became the garb of counter-revolutionary sentiments. (Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder)
Where most European Communists degenerated into social democrats in this period, US leftists, scarred by anti-Communism and with no similar tradition, found hope in narrow-issue activism, cult-like formations, or the unlikely revival of the New Deal Democratic Party.
Obama and the Left
The candidacy of Barack Obama proved to be a disaster for the US left. Anti-war and social justice activists put aside their signs and plans and flocked to the Obama campaign. Grandiose expectations were conjured out of thin air; a candidate associated in the past with conservative Democrats and a professed admirer of Ronald Reagan was imagined to be the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and even cautious measures of critical support were overwhelmed by wild-eyed enthusiasm.
After the election, most of the US left kept faith with Obama, a faith that has produced very little of the anticipated change, but succeeded in disarming the left. The big loser was the historically most progressive element in US politics: the African American community. Understandably, African Americans rallied to support the first African American president, but his administration has neither represented African Americans nor lifted a finger to relieve the sinking material conditions of life for that community. In fact, often more has been done for African Americans under Republican presidents when the left is actively and vocally pressuring and Democrats are in opposition! As an example, no Republican president would get away with so few African American appointees or nominees in an administration as has the current President!
The US ruling class has successfully and opportunistically gauged the hard won level of racial tolerance of US voters. The new face of US policy and diplomacy presented by Obama was welcomed everywhere—at home and abroad—over the failed Bush regime. A byproduct of this tactic is the disarming of the left and the silencing of African American leaders. Tragically, the US left has accepted the shallow symbolism of an African American president at the expense of the African American masses.
The Crisis and the Left
For the left in the US and internationally, the profound economic crisis beginning in 2008 and continuing today offers a great opportunity to mount an anti-capitalist offensive and project a clear alternative. For over a century and a half that alternative was socialism. The vision articulated over that period differed from time to time, but shared some straightforward features: the theoretical primacy of class relations, public ownership of productive assets, an end to exploitation, a new democracy based upon the rule of the working majority, and social and economic planning. Each feature clearly addresses a glaring, unacceptable shortcoming of capitalism.
But in the US, our left will not address the devastation wrought by capitalism and embrace these features or even discuss them honestly. One of the most prominent and respected national leaders of the anti-war movement recently said: “I used to think I was a socialist… But I also think that people should have the right to be individually enterprising. I have yet to see the society that I would like to live in but I see pieces of it, bits and pieces of it here and there.” This is hardly encouragement for the 11.7 million US citizens looking for a job, the nearly 8 million who would prefer a full-time job over their part-time employment, or the tens of millions who still lack health insurance, all benefits once guaranteed and delivered by real, existing socialism.
Another prominent left pundit, in reviewing another left oracle’s “new economy” manifesto, remarks that the author’s assumptions are “…that socialism, as we have known it in the 20th century did not work.” He blithely concedes that the book’s author “spends little time critiquing 20th century socialism.” Not deterred by the lack of argument, the reviewer affirms that “I was persuaded… that a glimpse into the future is critical largely due to reality of the failure of 20th century socialism, or more accurately, what is better described as the crisis of socialism.” “…did not work,failure,” “crisis” are the unexamined, easy assumptions of our floundering left.
So what do they offer as an alternative?
Anything but the socialism associated with Communism. They take us back to the foolishness that Marx and Engels called “utopian socialism,” the schemes concocted by Fourier and Owen in the early 19th century. In the Communist Manifesto they conclude that utopians “…therefore, endeavor, and that consistently, to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms. They still dream of experimental realization of their social utopias, of founding isolated phalansteres, of establishing ‘Home Colonies,’ or setting up a ‘Little Icaria”—pocket editions of the New Jerusalem—and to realize all these castles in the air, and they are compelled to appeal to the feeling and purses of the bourgeois… They, therefore, violently oppose all political action on the part of the working class; such action, according to them, can only result from blind unbelief in the new gospel.”
We find a modern incarnation of utopianism in the “New Economy” movement, the US left’s current flavor of the day. Back in late 2011, Professor Gar Alperovitz reached for the golden ring of utopia with his America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming our Wealth, our Liberty, and our Democracy, a book that promised to take the disenfranchised in the US from peasants to lords. Alperovitz, like his utopian predecessors, believes that ideas generously given from a fount of wisdom will, if only embraced by those below, lead to “democratizing capital.” Alperovitz’s magical ideas are the spawning of “thousands of co-ops, worker-owned businesses, land trusts, and municipal enterprises” that will, with time, “democratize the deep structure of the American economic system.” A more romantic version of Marx and Engel’s derisive “new gospel” I cannot imagine.
The very notion of “democratizing” something, let us say “capital,” that doesn’t wish to be “democratized” is mind-boggling. Will capital be embarrassed into sharing the wealth? Will the success of co-ops demonstrate to Exxon that energy should be free to all and produced in an environmentally sound manner? Will the 17-trillion-dollar US-based multinational corporate behemoth shudder in the face of worker-owned enterprises and co-ops, surrendering control of the boards of directors to the people?
I don’t think so.
Alperovitz points to existing self-styled alternative ownership models like ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Programs), community development corporations, co-ops, etc. as the way forward (he concedes that ESOPs have a dubious record). As such, they would offer a relatively painless “evolutionary” road different “from traditional theories of ‘revolution’.” Many “businessmen, bankers, and others, in fact, commonly support the idea [of co-ops] on practical and moral grounds,” Alperovitz proclaims. Of course they do; they see no challenge to capitalism and a possible opportunity to cash in!
The fact that “castles in the air” ideas like Alperovitz’s actually gain traction demonstrates the sad state of the US left. The fact that opinion polls show a decided increase in interest in socialism is encouraging; however, the fact that those new to the idea must taste through the unappealing, non-nourishing gruel currently favored by so many on the left is disappointing. 
For more than a century and a half, socialism—the public and democratic ownership of the essential means of production under a majority peoples’ democracy—continues to be the only ultimate answer to a tenuous and destructive capitalist system.
Zoltan Zigedy

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Stockman’s Rant

On the rare occasion, an article appears in the mainstream press that takes a deeper, more thoughtful view of human affairs, a document that gives a hint or glimpse of an unspoken truth beyond the pablum that occupies media puppets. Such an occasion was the publishing of The New York Times opinion piece entitled “State Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America” (3-31-2013) and authored by former Reaganite budget director, David Stockman.

Now Stockman is a renegade from corporate Republicanism; he actually believes in the ancient principles put forward by Adam Smith and other classical capitalist thinkers. While corporate Republicans cozy up to their party’s ugly, fascistic outliers, they always, in the end, make their bed with the rich and powerful. Stockman, on the other hand, actually embraces the mythical virtues of small business ownership and town hall democracy. In classical Marxist terms, he represents the ideology of the petite-bourgeoisie.
In the swamp occupied by Democratic and Republican politicos—the breeding ground for conventional politics—such views are unwelcome. Principled politics from the right or the left are alien equally to the snakes and the rats that prey on the cognitively weak and unwary.
Stockman is in a panic because he sees beyond the stock market euphoria and Pollyanna commentaries that have induced the mass delusions of the last several months. And what he sees angers him.
Stockman constructs an indictment, a list of charges against the current US economy: growth of output is woefully inadequate, jobs are both indecently scarce and low paying, the incomes and the net worth of “ordinary” citizens are dropping while poverty is on the rise. To anyone with a grip on reality, these are not signs of real economic recovery or systemic success. He notes that “we’ve had eight decades of increasingly frenetic fiscal and monetary policy activism intended to counter the cyclical bumps and grinds of the free market and its purported tendency to underproduce jobs and economic output. The toll has been heavy.” And yet imagine the toll if no remedial action had been taken! Surely, this unintended critique of eighty years of state-monopoly governance counts as a devastating charge against modern capitalism. If the era of state-monopoly capitalism can do no better than produce the sad state outlined by Stockman, it is decidedly a failure.
Stockman dares speak the truth so discomforting to liberals and social democrats: [World War II] “did far more to end the Depression than the New Deal did,” though he misleadingly praises the Eisenhower years for its “sound money and fiscal rectitude.” Perhaps he is too young to remember the massive increases in military spending, the ambitious interstate highway system, and the enormous growth of public spending brought on by the Cold War and the Sputnik panic. In any case, the dose of war socialism and the “frenetic… activism” of state-monopoly capitalism kept the capitalist ship afloat, though with fewer and fewer rewards for the majority of US citizens.
Stockman correctly sees that the remedies pursued by US state-monopoly capitalism directed more and more of the lubricant of public funds towards the financial sector over the last decades: the Greenspan “put,” the Long-Term Capital Management bailout, extended ultra-low interest rates, TARP, Fed purchases of bank junk, the support of federal bond prices, and support for equity markets. He calls this, not incorrectly, “Keynesianism—for the wealthy.”
And this is a salient point. It is commonplace to express the differences between Democratic and Republican policy makers since the Reagan era as pro- and anti-Keynesianism. But this is wrong. Ironically, it was only during the Clinton administration that growth of government spending was at all curtailed and today fiscal and monetary expansion remains a ready tool of the ruling class well after Reagan's departure. Certainly Keynesian pump priming has taken new and evolving forms over decades: direct job creation, military spending, massive space programs, infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships, repair of financial institutions, and stimulation of financial demand. While one or the other may be the favored priming tool of rulers at any given time, the similarities of the forms are far more important to recognize than their differences. State intervention in markets continues to be at the core of contemporary state-monopoly capitalism. Stockman sees this; others don't.
In Stockman's account, the enabler of pump priming in all of its forms has been debt. Borrowing or printing money is the means to continue the regimen of “frenetic fiscal and monetary policy activism.” But, in his view, this regimen is running out of steam. “The future is bleak.” And the “Fed has incited a global currency war (Japan just signed up, the Brazilians and Chinese are angry, and the German dominated euro zone is crumbling) that will soon overwhelm it...”
A bleak picture indeed, but one entrenched in reality.
So if modern capitalism-- in its state-monopoly form-- is a disaster, does that mean that Stockman advocates socialism?
Definitely not. Instead he holds out for a nostalgic return to the gold standard. Avoiding what he calls “end-state metastasis,” “would necessitate a sweeping divorce of the state and the market economy [the wholesale rejection of state-monopoly capitalism! ZZ]. It would require a renunciation of crony capitalism and its first cousin: Keynesian economics in all its forms. The state would have to get out of the business of imperial hubris, economic uplift and social insurance and shift its focus to managing and financing an effective, affordable, means-tested safety net.”
 In short, Stockman advocates going back to a conjured idyllic time before state-monopoly capitalism, a time imagined by the petite-bourgeoisie as one of healthy competition, entrepreneurship, and opportunity. For him, the golden age of capitalism would be the pre-depression era of small town USA, family farms, vibrant and expansive industry and foreign policy isolationism. Of course any pretense of continuity or viability of that era was dashed by the Great Depression. In fact, the policies decried by Stockman (and associated by Marxists with state-monopoly capitalism) served as a temporary backstop to the further contraction of the capitalist system produced by that fantastic era.
Stockman may wish for a return to an earlier time just as others may wish to time travel back to the court of Louis XIV, but it isn’t going to happen. Capitalism, like any organism, has its own life span, its own history. Saved from a critical illness, capitalism passed from its laissez faire period to a period of intensifying state intervention and management. Today, that phase of capitalism’s development—state-monopoly capitalism-- is also threatened with a critical illness. I would not be so bold as to predict capitalism’s imminent death, but certainly it will not be revived by reliving its past as Stockman fantasizes.
At a time when liberals and conservatives argue pathetically over the right mix of austerity and stimulus, Stockman is a welcome mainstream herald of the profound crisis pummeling global capitalism. His anxiety and anger reflect a deeper understanding of the contradictions of the moment. His rant, spiked with sarcasm and vitriol, stands in stark relief against the smugness of the lap dog punditry.
Krugman Strides into the Ring
 The Stockman screed generated a storm of opposition. Liberals and the fuzzy, mushy left were particularly affronted. Unlike Stockman, they would like to only turn the clock back to the early seventies, another supposedly “idyllic” time when business unionism was generating satisfactory contracts, the “Great Society” programs were blooming, and war in Vietnam was winding down (at least for US combatants). The fruits of the civil rights struggles and urban uprisings were realized in the creation of programs, bureaucracies, and other buffering agents against domestic insurgency. Jobs servicing the Great Society generated a stratum of social liberals who matured into the base of a social democratic left inside and outside of the Democratic Party. For them, the world turned evil and foreboding with the Reagan “revolution,” a movement they characterize as neo-liberalism.
In the dust-up with Stockman, Paul Krugman, columnist for The New York Times, assumed the role of savior and protector of their interests and perspective. Krugman, the darling of the “respectable” left, attacked Stockman for his audacious critique of the track record of state intervention in the capitalist economy. Anyone who follows Krugman knows that his response to the crisis is a simple solution: spend more public funds and spend freely until growth perks up. The soft left finds this an agreeable solution because it promises to save capitalism (and forestall socialism!) while creating a potential material basis for pet welfare programs. It is simply the fantasy of another New Deal. And never mind that Krugman doesn’t share the fantasy!
Apparently, the Stockman-Krugman battle merited a major media appearance before the Sunday morning gasbags, the big stage for what our media passes off as intellectual fare. While I lacked the stomach to watch the sparring between the two, refereed by the likes of Huffington, van Sustern, and Will, I would commend an entertaining account of the match by Mike Whitney in Counterpunch (Krugman vs. Stockman, April 11, 2013).
The merit of Stockman’s account is that he is righteously indignant with an economic system that has failed the great majority of people and inflicted great pain and uncertainty. He goes beyond the dominant rhetoric of “we are all in this together” and “we are all at fault” to find systemic rot in capitalism. He correctly places the blame for this at the doorstep of state-monopoly capitalism, the stage of capitalism evolved to rescue the system from the accumulated contradictions of laissez faire capitalism, contradictions brought to light by the Great Depression. But he cannot go where logic would take him. He cannot entertain options that would transcend capitalism. Thus, he is resigned to a pathetic nostalgia for a bygone era where the contradictions of capitalism did not appear in such sharp focus. While he stretches the bounds of mainstream thinking, he can not see beyond markets and private ownership; he cannot see socialism.
Krugman and most of the US left are thoroughly conventional in their thinking—they offer a more “enlightened” management of the economic system and a cheerful capitalism with a human face. They would be hard pressed to point to a period when capitalism bore a human face, however. Nonetheless, they are undaunted before a rising tide of interest in the socialist option. They are resolute in their fear and rejection of real socialism.
Pressured by five years of relentless economic crisis and increasing signs of favor towards socialism, especially with the young, our feckless left offers a cold plate of empty slogans of localism, anti-consumerism, platitudinous “participatory” democracy, cooperatives, and a vacuous “new” economy. As if these are answers to the $17 trillion dollar US multinational, monopoly capital behemoth. In truth, these are simply evasions and dissemblance. 
If Stockman is right and capitalism is “state-wrecked,” then its time to leave the wreckage and turn to socialism. 
Zoltan Zigedy

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Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

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As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse, and his new book, "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism." Wolff also gives Fox News host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.


AMY GOODMAN: "Anda," music by the pianist, arranger and composer Bebo Valdés. He died Friday at the age of 94. The son of a cigar factory worker and grandson of a slave, he studied classical music at the Conservatorio Municipal in Havana and became a favorite collaborator with the great Cuban singers of his era, including Beny Moré and Pío Leyva and Orlando Cascarita Guerra, along with Americans such as Woody Herman and Nat King Cole, was considered a giant during the golden age of Cuban music. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report.

Our guest is Richard Wolff, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, now at New School University, author of a number of books, including Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.

I want to talk about austerity here at home. This is House Speaker John Boehner speaking last month defending the $85 billion budget sequester cuts that took effect on March 1st.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The American people know, the president gets more money, they’re just going to spend it. And the fact is, is that he’s gotten his tax hikes. It’s time to focus on the real problem here in Washington, and that is spending.

AMY GOODMAN: House Speaker John Boehner. Professor Richard Wolff, your response? And also, that the Obama administration was warning catastrophe if sequestration took place. It took place.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, it’s a stunning comment on our dysfunctional government built on top of a dysfunctional economy. Here we are in the middle of a crisis. We have millions of people without work, millions of people losing their homes, an economy that doesn’t work for the vast majority. The United States government is one of the major customers for goods and services in America. Sequestration is simply a cutback in government spending. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that if the government, as the largest single buyer of goods and services, cuts back on the goods and services it buys, that means companies across America will sell less, and they’ll have less need of workers, and they will lay off workers. So, this is an act that worsens an unemployment that is already severe.

If you put that together with the tax increase on January 1st—and let me say a word about that. We heard a lot of public debate about taxing rich people, not taxing rich people, Republicans and Democrats, but the tax on the wealthy is small compared to the tax on the middle and lower incomes that went up on January 1st. When we raised the payroll tax here in America from 4.2 to 6.2 percent, we raised over $125 billion—huge amount of money, much more than was raised by taxing the rich—and we savaged the middle- and lower-income groups in America, those that in the presidential election both candidates had sworn to save and support. We attacked them, thereby limiting their capacity to buy goods and services because we taxed them more.

You put together the taxing of the middle and lower incomes with the cutbacks of government spending, and you’re going to do what every European country that has imposed austerity has already discovered: You’re making the problem worse. So with all the homilies that Mr. Boehner can put out there about how spending is a problem, this abstract idea doesn’t change the fact you’re making the economic conditions of the mass of people worse by these austerity steps, not better. And that ought to be put as the fire burning at the feet of politicians, so they stop talking these abstractions and deal with the reality of what they’re doing.

AMY GOODMAN: So what do you think needs to be done?

RICHARD WOLFF: A radical change in the policies. And I think it has to go far beyond simply reversing this austerity program, which, again, just for a word a