South Africa’s Resource Curses and Growing Social Resistance

By Patrick Bond - Monthly Review, April 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The African National Congress (ANC), led during the 1990s by the late Nelson Mandela, is projected to be reelected in South Africa’s May 7, 2014 national election by a wide margin, probably with between 50 and 60 percent of the vote. But underneath the ruling party’s apparent popularity, the society is seething with fury, partly at the mismanagement of vast mineral wealth. The political and economic rulers’ increasingly venal policies and practices are so bad that not only did ANC elites play a direct role in massacring striking mineworkers in August 2012, but corporate South Africa was soon rated by PriceWaterhouseCoopers as “world leader in money-laundering, bribery and corruption, procurement fraud, asset misappropriation and cybercrime,” with internal management responsible for more than three quarters of what was termed “mind-boggling” levels of theft.

With such degeneration from above, the country’s impotent socialist left was pleasantly surprised last December when the largest union in Africa, the 342,000-strong National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (“Numsa”) split away from the ANC. Numsa pledged to organize mineworkers and any other disgruntled workers, and steadily to reconstruct a new South African left from below, including radical social movements once derided as “ultraleft” (because from the early 2000s they had already broken with the ANC). The “Numsa Moment”—which I think can be contrasted to some local trade unionists’ “Lula Moment” advocacy, akin to Brazilian labor corporatism—is of enormous importance, especially if it leads to a “united front approach” and the “movement towards socialism” as promised in Numsa’s “Breaking New Ground” congress of 1,300 shop stewards, just a week after Mandela’s death. However, up against such a strong and prestigious national liberation movement, whose most famous leader stayed in the ANC until the end of his life, Numsa and its new allies are not yet contesting power in the next election. They must work hard on local alliance-building, and the underlying socioeconomic conditions must continue to deteriorate, if Numsa is to rekindle the confidence of older revolutionaries and create a new generation of activists.

Read the entire article here.

Ecology, Ethics, Anarchism: In Conversation with Noam Chomsky (Updated with Transcript!)

By Javier S. Castro - Notes Towards an International Libertarian Socialism, March 31, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This is a video of my interview with Noam Chomsky that took place at his office at MIT on Friday, 28 March 2014.  We discussed the place of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism vis-à-vis the profound and ever-worsening environmental and climatic crises today.  Specifically, we conversed about Immanuel Kant, the Enlightenment, participatory economics (Parecon), indigenous struggle, the commons, direct action, really existing capitalist democracy (RECD), vegetarianism and veganism, conservatism, democracy, and reform vs. revolution.

Transcript courtesy of truthout.org - used by permission

There can be little doubt about the centrality and severity of the environmental crisis in the present day. Driven by the mindless "grow-or-die" imperative of capitalism, humanity's destruction of the biosphere has reached and even surpassed various critical thresholds, whether in terms of carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, freshwater depletion, or chemical pollution. Extreme weather events can be seen pummeling the globe, from the Philippines - devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in November of last year - to California, which is presently suffering from the worst drought in centuries. As Nafeez Ahmed has shown, a recently published study funded in part by NASA warns of impending civilizational collapse without radical changes to address social inequality and overconsumption. Truthout's own Dahr Jamail has written a number of critical pieces lately that have documented the profundity of the current trajectory toward anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) and global ecocide: In a telling metaphor, he likens the increasingly mad weather patterns brought about by ACD to an electrocardiogram of a "heart in defibrillation."

Rather than conclude that such distressing trends follow intrinsically from an "aggressive" and "sociopathic" human nature, reasonable observers should likely associate the outgrowth of these tendencies with the dominance of the capitalist system, for, as Oxfam noted in a January 2014 report, the richest 85 individuals in the world possess as much wealth as a whole half of humanity - the 3.5 billion poorest people - while just 90 corporations have been responsible for a full two-thirds of the carbon emissions generated since the onset of industrialism. As these staggering statistics show, then, the ecological and climatic crises correspond to the extreme concentration of power and wealth produced by capitalism and upheld by the world's governments. As a counter-move to these realities, the political philosophy of anarchism - which opposes the rule of both state and capital - may hold a great deal of promise for ameliorating and perhaps even overturning these trends toward destruction. Apropos, I had the great good fortune recently to interview Professor Noam Chomsky, renowned anarcho-syndicalist, to discuss the question of ecological crisis and anarchism as a remedy. Following is a transcript of our conversation.

JAVIER SETHNESS FOR TRUTHOUT: Professor Chomsky, thank you so kindly for taking the time today to converse with me about ecology and anarchism. It is a true honor to have this opportunity to speak with you. Before we pass to these subjects, though, I would like to ask you initially about ethics and solidarity. Would you say that Immanuel Kant's notion of treating humanity as an end in itself has influenced anarchist and anti-authoritarian thought in any way? The concept of natural law arguably has a "natural" affinity with anarchism.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Indirectly, but I think it's actually more general. My own view is that anarchism flows quite naturally out of major concerns and commitments of the Enlightenment, which found an expression in classical liberalism, and classical liberalism essentially was destroyed by the rise of capitalism - it's inconsistent with it. But anarchism, I think, is the inheritor of the ideals that were developed in one or another form during the Enlightenment - Kant's expression is one example - exemplified in a particular way in classical liberal doctrine, wrecked on the shoals of capitalism, and picked up by the libertarian left movements, which are the natural inheritors of them. So in that sense, yes, but it's broader.

You have described humanity as being imperiled by the destructive trends on hand in capitalist society - or what you have termed "really existing capitalist democracies" (RECD). Particularly of late, you have emphasized the brutally anti-ecological trends being implemented by the dominant powers of settler-colonial societies, as reflected in the tar sands of Canada, Australia's massive exploitation and export of coal resources, and, of course, the immense energy profligacy of this country. You certainly have a point, and I share your concerns, as I detail in Imperiled Life: Revolution against Climate Catastrophe, a book that frames the climate crisis as the outgrowth of capitalism and the domination of nature generally understood. Please explain how you see RECD as profoundly at odds with ecological balance.

RECD - not accidentally, pronounced "wrecked" - is really existing capitalist democracy, really a kind of state capitalism, with a powerful state component in the economy, but with some reliance on market forces. The market forces that exist are shaped and distorted in the interests of the powerful - by state power, which is heavily under the control of concentrations of private power - so there's close interaction. Well, if you take a look at markets, they are a recipe for suicide. Period. In market systems, you don't take account of what economists call externalities. So say you sell me a car. In a market system, we're supposed to look after our own interests, so I make the best deal I can for me; you make the best deal you can for you. We do not take into account the effect on him. That's not part of a market transaction. Well, there is an effect on him: there's another car on the road; there's a greater possibility of accidents; there's more pollution; there's more traffic jams. For him individually, it might be a slight increase, but this is extended over the whole population. Now, when you get to other kinds of transactions, the externalities get much larger. So take the financial crisis. One of the reasons for it is that - there are several, but one is - say if Goldman Sachs makes a risky transaction, they - if they're paying attention - cover their own potential losses. They do not take into account what's called systemic risk, that is, the possibility that the whole system will crash if one of their risky transactions goes bad. That just about happened with AIG, the huge insurance company. They were involved in risky transactions which they couldn't cover. The whole system was really going to collapse, but of course state power intervened to rescue them. The task of the state is to rescue the rich and the powerful and to protect them, and if that violates market principles, okay, we don't care about market principles. The market principles are essentially for the poor. But systemic risk is an externality that's not considered, which would take down the system repeatedly, if you didn't have state power intervening. Well there's another one, that's even bigger - that's destruction of the environment. Destruction of the environment is an externality: in market interactions, you don't pay attention to it. So take tar sands. If you're a major energy corporation and you can make profit out of exploiting tar sands, you simply do not take into account the fact that your grandchildren may not have a possibility of survival - that's an externality. And in the moral calculus of capitalism, greater profits in the next quarter outweigh the fate of your grandchildren - and of course it's not your grandchildren, but everyone's.

IBEW Wildcat Honors Picket-Line in Solidarity with UAW Strike at UC Berkeley

By General Strike - Indybay.org, April 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On Wednesday, April 2nd, UAW Local 2865 went on strike across the University of California system. The strike was called by Teachers Assistants and in part, shut down classes across the state. On the first day of the strike in Santa Cruz on April 2nd, 20 strikers were arrested and on the next day, two more were also arrested by police. According to a post on indybay.org by Alex Darocy, “[UC Santa Cruz strikers] successfully blocked the main entrance for the whole day, but the attempt to block the west entrance of campus was prevented when a large group of UC police arrested 20 people.” Student workers are striking against intimidation by management and police as well as over wages and class room sizes. According to a post by strikers:

“[We are striking over the] university’s unwillingness to bargain over key aspects of our employment, including class size and the length of our workweek. Also at issue is the university’s history of illegal intimidation of student workers. For example, this past November, an administrator at UCLA threatened overseas students with the loss of their visas for participating in a sympathy strike—a claim as insulting as it was untrue.”

In Berkeley, at 6:30 AM one strike supporter with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) bay area branch went to picket the construction site of Campbell Hall (located on the UC Berkeley campus). After about ten minutes, construction workers who came across the picket line approached the IWW member and decided to respect the picket line. 15-20 workers with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) decided to leave work in an act of solidarity with striking UAW workers. Also, while the picket line was set up, all laborers on the work site conducted a work stoppage.

Environmental or Ecological Unionism?

By Steve J Payne - The Green Red Show, September 11, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

There is ample evidence that the people wrecking our economy are the exact same people destroying the environment. A 2007 study by Harvard Professor Stephen Pacala found that the top 8% richest people on earth (500 million people) are responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Further, the top 15% are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions. The bottom billion people on earth are responsible for almost no greenhouse gas emissions. The richer you are the more greenhouse gases you emit – a global redistribution of wealth would inherently entail a significant decline in greenhouse gases.

That top 15%, however, includes many people who would not be considered rich in their own country. Stephen Pacala argues for a tax on anyone globally making more than $30,000-$40,000 a year. However, people in that income range are not responsible for creating the economic system they labor and live under. Car owners did not create a transit system that favors individual automobiles. That system was created by a select few for profit.

The top 1% of Americans owns 43% of wealth in America and the top 5% own 72% of the wealth. It is here that we find the people responsible for creating an economic order that enforces mass consumption and lifestyles detrimental to the environment.

Anyone fighting the 1%; fighting for a redistribution of wealth, including labor unions, is on some level fighting an ecological fight, even if they might be loath to admit it.

But what would a unionism that actively embraced ecology look like?

June 11th International Day of Solidarity With Marie Mason, Eric McDavid & All Longterm Anarchist Prisoners 2014 Call Out

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Note: Marie Mason is a dues paying member of the IWW.

Though it may not seem like it from the depths of winter, June 11th is quickly approaching. As a revitalization of the day of support for eco-prisoners, the International Day of Solidarity with Marie Mason, EricMcDavid and Long-term Anarchist Prisoners has seen a huge outpouring of support and love for both Marie and Eric from all corners the globe over the past 3 years.

Significantly, in addition to the well-spring of both material and immaterial support, we've seen the proliferation of solidarity actions in many diverse contexts spreading the spirit and contributions to our struggles of those the state has attempted to disappear. Coordinated international solidarity has begun to flourish, with information about long-term anarchist and environmental prisoners crossing many geographic and linguistic barriers.

These efforts have had very tangible effects in the lives of Marie and Eric (and many others). Fundraisers have helped them remain true to their vegan principles, loved ones have been able to visit regularly even across vast distances, new generations of radical folks all over the world have reached out to them in solidarity. In short, June 11th has been greatly successful in helping to keep Marie, Eric and many other long-term anarchist and environmental prisoners in our hearts and minds, and to keep them alive in our struggles.

But this process of remembering - of "keeping alive" - is a tricky thing.

Our struggles and movements are often mired by a lack of memory, a lack of understanding and connecting with the past as a way to inform our actions in the present. This is both a product of the techno-alienation of our age as well as a consequence of tactical repression by state forces. The state, for the time being, has the ability to kidnap our comrades and bury them alive, to force them to languish in cold steel and concrete for decades on end. They're ripped from our communities, from our lives. And in their place exists a painful void.

The state, for its part, is banking on the veracity of the old adage "time heals all wounds"; it is hoping that this void will shrink and that we will "forget". If held in captivity long enough, so thinks the state, the actions of our courageous comrades will fade into the oblivion of history and we on the outside will be left without their constructive and loving presence in our struggles. We must fight against this repressive tendency; we must never forget.

Towards an Ecological General Strike: the Earth Day to May Day Assembly and Days of Direct Action

By Elliot Hughes and Steve Ongerth - March 30, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We know that both the workers, the community, and the planet are exploited by the state and capitalist forces that rule over our lives, but now the ruling class is escalating that attack and we must come together to fight back or ourlivelihoods will be completely destroyed.

Recently the concentration of CO­2in the Earth’s atmosphere exceeded 400 ppm. Which greatly surpasses the 350 ppm that scientists argue is the limit to avoid run away climate change. As the capitalist class continues their “extreme energy” rampage including offshore oil drilling, tar sands mining, mountain removal, and fracking, a mass movement to oppose these forms of energy is rapidly growing and radicalizing. Recently, there has been an increased amount of oil spills, pipeline ruptures, oil train derailments, refinery fires, and chemical dumps. These disasters have not only destroyed the environment, but they have also injured and or killed the very workers whom the capitalists depend on to extract these “resources”.

The same capitalist economic system is destroying the Earth is destroying the lives of the workers. Some of their methods of class warfare include eroding health and safety standards, downsizing and outsourcing the workforce, establishing a “blame the worker” safety culture, and creating dangerous labor conditions all around. These same conditions that endanger the workers are also directly harming the communities around them, for example while the oil town communities develop cancers and asthma from air pollution, the workers often breath in a higher density of these toxins because they work in direct proximity with them.Yet, these same bosses through their use of propaganda are able to convince many of these exploited workers that environmentalists are their enemy and threaten their jobs. We must debunk this myth and come together to take direct action for health and safety and a halt to the destruction of our world.

My Environmentalism Will be Intersectional or it Will be Bullshit

By Adam Ramsey - Open Democracy, March 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

There is no such thing as neutrality. If you are neutral in situations of oppression, you have chosen to side with the powerful. Desmond Tutu's mantra is a key tenet of my recently adopted trade – journalism. It is often uttered by activists in movements against injustice – a cry of those attempting to shake people out of passivity. In the world I live in at least, it has become a platitude.

Like all platitudes, it's easy to ignore. But to do so is risky. Whether it's class or gender or race or sexuality or disability or nationality or religion or age, our civilization is built on pyramids of oppression. If politics is the art of living together, then any conversation about politics, including environmental politics, is in part a conversation about people of unequal power living together, and so a conversation about injustice.

This doesn't mean that the injustice is always mentioned. Just as you can talk about the weather without referring to the climate, it's possible to discuss politics without talking about power. When detailing the intricacies of a technical issue, it's often easy to lay to one side the various pertinent inequalities. In individual conversations this can be fine. You can't be expected to always mention everything about an issue all at once.

But as rain becomes rivers, conversations become narratives. And as rivers shape the land, narratives shape our politics. If a national political conversation takes place without discussing power, then we are being silent in the face of injustice. We are siding with the powerful. For most of the environmental movement, the main influence we have is our contribution to the flow of public debate, so how we use it has to matter.

Talking about power in general isn't sufficient either. Because power is complex. Injustices are manifold. There is a word, coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw which explains this: 'intersectionality'. “My feminism will be intersectional” Flavia Dzodan famously wrote “or it will be bullshit”. The point is that if you seek to attack one power structure but do so by treading on other oppressed groups, then you are still perpetuating oppression. This is an immoral thing to do. But if you believe that injustices stem from a system, and if you therefore wish to dismantle that system, then it is also strategically foolish. The person you just stood on should have been your key ally. We need to build links – intersections – between movements against all kinds of oppression. Our struggles are bound up together.

End Chrysler subsidies: New Transport Vision Needed

By the Vancouver Ecosocialist Group - Rank and File Canada, March 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Chrysler Corporation announced last month that it plans to invest $3.5 billion to retool its assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario and produce new lines of vehicles. But it set two big conditions—that the federal and Ontario governments provide $700 million in subsidies, and that the union of assembly line employees, Unifor, accept wage concessions, notably lower salaries for new hires.

Unifor and the two levels of government agreed to the subsidy demand. We believe this a wrong choice for society, including for autoworkers. This statement is an argument for an alternative path.

Chrysler has publicly withdrawn the subsidy demand in order to avoid the public criticism and scrutiny it stirred up. But Globe and Mail auto industry analyst Brian Milner has written, “There isn’t a jurisdiction that has managed to retain or win an auto plant for decades without significant incentives of some sort… Mr. Marchionne [Chrysler CEO] knows he will get his public money somewhere.”

Since 1965, the year the U.S.-Canada Auto Pact trade agreement was signed, every auto assembly investment in Canada has received generous government grants. Today, jurisdictions in North America are competing intensely for auto industry investment through subsidies and tax breaks. Chrysler, meanwhile, never paid back $800 million of the $2.9 billion in loans it received from the federal government during the 2008 financial crisis. The company declared $3.2 billion of profits in 2013.

Capital Blight - Oil Town Rebellion

By x344543 - March 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

For years, the communities of Western and Northwestern Contra Coast County and southwestern Solano County, located on the San Pablo and Suisun Bays, northwest of the San Francisco Bay have been dominated by the fossil fuel industry (and to some extent--until 1993--by the US Military Industrial Complex), and the capitalists running that industry have run each of these communities essentially like company towns.

Under these conditions, all official institutions, including elected city, county, and regional governments, most other businesses, and even the unions that supposedly "represent" the workers in these facilities are beholden to the dominant capitalist interests. Dissident residents or workers--if there are any--often find themselves isolated and alone if they can even find the courage to speak out at all. Complaints about working conditions, corrupt union officials, bought politicians, environmental racism, toxic pollution, and capital blight often fall on deaf ears and are usually dismissed as the product of "outside agitators", even "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" or some such thing.

In this northwestern Bay Area region, there are four corporate refineries that dominate the towns of Avon and Pacheco (Tesoro), Benicia (Valero), Martinez (Shell), Richmond (Chevron), and Rodeo and Crockett (Conoco-Phillips), and--as one would expect--dissenters have indeed had a difficult, almost impossible time being heard.

Chevron in particular has run Richmond as a virtual company town as long as it has existed (indeed, the refinery predates the town's founding).  For years, the people of the nearby residential neighborhoods have complained of toxic pollution and political double standards that favor the corporation--allegations that are supported by mountains if evidence. Until recently, the local politicians were entirely loyal to the company.

The environmental struggles of these communities--mostly composed of African-Americans, Asian, Latino, and working class White people--have often been ignored by mainstream environmental NGOs. Locally based environmental groups, including the West County Toxics Coalition and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), have had to do the vast majority of the work of bringing attention to the plight of their residents. On occasion, Greenpeace and Earth First! have given attention to them, but for the most part, it's been locals--most of whom are not typically activist oriented--who've borne the brunt of the struggles.

Many of these refineries are unionized--mostly by the United Steelworkers Union, with a minority of the workers instead belonging to IBEW Local 180. Naturally, the leadership of these unions has oriented themselves towards capitalist interests, who have on numerous occasions tripped over themselves to voluntarily speak on behalf of their capitalist masters.

For example, in 1999, after four refinery workers were killed in a fire, at the Tosco (now Tesoro) facility in nearby Avon, CBE spoke up on behalf of the deceased and called for stricter regulations of refineries (to protect both workers and the environment). Tosco, of course, opposed the proposed regulatory changes, instead calling for more watered down oversight which--CBE argued--left the foxes guarding the hen-house. Rather than support CBE, Jim Payne of the PACE union local that "represented" the workers at the time excoriated the environmentalists, declaring,

"It absolutely infuriates me that those damned tree-huggers would place this regulation in jeopardy,"

Certain residents of the nearby communities of Avon and Clyde were not especially welcoming of CBE either because--naturally--Tesoro used their substantial economic and political leverage to convince these people that CBE were "outside agitators", perhaps even "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" (imagine that!).

This incident was very similar to the PCB spill in Georgia Pacific's lumber mill in Fort Bragg, California, that took place a decade earlier, in which the union leadership of IWA Local 3-469 (one Don Nelson) essentially took the company's side, leaving the rank and file workers to seek outside help from Earth First! and the IWW. Those efforts were led by Anna Marie Stenberg and (you guessed it), Judi Bari.

In spite of years of frustration and the corporations' seemingly iron rule, aided in large parts by their attempts to divide and conquer workers and environmentalists, the political winds in these northwestern Bay Area refinery towns appears to be shifting. Dissidents are gaining traction within their communities, no longer finding themselves isolated from their fellow residents. Workers employed by these industries are speaking out and even making alliances with environmentalists, the communities are finding that they can elect politicians willing to chart a course independent of the dominate corporate forces, and regulatory agencies—who usually provide official cover for the capitalists they’re ostensibly charged with regulating—are actually showing signs of actually demanding accountability from the powers that be.

Alternative Unionists and Syndicalists Spark Major Protest in Spain this March 22

By the IWW's International Solidarity Committee

The Andalusian union SAT which is syndicalist-oriented and an ally of the anarcho-syndicalist unions CGT and CNT has sparked perhaps the major protest of the year:

The CGT and CNT are working to turn the protest into a general strike see

http://www.rojoynegro.info/articulo/agitaci%C3%B3n/cgt-participa-apoya-las-marchas-la-dignidad

http://www.cnt.es/noticias/22m-cnt-en-marcha-cnt-en-lucha

Report below from International Marxist tendency, http://www.marxist.com/dignity-marches-everyone-to-madrid-on-march-22.htm

On Saturday, 22 March, Madrid will witness one of the main social and political mobilisations of the year, the March for Dignity. The aim is to gather hundreds of thousands of people in Madrid, from around the country in order to show opposition to the anti-working class and anti-social policies of the past few years. The demonstration will march under the slogans “Do not pay the public debt”, for a “Basic income to all those without resources”, “No more cuts”, “Bread, Housing and Jobs for all” and “Down with the Troika Governments.”

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